Gulf Coast Invitational draws 14 high school marching bands

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 5:55 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The magic is back at the Gulf Coast Invitational high school marching band competition, and fans and students are loving it.

“This may be the most important one we’ve ever done,” said Biloxi High School band director Travis Coakley. “You know, the kids didn’t get a chance to do this last year - not just our kids, but kids across the region. They are so excited to be back today performing in front of crowds.”

The competition, which began in 2012, attracted 14 bands.

The event would have had 20 bands, but Hurricane Ida prevented six from Louisiana from coming.

At the end of the performances, close to 1,700 students marched on the field.

Coakley started it as a kind of warm-up for competitions to come.

“This is the first show for all the students, their staff members, and it helps them prepare for upcoming evaluations and state championship,” he said.

It takes a lot of work.

“What you see today is the tip of the iceberg,” Coakley said. “You don’t see what’s below the water, but all the kids that perform today have put in hundreds of hours, after school, before school, during school.”

Senior Jocelynn Sengsiry agreed.

“When everyone else is home playing video games, doing homework or hanging out with their friends, we’re out here, working our butts off, marching for two hours straight,” she said.

The emotional drain can be enormous.

“Because they care so much about what they do, this is their passion,” Coakley said. “It’s their outlet to perform in front of people, and they really get worked up for it and it shows on their faces and the music they play.”

When the magic happens, it’s hard to forget.

“Whenever you get on that field, you have a bunch of nerves built up,” Sengsiry said. “And when you finally hit that one note, it’s like everything goes away, and it really feels like you are in the show and everyone’s in the show.”

For senior drum major Tiara Harris, this kind of music performance has been her passion and she lives for the thrill.

“Since middle school, I’ve felt like band’s been that part of my life, that core, that center,” she said. “I definitely get that feeling.”

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