BURAS, LOUISIANA– For this week’s Friday Night Bands, we take you to a beautiful place at the edge of the world, Plaquemines’ Parish. Today we meet the Marching Hurricanes of South Plaquemines High School.
“I’ve been here all my life. I went to college for six years and came back and the rest is history,” says Band Director Witt Riley.
Director Riley grew up in Plaquemine’s Parish, marched in the band and left to go to college six hours away.
He graduated from Grambling State University and was on a mission to convert a corps style band in his home parish to the show-style type of performance he experienced in college.
Riley says, “I wanted to bring more flash and more show that Grambling showed in the past years and currently now and i wanted to give them a little taste of that too and i think i’m doing that.”
By any means necessary was the motto of the late Malcom X. Witt Riley uses that method, and he does whatever it takes to bring out the greatness in his students. He’s well versed in music and often times picks up a trombone, trumpet, tuba or baritone to demonstrate the music parts to the kids.
Riley has a heart of brass and says “what makes it rewarding is these kids doing the best they can and giving me everything they have, learning music and trying things they’ve never tried before and just being a part of an organization that in high school gets a pretty bad connotation sometimes because in marching band most of us are introverts. We kind of keep to ourselves and that’s why a lot of kids join. They see kids who aren’t a part of something part of something.”
Amber Branch a senior clarinetist in the band says, “I was scared i was not going to bake friends and as soon as i got in the band i had a group of friends that i could be comfortable with wouldn’t have to worry about any body saying ewww! I know that no matter what, if i’m good or bad, i’m not going to be judged. We are going to stick together and i’m going to play and somebody is going to help me to be better and a good musician.”
High school can be tough for anybody outside the realm of cool! But who’s to say band can’t be cool or popular. At South Plaquemines, the students make the rules on what is socially acceptable under high school pressure.
Bethanie Carradine is a junior in the band and also the drum major, for her band an important aspect of stress management. She says, “marching band helps me express my personality and also the band itself is my only way out of drama and if i’m angry at somebody i would just come into band and talk to mr. Riley who is a very understanding person and it just brightens my day up!”
Riley will continue to build up the program and each day the band sounds a little bit more awesome. Every sound, is a reminder that music exists down to far reaches of anyplace there’s an instrument available to play, including at one of the most southern reaches in North America, in the toes of Louisiana.
The marching hurricanes are unstoppable force, no matter what predictions my lie in the forecast.