October 21, 2020

Marching Braves shine bright at East Georgia Festival

The Marching Braves take the field prior to competing at the East Georgia Marching Festival on Saturday, October 28 in Statesboro (Photo: Keith Cornelius)

(Statesboro, GA) — The Heard County High School Marching Braves band closed out the competition season in exciting fashion last weekend at the 40th Annual East Georgia Marching Band Festival in Statesboro, Georgia.

The Marching Braves competed against 27 other high schools and for the first time in several years earned all superior ratings and Class A placement awards in all captions including Drum Major, Color Guard, Percussion and Band.

The Braves were named the Class A Champions outshining nine other bands in the largest class at the festival. It was one of the top performances in the history of the HCHS band program.

Band director Eric Vogel was elated and even surprised by his group’s performance. 

“We did not expect to win anything — the competition was tough,” said Vogel after the competition. “We were competing in the largest bracket. I told the students that our focus was to go down there and just be the best we could be. I did not anticipate we would fair as well as we did.”

Other bands in the Class A bracket at the festival included Screven County, McIntosh Academy, Jenkins County, Dodge County, Bryan County, New Hamstead, Washington-Wilkes, Tattnall County, and Savannah Christian. Only two of the other Class A bands earned straight superior ratings.

The band score at a competition is a compilation of scores given by three music judges, one visual judge, and one general effect judge.

Following the competition on Saturday, the Marching Braves spent the night in Statesboro and then headed to Tybee Island the following morning for some band fellowship.

Students enjoyed spending time on the beach and touring the island and made a stop in Savannah before heading back home.

“Going into this trip, my emphasis was on celebrating a great year and spending time with our family — our band family,” said Vogle. “We had an incredible trip that was successful because of how hard our students work. I preach to them not about winning, but about being the absolute best version of themselves that they can be.”

The East Georgia Marching Festival Class A Champion Marching Braves (Photo: Vicki Rogers)

The Marching Braves are under the field direction of Drum Major Melanie Cheney and section leaders are Eli Caldwell, Kendallin Buice, Will Googe, Mason Hudson, Shiane Lucas, Charles Bryan, Jordan Cornelius, JD Blakely, Lori Estoll, Sara Grace Rogers, and Zane Mitchell.

The group will celebrate the Class of 2018 Seniors during halftime of the Spencer game tonight at Staples Stadium.

In only his second year with the Marching Braves Vogel is already making big strides with the band and music program and is thankful to be working in the local community.

“As a side effect of striving to be the absolute best, we will win a few cool trophies along the way — I call this concept ‘chasing the better train.’ The path to ‘better’ is an arduous journey that will not be easy,” says Vogel. “Our students, parents, community, school and fans make this such an incredible place to work. I am proud to say I work for Heard County.”

Under Vogel’s direction, the Marching Braves have become one of the most integral parts of “Friday Nights in Franklin,” serving not only as a typical marching band but as the most spirited and raucous group in the stadium each week.

The group also spent Halloween together at the first ever “All Hallows Gala” party this week.


  1. Betty & Richard Noles says

    We are so blessed to have Mr. Vogel to lead the band. He has been able to bring out the best in each student that participates in this program. Can’t wait to see what will happen in the time to come as he continues to lead this program So proud of each band member.

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