This Raleigh school’s marching band has big New Year’s plans: performing at a bowl game

The Athens Drive High School band competes in a competition on Nov. 4, 2017.
The Athens Drive High School band competes in a competition on Nov. 4, 2017. Courtesy of Athens Drive High School band

The Athens Drive High School marching band will start 2018 by accomplishing a long-held resolution: playing in a college football bowl game.

The band will perform at halftime of the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 1, with about 20 other bands – roughly 1,500 students – selected through a national application process.

The Raleigh school’s band has been preparing for the trip for a year and a half.

“It gave us not only a goal, but a practice, to really learn how to ready the troops, to make sure we can do this logistically and continue the overall quality program that the kids enjoy,” said band director Jerry “Doc” Markoch.

The band will also march during the New Year’s Eve parade Sunday in Ybor City, Fla. On Saturday, it will perform in a field day competition for the chance to play in the pregame show.

You can watch the halftime performance – and the football game between Michigan and South Carolina – on ESPN2. The game starts at noon.

The Athens Drive band has a history of performing on a national stage.

It marched in the 2014 Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country, and performed a song for “Good Morning America” before the event. The band also performed in the 2012 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., and the wind ensemble performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2014.

Performing nationally is part of Markoch’s ultimate goal. For the last five years, he’s submitted an application for the band to play in the Tournament of Roses Parade, held before the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. While the band hasn’t been accepted – yet – he said he sees the Outback Bowl as a “perfect stepping stone.”

“I know we’re really close,” he said.

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird