Rocket Band of Blue's accomplishments continue to grow

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Staff Writer

Forrest High School's Rocket Band of Blue's list of accomplishments continues to grow as the years go by and the success of the program has far reaching effects in the Chapel Hill school system as enrollment in the band swells.

Band Director Billy Bateman has a full class of students in his high school program at Forrest and his middle school program is growing in leaps and bounds. During a recent visit to Chapel Hill Elementary School, where the sixth grade resides as construction at the high school continues, Bateman was busy with another packed group of motivated youngsters ready to join the ranks of the thriving program.

2006 was another great year for the band as they garnered numerous awards at local, regional, and state-wide competitions. The Band also hosted the highly successful Forrest Invitational Competition last fall, a meet that will continue as an annual event in Chapel Hill.

2007 has already seen the completion and grand opening of the state of the art Band room on the Forrest campus and the ever looming site of the parade field that will be complete this summer and give the Band a practice site and an arena for competition. Many Chapel Hill citizens have witnessed the band marching through the front field of the school during the years and are anticipating the grand opening of the arena with high expectations.

Band gathers in more awards at Eagleville competition

The Rocket Band of Blue never rests, evident by their participation and success at the Middle Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association's Solo and Ensemble Festival held two weeks ago at Eagleville High School.

Mr. Bateman took his contingent to the event and they came away with numerous awards and a growing confidence that participation in the program will have long reaching effects on their academic and personal lives for years to come.

The entire sixth grade beginner group that includes Caroline Bell, Briana Lafleur, Learyn Miller, Staci Brock, Tyler Hargrove, Jesse Pugh, Tameka Abdula, Britiney Stewart, Cody Pigg, Matt Kline, Justin McCormick, and James Luna all played solos chosen by Bateman and they received superior ratings at the event, with Pigg receiving an excellent rating.

Bateman teaches the group for one hour every day and said, "The entire group has made tremendous progress during the year and they will be ready for the marching band next year." Bateman added, "They all have super attitudes and are all great students."

The group commented that, "We will be ready for next year." They also said that Bateman pushes them hard in practice and also stresses that they get good grades in the classroom. Asked about their progress throughout the year leading up to the event, the group said, "From our first song, called "First Flight" to now has been difficult, but fun." They all added, "We all hope to play in the band at Forrest and one day get a scholarship to college."

Awards abundant at event for high school group

The Band of Blue's high school contingent also participated in the Eagleville event and came home to Chapel Hill with a bevy of awards. Bethany Gamble, Caleb Boone, Madeline Bell, Taylor Blanchett, Kimber Luna, Travis Ryder, Tyler Williams, Jon Fleet, Shawna Crafton, and Zach Brown garnered superior ratings for Solo competition. A.J. Austin, Tyler Miarecki, and Paul Carraglio received the highest rating of excellent for their solos.

Other groups receiving superior or excellent ratings were the ensemble of Jana Blunkall, Caleb Boone, Brooke Russell, Travis Ryder, Jared Blanchett, and Lindsey Gaskill. Two trios's also received the ratings at the event. The first was Devin Barnes, Sarah Stemple, and Stacey Byrd. The second trio to receive the ratings was Crystal Cannon, Kim Meacham, and Rachel Harris. The duet of Taylor Blanchett and Lauren French also received an award for their performance.

Jared Blanchett and Travis Ryder, four year participants in the band commented that, "The band work has gotten progressively harder, but better and more fun every year."

Junior Zach Brown said," It's been really fun for me. I wanted to be in the band quite awhile and I want to be a Band Director in the future. My whole family has been percussionists and I guess I just followed along. I want to attend MTSU where my sister Felecia is a freshman."

Blunkall says it all

Jana Blunkall, recipient of the Middle School Mid-State Band Award for two consecutive years said it all when she commented about her fellow band members. "They are all like brothers and sisters to me, not just friends."

Bateman has built the program around high achievement in the classroom and on the arena field as well as molding the participants in the program into a cohesive unit that strives for excellence.

The Band of Blue will hold its annual awards banquet on May 4 at 6 p.m. at and their spring concert on May 6 at 2 p m., both at Henry Horton State Park