Beginning its second year, Weeki Wachee High School has added another grade level as it grows toward its full population. And that growth means a bigger band.
Band director Michael Miller, 25, said the concert band has grown by 10 and the beginning band has grown by six. "We have 33 in the concert band and we have 13 in beginner band," he said.
This year, he said, the band is ready to begin competing. Practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are to prepare for the competitions, the first of which will be Oct. 15 at Tarpon Springs High School.
The band, called "the Sound of the Hornets," will compete with other high schools that have similar-sized bands. The Hornets are in the 1A division of the Florida Marching Band Coalition. Division sizes go up to 5A, which are the state's largest schools.
"Every weekend there are three or four, or even five competitions," Miller said. Schools choose where they want to compete. Miller chose Tarpon Springs because of its location and his familiarity with some of the faculty. He also admires the school's Student Music and Leadership Conservatory, which teaches music and leadership.
"I value their philosophy," he said, "and we want our kids exposed to that."
They have three more competitions: Oct. 29 at Largo High, Nov. 5 at River Ridge High and Nov. 12 at North Marion High in Ocala. If the Hornets earn the points to qualify, they will move to the semifinals Nov. 19 in Tampa.
Miller said the competitions give band members motivation and networking opportunities. Competitions are also a way for band members to show their school pride.
New this year are the band's uniforms. The Hornets played at the Sept. 15 junior varsity football game. "It was our first performance in our new marching band uniforms," Miller said.
Since the school doesn't have its own varsity football team, the band's shows are mostly at other school's junior varsity games. Sometimes the Hornets tend to be the only performers. Their next game show will be Oct. 20 when the Hornets play Clearwater Central Catholic.
Miller is appreciative of the administration's support of his program.
"Our administration's been very gracious providing us with uniforms, instruments and an equipment trailer," he said. "They've made it possible for us to do this and we're very thankful to them."
Weeki Wachee's administrators are principal Dennis McGeehan, and assistant principals Sue Lisk and Troy LaBarbra.
Miller has plenty of praise for his students, too.
"We have some great student leaders," he said. They are drum major Alexis Pletincks, brass captain Cody Pelissier, woodwind captain Tristin McDermott and percussion captain William Moyer.
"They've been working hard right alongside me all summer, through the summer months to get this school year off the ground," he said. He likes to get the students as involved as possible "so they take ownership and have pride in the program."