Matthew Stewart-The Daily Times
The William Blount High School Marching Band is getting ready to step onto the national stage. The band will join the University of Tennessee’s Pride of the Southland Marching Band at halftime today. Roane County High and William Blount High will play in a halftime set including “This Is My Country,” “God Bless America” and “God Bless the U.S.A.”
The Tennessee Volunteers will kickoff at 7 p.m. today against the Western Carolina Catamounts. The game will be on ESPNU and WIVK-FM.
“It’s a great honor,” said band director Ron Rogers. “Only five or six high schools have been invited to do it.” Rogers, who inherited a program with 75 student in 2011, expects the performance to be a stepping stone for William Blount High. “It’s going to increase our visibility. William Blount High School’s band will be seen by more people in one day than it will over the course of an entire year. Our students have worked very, very hard. They’ve put in a lot of sweat and time to get here.”
The band, which has swelled to 115 members this year, can expect an indefinable moment when they walk onto Shields-Watkins Field in Neyland Stadium. “They’ll look up at halftime and see 100,000 people in the stands. It’s indescribable, that moment,” Rogers said. Rogers, who played 1978-82 in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band as a trombonist, said he’s “excited” for his students to experience that indescribable moment.
“It’s going to be fun hearing them talk about it on the trips down and back. They’ll have stories that they can share with their friends for years to come.”
“It’s an amazing experience,” said junior Broc Sheehan. “We get to play in front of 102,000 people. How many high-schoolers get that opportunity?”
“We’re raising our limits and standards,” said senior Mikayla Parton. “Both as a band and as band members.” “It’s going to make all of the hard work worth it,” said junior Mikayla Wood. “My dream has always been to play with the Pride.” “I’m going to UT next year, and I hope to play in the Pride of Southland,” said senior Eddie Correll. “(Today) will give me that first taste of what to expect, and I can’t wait. Marching band is my passion.”
Students, including junior Grayson Briggs, wanted to personally thank Rogers for believing in them and pushing them to this point. “Mr. Rogers knows our potential.”
“He believes in us,” said junior Morgan Fills. “He expects more from us, because he knows our capabilities.”
“We’re proud of these kids,” said parent Kim Ballard. “They’re going to do their best and make this school proud.”