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GHS alumni band event blends old, new

Dozens of Greenville High School Marching Band alumni returned to their old seats at Tiger Stadium alongside the current band members for an invigorating third-quarter melding of old and new ideas.

Dozens of Greenville High School Marching Band alumni returned to their old seats at Tiger Stadium alongside the current band members for an invigorating third-quarter melding of old and new ideas.

Two generations combined Friday night in the Greenville High School band section of Tiger Stadium as a melding of old and new sounds created something new altogether.

While Carroll and Greenville High School clashed on the gridiron, members of the Greenville High School Marching Band of today and yesteryear harmonized in unison during a reunion event to remember.

Current GHS band director Brett Johnson said that bringing the idea to fruition has been a semester-long affair, but it paid off handsomely Friday night.

“At the beginning of the semester, we had a couple of alumni come back and ask if they could put together an alumni band,” Johnson said. “And I actually thought about doing something like that, too, so it was a match made in heaven—I was already thinking about it, and they expressed an interest in doing it.

“And they came into it from a reunion-like setting with a tent set up by the end zone, but I took it a step further and asked if we could play in the stands.  What we did was we resurrected back some of the old song and cheers that they played in the stands.  And we brought them back to life for one night.”

Another equally large part of the festivities involved honoring two previous Greenville High School band directors in Rick Ashcraft and Richard DeLaFuente.

Ashcraft, of Eclectic, Ala., taught band and music at public schools in both Alabama and Georgia for 32 years before retiring in 2014. 

He became assistant/middle school band director at Greenville in 1994, and he served as assistant director for one year before being promoted to head band director in 1995.  He remained at Greenville High School in that capacity for 11 years.

Bands under his direction have received consistent superior ratings in both marching bands and symphonic bands.

Also honored was Richard DeLaFuente, a McGill Institute graduate in 1967. DeLaFuente became assistant band director/middle school band director in 1995, where he served from 1995-2001.

Ashscraft led the merged GHS band consisting of current members and alumni in the third quarter, and Johnson said that the entire start to the second half marked a clear spike in Tiger Stadium’s energy level.

“In my opinion, when they started marching in, the energy level of the stadium rose, and everybody kind of got a little excited about it,” Johnson said.

“And some of the older folks who maybe experienced some of those older songs got excited about it.  I could definitely tell that the difference in energy levels and excitement levels of the game where at a higher peak compared to other games throughout the season.”

Though the first event of its kind, Johnson hopes it won’t be the last.

“If we started something new here at Greenville in having the alumni come back and do it every year, that’d be a really cool thing, I think,” Johnson said. “It was a win-win—the new kids who are currently in the band got to see what we used to do, and it kind of inspired them to maybe go back into the past and resurrect some of those cheers. 

“It was good for the alumni and the current kids, and the audience really wrapped around it and embraced it.  If they want to do it again, I’m down for it, because it was a fun, fun experience.”