Liberty County High School’s Panther Marching Band will moon-walk to pop icon Michael Jackson songs this year during football halftime shows.
The Panther band has worked in learning many of Jackson’s popular songs like “Billie Jean,” “I want you back,” “Thriller” and more.
“We chose the theme back in March and we started preparing before the end of the school year,” 12-year band director Paul Sohayda said. “Then we held spring camp for a couple of days after school finished and took the summer off, before starting back up again Monday.”
Sohayda said the Panther band will field about 90 musicians, many of them freshmen and sophomores.
“At some point they’ve been exposed to it somewhere, whether through commercials or something they’ve heard in the background of a movie or TV show,” Sohayda said of Jackson’s music. “Usually the hard part is getting them (the band members) to realize that the way they’ve heard it may not be necessarily the way it is written or played in front of them (their sheet music), we may have had to switch things up instrumentation-wise to make it more feasible for outdoor use.”
Sohayda said he started writing the routines and kicking around formation ideas in January with his wife Carlie Sohayda who is the flag/color guard choreographer.
In the gym Thursday, Carlie Sohayda was running through routines to Jackson’s ‘I want you back.”
Carlie Sohayda has performed and competed since the age of 11. By the age of 21 she was teaching movement, formation and choreography.
“You should see me toss a rifle,” she said as she taught the girls how to spin and toss their flags. She showed the girls how to place their feet, show their hands and dance with swagger, despite a large boot supporting her left ankle she recently had surgery on.
“Put some groove in your step,” she told the girls.
She then had them watch a video of The Jackson 5, featuring a young Michael Jackson performing on “Soul Train” in the 1970s. “Move your hips, loosen up and have some fun with it.”
Panther band camp ran from 4-9 p.m. last week and continues until Wednesday.
“We work on the fundamentals of playing music, looking for good tone production, good rhythm and making sure that we are playing with good harmonies and balance,” Paul Sohayda said. “Our first priority is making sure we are playing good music that is appealing to listen to. From there, we work on our footwork and we will go through and break down basic fundamental marching. The older kids have done it for a few years so it may be old hat for them but there are a number of them that still need a refresher.”
Last year the band received superior ratings, which is the highest you can get, at every competition it attended.
Sohayda said they plan to do three extra competitions this fall as well as participate in local parades.
Their concert band also has a performance scheduled at Armstrong State University.
“It is very much a year-round activity,” Sohayda said.
The director said the band has some older instruments and equipment like stands and chairs that could use updating. He said his booster club is always raising funds for expenses not funded by the school system.
“The school gives us some money, but not a whole lot,” he said. “And bands are very expensive to operate.
“Travel costs, uniform costs, miscellaneous equipment like drum sticks and drum heads, buying music or writing music, and meals for our kids,” he said. “These are the type of things our booster will go out and try and raise money for.”