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Star Spencer High marching band keeps crowd in the game

High-stepping performers in the Star Spencer High School marching band have a following that includes the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team. The school band is the only one in the state to have performed four times at the NBA team's games.
by Tim Willert Modified: September 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm •  Published: September 11, 2013

For the Star Spencer High School marching band, Friday Night Lights started on a Thursday before the sun went down.

With the temperature hovering near 100 degrees at kickoff, the 85 members of the high-energy show band opted for white T-shirts and khaki shorts instead of the standard white, navy blue and gray uniforms for the home opener Sept. 5 against Millwood High.

“It was kind of hot and our uniforms are kind of heavy so we decided not to wear them,” said senior Deron Gabriel, 17, a trumpet player and first-year drum major. “I'm used to the heat so it wasn't a big deal for me.”

As part of the drum major's halftime salute, Gabriel bent over backward far enough to touch his head on the ground.

Turns out, the band's high-stepping performance was the highlight of the evening. Millwood won 54-0.

“People want to watch us perform,” said Torrey Purvey, the school's band director. “We look like we're having fun.”

Known as the Marching Machine, the band models its style after college programs at Grambling State University, Southern University, Florida Atlantic University and Langston University that combine upbeat music and drum cadences with hip-hop dance moves and precision drill steps.

“I'm more of a '70s, '80s funk kind of person,” said Purvey, a former drum major at Millwood High School and Langston University who is now in his 10th season as Star Spencer's director.

Among the numbers from the band's extensive playlist for the Millwood game: “Get Down on It” by Kool & The Gang.

“The band is the show,” said Kae-Leh Dukes, 17, a third-year clarinet player.

Gabriel nodded in agreement.

“We have a way with the crowd,” he said.

Purvey increased band enrollment by 200 percent in his first year at the school. Back then, one in 10 students played in the band. Today, it's one in four.

“The tradition was still there,” he said. “But they didn't have the excitement.”

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by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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