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Fort Mill band leads way to York County sweep

Class 4A champions lead a strong showing by York County bands

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  • S.C. band scores

    Result: school, score

    Class 4A

    1: Fort Mill, 95.45

    2: Nation Ford, 93.70

    3: Northwestern, 93.15

    4: Rock Hill, 92.40

    7: Clover, 88.975

    Class 3A

    5: York Comprehensive, 90.925

    8: South Pointe, 84.025

    Class 2A

    8; Andrew Jackson, 86.425

    Class 1A

    6; Lewisville, score not available



FORT MILL, S.C. Hours before they were awarded the state championship trophy, the 173 Fort Mill High School band members stepped off the field in a celebratory mood.

Their performance had been electric. It was a nine-minute, dynamic display of musical prowess and showmanship that brought many in the crowd to their feet.

The students were ecstatic. Not because they expected to win, but because they knew they had nailed it.

“It was the last performance of the season,” senior baritone player Tyler Haley said. “We wanted to go all out.”

After months of practice and preparation that started in July, the group, led by director John Pruitt, claimed the band’s 23rd state title on Saturday.

Fort Mill faced 13 of the state’s best bands in a five-hour festival of elaborate and creative performances. York County bands swept the class 4A competition at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, solidifying their spots amid the state’s top ranks.

In a show titled “The New World,” Nation Ford High planted a flag on a makeshift moon, while Neil Armstrong’s voice blared over speakers: “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Northwestern High’s Purple Regiment stepped through life-size photo frames in a show titled “Picture This,” featuring music by Modest Mussorgsky, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, and Mick Jagger.

With smoke billowing from a Mayan pyramid erected on the field, Rock Hill High’s Band of Distinction performed “Prophecy,” a musical take on the prediction that the world ends this year.

Clover High illuminated the field with glowing, golden stars as students performed their show “Starlight.”

Fort Mill’s show, “Alchemy: From Iron to Gold,” featured music from the “Iron Man” and “Stardust” movie soundtracks and “Lux Aurumque” by Eric Whitacre. With giant hammers and alchemic elements on display, the teens enacted the forging of iron, ending the show waving streaming, golden flags.

One of the judges scrawled remarks on Fort Mill’s score sheet: “Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow!” and, “That was amazing! I about came out of the box!”

Nation Ford, Fort Mill’s cross-town rival, took second place, followed by Northwestern in third and Rock Hill in fourth. Clover took seventh.

In class 3A, York Comprehensive High finished fifth and South Pointe High placed eighth. Lewisville High place sixth in class 1A. Andrew Jackson High in Lancaster placed eighth in class 2A.

“It speaks well of music education in York County,” said Chad Pence, a Fort Mill High assistant band director.

‘The right reasons’

Though Saturday marked the end of Fort Mill’s marching season, the band plays on. After a final performance of “Alchemy” at a free show for the community tonight, concert season begins.

In February, Pruitt will begin rehearsals for the band’s first international trip – a march through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

For many bands, the invitation would be a once-in-a-lifetime accolade.

In Fort Mill on Monday, nothing was bigger than the state championship win.

“Honestly, I haven’t even been thinking about Ireland,” senior marimba player Salaena Harris said.

Part of what makes the win so special is the context. The week before, Fort Mill finished fourth in the Upper State semifinals behind Northwestern, Rock Hill and Nation Ford, respectively.

The group didn’t go into Saturday’s competition seeking redemption, students said. But they agreed there was something more special about their championship show.

“Everybody was hyped for the performance,” senior Nick D’Auria said.

“We had more fun with it,” said senior Tydus Mathis.

Pruitt saw it too.

“The difference was just simply another week,” he said. “The students just literally never stop improving … They were definitely performing their hearts out Saturday.

“I’ve never been more proud of young people than this year. They really were performing for the right reasons, for the art, for each other.”

Band champs

Area marching bands reached the top ranks this year. Here’s a look at how they placed in the state championship competition on Saturday.

Class 4A

Shawn Cetrone: 803-329-4072
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