It’s Wednesday morning, and Munford High School students have come to school wearing doctors’ scrubs, prisoner black and whites, tutus, and even large homemade dice. Band leader Barry Trobaugh herds three boys into the gym to test a microphone while he tweaks sound for an upcoming talent show.
It’s homecoming week at this Tipton County public high school, and there’s an air of controlled chaos to the school’s errant festivities. That is until 10:30 a.m. sharp, when 225 teens line up on the field behind the school. They hurry into position, instruments cocked, eyes straight ahead, waiting through the sweat for Trobaugh’s first command.
Gone is the chaos. Present, instead, is precision.
But the students — playing trumpets and snares and waving flags — aren’t practicing for Friday night’s game. The Munford High School band is working toward bringing home yet another first place trophy — to add to the hallway case full of and the band room walls lined with and the entire section of room jammed with trophies.
Yet even Wednesday’s industry and the nearthousand awards can’t touch what Trobaugh and his band anticipate celebrating this month. They beat out nearly 200 other high school bands to win the crown of all trophies: playing in the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Munford teens will join the colorful throng of floats, giant character balloons, and nine other marching bands as they make their way through midtown Manhattan.
“We get to participate in what is one of the greatest spectacles for a high school band. It’s a tremendous inclusion,” say Trobaugh, a Memphis native. “We get to represent all the band alumni since it started in 1949, and all the players for the upcoming years. We get to spotlight Munford pride.”
Practice and dedication
Sit in on a practice and it’s no surprise that this dedicated group made the highly competitive cut on their first try. Trobaugh runs a tight ship.
“You have to sacrifice hanging out with your family or going to events or hanging out with your friends. But it’s worth it,” says senior Janel Benton (17), a member of the color guard.
During practice, assistant directors Gary Fite and Doug Young stand atop the field observation tower while Trobaugh gets up close and personal on the field. All three wear headsets with microphones, dropping insider terms while the students start and stop on a dime.
“Yes, sir!” the teens bark in unison to Trobaugh’s ever-present sentence-ender, “Yes?” Since July, band members have been practicing, going to competitions, or playing during games almost daily. Most rehearsals open with ballet and yoga moves. This type of dedication yields holistic returns for the students.
“Band kids are my favorite students to teach. They are the most disciplined and involved students you will ever meet,” says English teacher Jen Tyler.
“Band has really changed my life for the better,” says senior Emily Howard (17), a trumpet player. “It teaches me responsibility and how to get along with a group and how to be a part of a team and give it everything I have.”
And sometimes, giving it everything you have pays big dividends.
Touring the big apple
The band, accompanied by a few band parents, will travel by bus from Munford to spend a week in the Big Apple. Their trip includes a harbor cruise, a Broadway show, the opportunity to play a two-hour concert in Central Park, and all the sightseeing 225 teens can stand.
The trip costs $1,200 per student. Trobaugh remained tight-lipped for months until Macy’s officials arrived in March for the big reveal. As of late September, the Munford High School Band Boosters, as well as the local and surrounding communities, had raised $120,000 toward the $300,000 total.
“They made the announcement early to give us time to raise the money,” Trobaugh says. “I could not do any of this without the incredible support that this amazing community in south Tipton and north Shelby counties has provided.”
While his students look forward to seeing the sights and being in the middle of the city that never sleeps, they remain focused — even in their excitement.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but it will be fun while we’re doing it. I’m looking forward to marching down the street,” says Fabian Ulloa (16), a sophomore who plays tuba.
“I’ve always watched the parade, but I never saw myself as a person performing in it,” adds Janel Benton. “Marching down the street with my band family, that will be an unforgettable memory.”
As for what they will perform? That’s easy.
“What better way to represent our region of the world than with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Trobaugh says. “Elvis always opened his shows with ‘C.C. Rider.’ Then we’ll go into ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ because that was one of his earliest important hits. And we’ll close with ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’”
What will they wear? Well, band uniforms, and, of course, blue suede shoes.