What is likely the county’s largest marching band ever will parade through Smithfield and Clayton later this month.
More than 600 band members, representing Johnston County’s eight high schools, are preparing to play in unison at the two towns’ holiday parades on Dec. 11 and Dec. 13.
Clayton High band director John Pearson said it’s the first time each band, in its entirety, will play as one.
“When we come around the corner, it’s going to be pretty crazy,” Pearson said.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a band with this many high-school students playing together in North Carolina.”
The idea started about two years ago, Pearson said, when Smithfield-Selma High band director Brian Jones approached the other directors in the county about a way to get young people involved in music.
Jones said in today’s society, children have few opportunities to see a traditional band with a wide range of instruments. One of them is during a parade.
“The thought was if we combined all of our schools together, someone would remember that for a long time – how massive that was,” Jones said.
The directors tried to get the band going in 2013 but ultimately couldn’t find time to practice during the holiday season, which was booked with other performances. This year, though, they’re more committed and are using technology to make sure everyone’s prepared.
The bands are practicing separately. And while instrumentalists are learning the same sheet music, color guard members are practicing with a shared online video.
Jones said using file-sharing technology via Google, the different bands can send videos back and forth, adding comments and edits along the way.
The bands will practice together on the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 11, before the Smithfield Christmas Parade that evening. The band, which does not yet have a name, will play together again at the Clayton parade on Dec. 13.
“We are really excited about putting all the kids together,” Jones said. “They are all strong individually, but this is something people should remember for a long time.”
Jones and Pearson said the ultimate goal for the large band is to enter a bid to play at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
“Trying to put in a bid separately would be tough, but by combining forces and working together, it makes it more of a possibility,” Jones said. “But we are hoping that everything goes smoothly, as we are doing it for the first time this year.”