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The DCHS marching band paid tribute to Aretha Franklin and displayed months of hard work at a regional competition
The marching band finished with an overall score of Excellent, with the color guard finishing first in its class.
The DCHS Tiger Pride marching band performs at the Branch Classic on Saturday, Oct. 22. - photo by Rio White

After over 200 hours of preparation over the past few months, the Dawson County Tiger Pride marching band put all of that work to the test at the Branch Classic competition hosted by Flowery Branch High School on Saturday, Oct. 22. 

With over 20 marching bands participating, the competition gave the Dawson band a chance to showcase its four-set program at a high level. 

The show, conducted by drum major Ace Park, was titled “The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin” and included songs by the legendary artist such as “Think”, “Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Respect”.

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Directed by Nicholas Gattis and Jeremiah Hyatt, Dawson was part of a group of five bands in the Class 1A category and was the first band to perform at the competition. 

Through the collective effort of all band members, Dawson earned Excellent scores in the three judged categories — band, drumline and color guard. The color guard finished first overall in its class while the band and drumline finished second. 

“Proud would be an understatement to describe how I feel about watching them succeed,” band director Nicholas Gattis said. “It has been very impressive to watch the band program grow as the students continue to set the bar higher with each performance.”

While the Dawson marching band was relatively small in numbers compared to others in attendance, part of the show’s success came through the group’s ability to maximize volume while maintaining precision and clarity on each note. 

The high-energy nature of Franklin’s songs helped the band get off to a strong start, with the brass section playing her iconic melodies.

“The band sounded fantastic, and you can tell they are putting a high level of energy into what they do,” Gattis said. “There was a lot of precision and balance involved with the ensemble sound — especially playing on the field.”

As the show progressed, each section of the band had a chance to be at the forefront of sound. Whether it was the flutes helping build up to the chorus, the trombones showing off their chops or the drumline keeping the show steady, every instrument had an important role.

Meanwhile, the color guard was able to add a valuable visual element to the show in a variety of positions on the field. 

Under the direction of Cheyenne Chester, the four members of the color guard were able to weave in their elements throughout each song — eventually earning them the highest score in Class 1A.

In addition to the color guard visuals, the band also added a variety of body visuals to help emphasize certain parts of the show and add to the overall entertainment factor.

“The body visuals are a great way to enhance our performance as it gives us an extra element bringing out the high points of our show,” Gattis said. “Some of the movements are tricky to do while playing and everyone has to do it precisely on beat in order for it to look right.  Watching them put energy into the impacts during the performance was really fun.”

By the end of the show, the Dawson band had displayed the culmination of all the practices and halftime show performances that had led up to that day. The many parents in attendance — including those from other schools — showed their appreciation to the competition’s opening act.

For Gattis, each band member's effort and the support from the Dawson County community have been crucial to the group’s success.

“The students continue to want to be the best band this school has ever had, and their work ethic is shown on and off the field because they continue to see their hard work pay off,” Gattis said. “We have a small army of parent volunteers that help things run smoothly from preparing meals to making sure uniforms are in order. Our individual donors, corporate sponsors, and everyone who supports the visitor's concession stand on Friday nights help ensure we have all the resources we need in order to be successful.”

After the competition, the Tiger Pride Band will continue to perform at the football games and will also be performing at a couple of parades in the coming months.