MARCH ON Lions Band members get ready for trip to Hawaii

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Warren Central drummer Jesse Tillotson is following in his mother Jennifer’s footsteps as a member of the 2012 Mississippi Lions All-State Band.

Jesse is one of five local students headed to Hawaii this summer as members of the prestigious group comprised of the state’s top high school band members.

Jennifer Tillotson was also a Lions Band member in high school and knows how hard her son had to work to make the roster.

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“It was an unbelievable feeling when Jesse made the Lions Band,” she said.

“I told him he had to out do his mom,” his father, Jamie, added.

Students chosen had to master the 12 major music scales, the chromatic scale, two prepared musical selections and be prepared to sight-read music for judges.

Other students selected from WCHS were Karly May on the bass clarinet, Claire Kendall on the French horn, and Robert Rhett on the euphonium. Vicksburg High School is represented by Eric Alipoe on the tuba.

Jesse, who is an upcoming senior, made the band last year as well.

Robert, who is also an upcoming senior, said before the Lions All-State band try-out he practiced about 12 hours a week.

“Sunday was my day off,” he said.

Karly is the daughter of Marty and Barbara May; Claire is the daughter of Tom and Susan Kendall; Robert is the son of Glenn and Gail Rhett; and Eric is the son of Dovi and Tchotchove Alipoe.

This year’s national competition, which will be on the island of Oahu, is a substitute for the annual national competition in South Korea.

Pearl High School Band Director Jeff Cannon is directing this year’s group and said with all the political unrest in North Korea an alternative trip was planned for the kids instead. He said this is not the first time a decision has been made for an alternative trip due to travel safety.

“We felt like we wanted to give the kids an exciting place to travel,” Cannon said, adding that the national competition will be on Waikiki Beach in 2015 so the trip would give them a “dry run” for where the band will compete in three years.

Before their plane lands, the students will spend a week at Jones County Junior College preparing for a parade competition in the Honolulu Festival of Music July 1 and a concert they will perform at the USS Missouri on the Fourth of July.

Cannon said during the week at JCJC the kids will get a wake up call at 6 a.m. and will work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Robert said he is looking forward to hanging out and making new friends and is anxious to see what music the group will be performing in Hawaii.

Jesse said he is looking forward “to just being there.”

The expense of this year’s Lions All-State Band trip is around $3,000 said Glenn Rhett, and according to WCHS band director Alan Arrendale some of the students who tried out and made the band were not able to afford to participate.

Jennifer Tillotson said that about $200 was donated by local Lions Club organizations for each student participating and the WCHS Band boosters contributed another $250 for each child.

“The Lions Club has always been supportive of the band kids,” Cannon said. “The Lions pay for the week of training, which includes four meals a day and the parents pay for the trip.”

Cannon said the band has won 29 Lions Band competitions since 1951 and “since 2000 we have won every time except when we didn’t participate.”

In addition to the parade competition and Fourth of July performance, Jennifer Tillotson said the band members’ itinerary includes a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbour, a tour of the USS Arizona, hiking through the rain forests and up Diamond Head Crater and snorkeling in Hanauma Bay.

There will be a final concert at 6:30 p.m. June 29 at JCJC before the band members depart for Hawaii, and Cannon said a WLBT news crew will be following the kids to Hawaii. A Walt Grayson special feature will be aired following the trip.