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NORTH ALABAMA (WHNT) — The Friday night lights are back, bringing with it the familiar sounds and spectacles of North Alabama’s marching bands.

Just like football players, band members are subjected to high expectations for their halftime shows, hours of practice in the blazing sun, and grueling competitions that test their limits.

Jessica Hood, the director of bands at Muscle Shoals High School, said her band’s show this year is entitled “Grow.”

“In a program of excellence, change comes with uncertainty,” Hood explained. “Even though, there may be a new director, the direction of the program will be ever pushing forward. This is the premise of ‘Grow.'”

Hood said the theme comes from planting seeds of high expectations, nurturing the process, and celebrating the outcome. That’s how a band program begins to flourish.

Among those high expectations? Lots of practice time under the blazing summer sun.

The heart of marching band season seems to bring with it extreme heat, this year especially. Hood said adapting to temperatures that reached triple digits this summer has resulted in some adaptation.

“Safety is our number one priority for our students as we conduct our practices,” Hood said. “During band camp, we spent mornings and evenings outside, and most of our afternoons were spent indoors. We actually got fairly lucky during band camp this year, as the heat index in the last two weeks of July [was] less than some earlier in the summer.”

With that dedication to practicing in the most extreme environments comes a level of discipline and respect that goes far beyond just learning to play a musical instrument.

Hood said her band abides by a few sayings:

  • There is never a bad time to do a good thing or a wrong time to the right thing
  • You will never walk alone

“There is nothing more important than how people treat each other,” Hood stated. “Our students become better musicians, marchers, twirlers, conductors, and their work ethic in doing so remains incredibly high due to our expectations.”

Hood said more than 90% of marchers don’t continue the arts after high school, but the rules instilled while in marching band can carry on.

“There will always be moments they face in life where they will have to choose how to act and react in certain situations,” she said. “Even though they have been gone from the MSHS band program for years, they will never walk alone, knowing they formed special connections with special people and made an impact on the world.”

Hood’s band will carry its halftime show past the Friday night lights into competitions this year.

Muscle Shoals will attend the Northwest Alabama Marching Invitational and also a competition at Hewitt-Trussville in Birmingham. Their season will end with the Alabama State Marching Band Championships. Additionally, MSCS will host its own marching competition on October 15.

When it comes to supporting the band on and off the field, staying put during halftime to cheer on the band is only half the battle.

“We love our fans! The stands are usually full during our performance at halftime, and we appreciate their support,” Hood stated. “Our crowd is always full of great support. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Hood said even though her band’s main purpose for the next few months of Fridays will be supporting the football team, the highest priority will be putting on a great show.

“Our responsibility on Friday nights during the quarters is to support our awesome football team,” she concluded. “But during halftime, it’s our practice to have the best show possible.”

“Halftime season” for most bands across the Tennessee Valley will start on August 26, with some week zero games starting on Friday night.