Continuing the tradition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 7, 2014

0507 string bandFor students in the string band at Straughn High School, being part of the school’s unique music group isn’t just an extracurricular activity – it’s a way of life.

“Some of us learned to play when we joined the band, but a lot of us knew how and learned to play more than one instrument when we joined,” Jamie Young, a senior band member, said. “It’s just a huge friendship. You get to play with your friends, and we teach each other different things.”

Santana Hamrac, a sophomore at SHS, said it’s fun to watch individual members of the band come together to from one harmonious sound.

“There’s a big difference between playing by yourself and playing in a band,” she said. “You have to learn to harmonize and how to play together.”

And the close-knit group who shares as many jokes as they do guitar strings will come together one last time this year when they perform Fri., May 16 at the third annual Back Porch Bash.

Karen McGlaun, string band sponsor, said the event is a fundraiser, with all proceeds going to the schol’s overall budget.

“We’re trying to raise enough money this year for a new PA system in the gym,” McGlaun said. “String band members (will perform) with many alumni and guest musical performances including Scott Rogers, Jonathon Brooks, Slade Wicker, Allan Franklin and Terry Franklin. Also helping with some old country will be Mr. Greg Windham.”

McGlaun said the fundraiser is a great way to give back to the school that supports the string band, but added, for her, it’s just one more opportunity to watch a Straughn tradition.
“It really is a tradition here,” she said. “Straughn has had a string band off on and on for years. When my brother went here they had a band and it was a prestigious thing to be a part of. I just wanted to get the tradition started back.”

McGlaun said the band has been back in place since 1994, but big changes have come in recent years.

“We’ve been going to state competitions through the FFA, and last year we place second in the state,” she said.

For McGlaun, the band is a special part of her teaching career. For many of the students, like senior member Bryan Barnes, it has become a springboard for their futures.

“After I finish at LBW I want to go to songwriter school in Nashville,” Barnes said. “I’ve already written 10 or 12 songs.”

Freshman Loni Blatz said she has only been with the band for a year, but plans to stay active in music over the summer in anticipation of next school year’s band activities.

“I tried out for American Idol and made it to the final round,” Blatz said. “I’m going to audition again. I sing and play my ukulele. I’ll also play at my church, Bethany Baptist.”
Young said she too plans to keep playing music when she can after enrolling at the University of Alabama in the fall.

Hamrac said the county and rock tunes the band will play at their upcoming fundraiser is just a taste of the group can do.

“We play music just across the board,” she said. “From country and rock to jazz and hip hop music.”

Admission for the event, which kicks off at 6 p.m. on the high school’s “back porch” area, is $2, and McGlaun said the money is a big help to all of the programs at the school, especially those with expensive equipments needs like instruments.

“You wouldn’t believe how many cords we go through,” Hamrac said.

McGlaun said hamburgers, ice cream and drinks will be available at the event, as will children’s games like ring toss.