The band, directed by Betsy Burkhart, placed in the top eight while competing in the Eastern Regional KMEA marching band competition at Fort Mitchell last weekend.
Burkhart said the band has spent many long hours practicing during summer band camp as well as during classroom time and three evenings per week after school.
“The students are extremely excited about this,” said Burkhart. “They missed placing in the regional competition last year by one point — they came in ninth — and they set their goals to place this year and they have. That is what they are so excited about.”
Burkhart, a Harlan High School graduate, said the opportunity to participate in this competition was also very important to her as well.
“This is my old band program, because I was in the band here at Harlan from the fourth grade all the way through high school, so it makes it kind of special to me also,” said Burkhart who noted that the first time the district had ever qualified for the regional competition was five years ago.
According to a recent press release, the competition is the band equivalent of the Sweet Sixteen with only eight bands from the eastern region of the state and eight from the western region competing.
Since becoming the instructor, Burkhart said she has been able to watch the school band program grow over the past nine years from a 13-member band camp to a 51-member band.
After Saturday's semifinal competition, the four bands that place in the finals will go on to compete later that evening in the state finals, which will be held at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville.
Although Burkhart said that neither she nor the students are going to the semifinals thinking that they may place in the finals, she said there is always a possibility. However, she said, if they do not place in the finals, they are just happy to be a part of the semifinals and will have something to work toward for next year.
“It is like I told some of the students — not the band students, but some of the other students who kept telling me that we need to be confident in this and think positive about placing in the finals — I asked them, ‘Now, if our school ball team played a game against UK, who do you think would win?’
“Of course, they said, ‘UK,’ and like I told them, that is because they are such a great team. It is the same way with these bands. There are some of these bands who have been there longer and are a lot better than us right now. So, we are just happy to be able to be a part of this.”
The band will be leaving today for the competition and plans to return to Harlan on Sunday.
The band has been accepting donations to cover the costs of the use of two buses and motel lodging. Burkhart said the community has been “very generous” and there has been a great response to helping the band with the trip.
Burkhart also noted that the band had recently purchased new uniforms and is accepting donations to help with the cost of the uniforms.