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Ola's Marching Mustangs band to perform in London next year

The Ola High School Marching Mustangs, from McDonough, claimed a top honor at the Bands of America Champions event, held recently at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The Bands of America Super Regional saw 32 bands from eight states participate in the competition. Bands, in the Oct. 29 competition, were divided into four classifications, with Ola marching away with the top honors in the AA Class.

Woodland High School's marching band, from Stockbridge, also competed. Woodland's band finished fifth out of nine in the Class AA category.

School officials noted that Ola — led by directors Todd Manson and Matthew "Bo" Sodders — finished 11th overall in the competition.

Performing its 2011 show, "Steampunk: Man vs. Machine," Ola became the first marching band from Henry County to place as a finalist in the Top 12.

"It was significant," said Ross Iddings, principal at Ola High School. "This really measures them by national standards, not just by local standards. It's been fun to watch the band program grow. Mr. Manson and Mr. Sodders have done a wonderful job at challenging our kids and giving them what they need to be successful."

The young, 155-member marching band has created both a hallmark, and benchmark, for future classes to aspire to achieve at Ola, added Iddings.

He opened the 1,500-pupil school six years ago.

"I think success begets success," he said. "The more success that you can have in a building, the more students strive to be successful in other things. Regardless of the activity, regardless of the endeavor, it begins to confirm to everyone that they can all be successful, if they work hard enough."

The marching band program, in its short existence, has garnered awards that include the Bands of America Champions' Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect honors.

"It's incredible to see where this band has grown from since 2006, and to gain recognition and be a finalist at a super regional competition is a great accomplishment," said Todd Manson, director of the marching band. "We are so proud of our students."

The band will travel to London to perform on New Year's Day 2012, according to Henry County Schools Communications Specialist J.D. Hardin. Its performance will be part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration, as well as the official kick off of the London Olympics in 2012.

Hardin added that Ola's assistant band director, Matthew "Bo" Sodders, has been named the Teal Sound Drum & Bugle Corps' Brass Captain Head for the 2012 season.

The Teal Sound is a competitive marching corps located in Jacksonville, Fla., Hardin explained. The corps is made up of more than 150 of the top band students from across the southeastern section of the United States. They compete during the summer in various high-level marching competitions.

"This enables me to work with a caliber of student that is dedicated to increasing the marching arts year-round," said Sodders. "We start this November, and go through next August, right before the start of the high school marching season."

Sodders has previous experience with drum and bugle corps. He has worked with the Spirit of Atlanta, and he was also a marching member and drum major for the Glassmen, from Toledo, Ohio.

To learn more about the Marching Mustangs, visit the school's web site at www.henry.k12.ga.us/oh.