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AJ, IL bands compete in state finals

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By Jesef Williams

Even though they didn't finish as high as they would have liked, Indian Land High School band director Mathew Willis said he is extremely proud of his group's performance this past weekend.

The Warrior band finished seventh in Class A state finals Saturday. The band earned a berth to the finals after coming in first at Upper State preliminaries a week before.

Indian Land also finished seventh at state in 2007.

"I have never been more proud of a group of kids than I am right now," said Willis, who's in his second year at Indian Land. "It is a privilege to wake up every morning knowing I get to work with each and every one of them."

Their 2008 show was called "Outside the Box." It featured concert music to help communicate abstract ideas that required audiences to watch and listen closely to pick up on the message.

Willis said the band did a good job with the show and handled on-the-field adversity well.

The players also demonstrated pride and learned a lot from this year's experience, he said.

"This year has been an amazing year for our program and we have all grown and learned a great deal and look forward to getting back on the field next year to continue the success we have had this year," Willis said.

AJ High made large strides

Andrew Jackson High School came in 11th place at the Class AA state finals.

Despite wet and chilly conditions on Saturday, AJHS director Scot McGuire said the band performed better than it did at Upper State preliminaries the preview week.

"They made huge strides in their music performance," he said. "The kids got better every week, every time out."

This year, the Volunteer Regiment's theme was Tribal Elements, a four-song show that paid homage to Native American history, culture and custom. The show featured autumn colors and included tepees, totem polls and other props.

McGuire never placed specific expectations on his players, but simply encouraged them to perform at a higher level each time. He thinks the band has a lot of momentum that will carry over into next year.

This year, AJ finished fifth at Upper State. The previous three years, the band placedd eighth, ninth and 13th, respectively.

"The band took a large step this year," McGuire said. "Next year, we hope to take another step. I'll keep pushing them."

The Lancaster and Buford high bands did not qualify for the state finals this year.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152