Destrehan High School band makes mark as championship program

Published 11:45 pm Friday, November 7, 2014

By Monique Roth

DESTREHAN — The marching band at Destrehan High School won Grand Champion at the Louisiana Marching Band Circuit Championships last weekend at Southeastern Louisiana University, and today they will compete with over 30 high school bands from across the state in the Louisiana Showcase of Marching Bands in Lafayette.

The Pride of Destrehan Band, directed by Stacy Toal and Michael Gillmore, has a goal of making the top ten today.

If accomplished, it would be the fourth time the band did so in Toal’s eight years as a director and the fifth time in the school’s history.

“It’s been a very successful season,” Toal said, adding a win today would be “the icing on the cake.”

A Color Guard staff of Matt Winans, Lopez Reese and Annette Wray; a band staff of Zach Huhner and a percussion staff of Stephen Tumblin also lead the Pride of Destrehan Band, which is comprised of 122 band members and 26 Color Guard participants.

Wray said recent successes, as well the opportunity today in Lafayette, have been “a highlight of these kids’ music careers that they have been working to achieve since the summer, when preparations began.”

Wray said eight years ago Toal “came in and empowered these kids with excellence.”

Toal said she is proud to be a part of the band, adding many DHS band members receive scholarships to college for their band participation.

“I like bringing music into the lives of young people, and I believe that band gives students an opportunity to learn many life skills,” she said.

Toal said, among other things, students participating in band learn time management, self-motivation, self-direction and self-discipline, adding participants also learn how to work independently, yet still be part of a team.

Different sections of the band are led by student captains, and interested band members are prepped on interview etiquette before interviewing with a panel, Toal said.

The panel chooses the section captains, who Toal said are told it’s “not about a title, but about providing a service to the band.”

Abbigal Marrs, a junior at DHS and captain of the front ensemble, said being in band “definitely helps you grow up from the discipline.”

Marrs said she plans on exploring college band opportunities, and she appreciates the hard work Toal puts in.

“She knows what she’s doing,” Marrs said. “She’s perfected the balance of being strict with what we need and still being a relaxed leader.”

Senior Rashaad Williams, one of three drum majors, said going through the interview for a captain’s position and attending leadership training in the summer has been “really wonderful and eye opening.”

Wray said all eyes are on Williams during performances, as his movements direct the band.

Williams said the experience has taught him a lot about himself and how he teaches others.

Catie Toal, a junior Color Guard captain, said her favorite part of being in the band is her peers, whom she referred to as family

“It changes your life for the positive,” she said of band.