Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and Sullivan South bands relishing opportunity to perform at 'home'

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Oct 12, 2019 at 9:20 PM

In a regional competition featuring 31 high schools from eight states, a handful of them had a de facto ‘home field’ advantage at Saturday’s Bands of America Regional Championship at East Tennessee State University.

And when you’re the defending Class AAA champions making your first performance away from home this season, being so close to home can be a big boost.

“It’s really special,” Dobyns-Bennett High School drum major Lily Purdue said of performing so close to home. “We’re just really grateful because this is an experience unlike any we’ve ever had because we’ve always had to travel for competitions.

“With this being a competition we’re ‘hosting,’ it’s pretty cool — it’s something different,” Purdue said.

The comfort level was evident when Dobyns-Bennett took the artificial turf in East Tennessee State University’s Mini Dome, putting together a performance Turner Hawkins, DB’s assistant director of bands called “pretty good” and one he “can’t complain” about, Of course, it’s nearly impossible to complain when they take home the Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and first place trophies for Class AAA.

“Dobyns-Bennett has had a fantastic band as long as Dobyns-Bennett has had a school,” Hawkins said. “At that point (strong performances) are just kind of ingrained in the culture … if there’s any pressure, that pressure is a privilege and we’re honored to keep working.”

Of course, while Kingsport’s Dobyns-Bennett, Sullivan South and Elizabethton high schools were enjoying their time so close to home, that enjoyment was ten-fold for Science Hill High School’s band, which put together one of the competition’s more visually impactful performances, despite SHHS not making it to the finals.

“I think the kids are pretty pumped about it,” SHHS Director of Bands Carson Vermillion said after the preliminary performance. “I think we did a pretty good job.”

Sullivan South placed third in the Class A preliminaries, but also fell short of the finals. The regional champion will be announced around 10:45 p.m. Saturday night.