Band ready for battle

By Trina Trice

North Clayton High School's Mighty Eagles are representing the school Sunday, not with a football, but with instruments and a slew of dance steps.

The school's marching band is performing for the seventh year in the Atlanta Original Battle of the Bands at the Georgia Dome.

Band Director Howard Carroll helped get the band involved after he joined the school faculty in 1996.

"It's become our second largest fundraiser of the year," Carroll said. "It's very prestigious, it's invitational. They only invite the best bands in the area. I guess we've had consistently one of the best bands."

Carroll is taking 140 students from the marching band and auxiliary.

Seniors Ria Jackson, Henry Tring, and Brianna Boddie participated in the competition last year.

They say the atmosphere is fun, yet cutthroat.

"Everybody's looking dead at you," said Boddie, lead clarinetist. "(Last year) with some of the other bands, there was some kind of hostility.

"If you do bad at the Battle of the Bands, like when people don't know their music, that's your reputation," she said.

"When you do bad, you get booed from the crowd," Tring said. "The people in the audience they want to have a good time, if you don't give them a good time they tell you."

Despite the pressure from the crowd, Tring admits he gets excited about the event because of the adrenaline he gets performing and watching other bands.

"We're getting the chance to see other bands, it's fun," the percussionist said. "During the football season you don't usually get to see the other bands."

The band is performing marching band standards such as "Shake a Tail Feather," made popular by legendary singer Ray Charles. However, they also play contemporary favorites such as "Crazy in Love" by R&B singer Beyonc? and "Ridin' Spinners" by hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia.

The latter song is performed during the band's dance routine, a trademark when the tuba players do splits and the drummers twirl their sticks, Boddie said.

"Most of the time when we're doing the dance routine, we're playing songs like that ?cause they're easy to play," Carroll said.

Carroll knows a thing or two about marching band routines, as he was a member of the Florida A & M University marching band, "the number one band in the country," he said.

The North Clayton High School band director also served as one of the technical advisors for the movie "Drumline," which was about characters playing in a battle of the bands competition.

Band members and Carroll say the competition is earlier this year, which hasn't given them as much time to prepare. Last year the event was in October.

"We're kind of jumping into it ?cause we're performing right after our first game," Boddie said. "We're a bit nervous, but I'm sure we'll do fine."