OG percussion places fourth

Oak Grove High School Indoor Percussion's 2017 Season concluded with a trip to Dayton, Ohio, to compete in Winter Guard International's World Percussion Championships in only its second year at this level.

After a successful season of rehearsals and competitions, OGHS Indoor Percussion competed in Dayton against 64 other ensembles from all over the United States. After advancing from Prelims to Semifinals, OGHS Indoor Percussion went on to place fourth in Finals in Scholastic A Class. The Oak Grove squad was also named Scholastic A Class Fan Favorite for the second year in a row.

From the floor and prop colors to the music and movements, this year's show, titled “Willful Suspension,” was upbeat and fun. In addition to placing first in three competitions, the OGHS Indoor Percussion ensemble was awarded Silver Medals at two state championships – The Mississippi Indoor Association State Championships in Jackson the Louisiana/Mississippi Color Guard Percussion Circuit in Thibodaux, La.

The program at OGHS began about seven years ago and has continued to grow. The group consists of percussion instruments: a drum line, cymbals and front ensemble. About 45 students are involved – percussionists as well as visual ensemble members.

Indoor Percussion groups perform in gymnasiums and arenas on a gigantic mat that is the size of a gym floor. OGHS Indoor Percussion is directed by David Joseph “D.J.” Louviere, with additional staff members Zach Hassell Marc Rivet, Nathan Sanders, Andrew Hunckler and Jack Bounds. Show designers are Garrett Lambert, Joe Fant and Chris Word.

The Indoor Percussion program also is totally self-funded. Students who participate not only pay dues to cover the cost for staffing and show design/props, but also spend many hours outside of rehearsals to raise funds that benefit the entire group. Leading up to World Championships, OGHS Indoor Percussion rehearsed on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from December through April, with several other Saturday and holiday rehearsals. All rehearsals and competitions are outside of normal school hours.

The students and staff in this ensemble work toward a common goal and are learning and experiencing things that are life changing.

Joanna Patterson, a senior ensemble member, has participated in Indoor Percussion for four years.

"I still remember the old days when a major competition like World Championships wasn't even a possibility," she said.

This season, the ensemble participated in competitions in Mississippi (Gulfport, Brandon, Jackson, Hattiesburg) and Thibodaux, La. All funding for Indoor Percussion comes from student dues of $1,000 each, plus group fundraisers. In addition to all of the student and staff preparation, many parents pull together to provide meals, help with fundraisers, drive equipment trailers, build and repair props, wash uniforms and chaperone.

The OGHS Indoor Percussion ensemble competes in three circuits:

• Mississippi Indoor Association – Oak Grove Indoor Percussion competes in several competitions leading up to the MIA State Championships in Jackson.

• Louisiana/Mississippi Color Guard Percussion Circuit – 2017 is the first year for OGHS Indoor Percussion to compete at LMCGPC State Championships.

• Winter Guard International – Oak Grove Indoor Percussion competed at WGI Regionals at USM in Hattiesburg in March. Oak Grove placed first at Regionals.

In the MIA and LMCGPC circuits, the respective state championships are the last levels of competition.

However, in the WGI circuit, WGI World Percussion Championships in Dayton, Ohio, is the last level of competition. This year was the second time Oak Grove traveled to Dayton to compete at World Championships.

The ensemble travels to competitions in several different trailers and often an additional rented box truck. The director and fundraising coordinators, Lauren Shurden and Leslie Gonce, are beginning fundraising for a much-needed, larger-scale equipment trailer to transport all instruments in one, therefore making travel much easier logistically.

Louviere said the group is continuing to grow and deal with those problems.

"With the growth and success this ensemble has seen over the past few years, we find ourselves experiencing the usual growing pains one might expect,” he said. “To more efficiently transport equipment and props is our biggest focus for fundraising as we look toward next season. Our season technically runs from November through April; however, directors and fundraising coordinators really work year-round to make all of this happen."

Economic diversity exists within the group. Because of varying economic crises and needs, some students would not be able to participate without fundraisers and anonymous contributions.

One of this season's most successful fundraisers was a “Dessert and a Show” that parents from OGHS Indoor Percussion and Winter Guard planned and staffed. With help from local bakers, the night included desserts, plus a dessert silent auction, door prizes and a raffle. Both Indoor Percussion and Winter Guard performed their 2017 shows for friends and family.

Shurden said, "Our dessert and a show is a great way for the students to showcase what they are doing for their teachers, friends, and family – as they spend so much time on this, and it's so much a part of them. Our directors introduce every ensemble member and it's their night to shine."