Hartselle High School Marching Band hosted 23st Southern Hospitality Marching Festival

By Lauren Thornton Tobin

Hartselle Enquirer

Hartselle High School hosted the Southern Hospitality Marching Festival on Saturday, where more than 25 bands from Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi met to compete.

This is the 23rd year for HHS to host the competition and success is determined by strict scheduling, said band director Randall Key.

“We’ve got to start heavy prepping in June and everything is planned according to a schedule leading all the way to the first Saturday in October, “ he said. “We have several committees – sanitation, concessions, bus parking, car parking, dressing facilities, registration, trophy count…there’s a long list of things to prepare for to accommodate close to 2,200 students coming in.”

Key said he is responsible for hiring the judges and instructing them on how he wants the contest judged.

“You tell them how you want it…make your point with positive comments and justify scores,” he said.

The bands are awarded based on Superior Ratings, Best in Class and the Challenge Cup, which is the top average of the overall band and percussion score for each class.

Each band’s classification varies based on the competition itself, but for the Southern Hospitality Marching Festival, the classes ranged from A, having two to 35 students, to 5A, having more than 101 students.

Key said when Hartselle began hosting the competition, the class system was put in place to ensure that all bands were competing equally with other bands their size.

“The founders and Mr. (Jeff) Vaughn wanted to make it unique,” Key said. “If you have five divisions, super large groups compete against one another. It gives them a good option and is what’s helped the success of the competition for more than 21 years.”

The class system is just one thing Key said sets Hartselle apart from other competitions.

“We have separate hospitality rooms for the band directors and bus drivers,” he said. “We have outstanding parents and students. We have former band parents and band boosters who give time to make the festival a success each year.”

Speaking of all things unique, Key said audiences can anticipate a unique musical theme this year.

“It’s called ‘Songs of the South’ with a tribute to classic rock,” he said. “We play songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels and Travis Tritt. It’s unique because I haven’t heard a southern rock theme done.”

Key said the band performs a custom show each year with the music written especially for them. He also said that’s the most difficult part of his job.

“The hardest thing about band directing is coming up with a unique show that’s entertaining to the audience,” he said. “I just try to play things the fans will enjoy.”

Of Key’s 23 years of directing, he said this year’s show is one of his favorites.

“It’s not something you can buy from a music distributor,” he said. “I’ve never heard a band play ‘Fooled Around and Fell in Love’ by Elvin Bishop or ‘Trudy’ by Charlie Daniels.”

The performance lasts around nine minutes, with each song lasting about a minute, Key said.

As far as competitions go, Key said he doesn’t write a show for the judges.

“We hope (the judges) appreciate what we do, but we write to entertain the audience,” he said. “If you do that and play well, you should be in good shape when you go to a contest.”

Since HHS hosted the Southern Hospitality Marching Festival, they did not compete for any of the awards, but Key said it’s safe to say there is a competition in the near future at another school and the HHS band is planning to attend.



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