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The man behind the Mass Band plan

Former HHS band member Jeremy Tate makes Rose Parade trip a reality

by Katrina Smith

The Gibson County Mass Band was quite the show-stopper at this year’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. This event did not just happen over night but took a lot of preparation. Who was the man with the master plan behind the band? This man is none other than  former HHS “Pride” band member and 1999 graduate. Jeremy Tate. Tate is now the lead director of the Gibson County Marching Pioneers.

His love for the band started when he was in middle school.  What was once an extracurricular activity turned into a passion for music. Tate is a 1999 graduate of Humboldt High School who was inspired by David Koelz and Greg Stover, two outstanding band directors of their time. As a student, Tate participated in different contests to showcase his musical abilities and made the All-State Band. He received a full music scholarship to the University of Memphis. He continued his educational journey later at Bethel College in McKenzie.  At Bethel, he received his license to teach and helped to start the college band, “Renaissance Regiment.” Tate is definitely no stranger to the music arena and has been a band director for over 20 years.

“I received an email from Larry Wilcox,” said Tate of how The Rose Parade trip got rolling. “This email was asking if we were interested in applying to be in the Rose Parade. Of course, curiosity made me email him back. He had been watching YouTube videos and he ran across the band.  This sparked his interest along with a unique story idea.”

The Gibson County Mass Band was founded by Tony Burris. In 1988, he and Pete Evans had a dream to compete on the national level.  This dream never seemed to align with the stars. Throughout the years, some people did not believe and even thought it would be impossible to ever march in the parade. One band from another county had applied for 15 years and was never selected. Tate pitched the idea to the band directors in Gibson County who vowed to give their support. After working through the application process and submitting a video, those band directors were reminded of what they said they would do.

“When I received a phone call from Cali,” said Tate. “I felt like I had won the lottery. It was a very surreal moment.”

The band started with 300-plus students but everyone was not able to commit due to the financial responsibility that comes along with trips of this caliber.

“I fought hard to get everyone together,” said Tate. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. And every student who wanted to go, the chance was made possible if the students worked hard enough. Some students were able to go through fundraisers.”

This band had other band directors to help carry out the purpose. There were endless practice days and lots of hard work put in day after day. These directors expertise and love for music carried the band students in a direction of exemplary performance. During these practices, former band director David Koelz and color guard instructor Dee Dee Johnson were among many other band experts.

Tate marched under the leadership of Koelz when he was in high school.

“David Koelz has been my mentor,” said Tate. “He has been instrumental in my career since high school. He came and wrote drills for me and I was able to go and help with his field shows when he was still a band director.”

“It was a very special experience for me to be able to do the parade with Jeremy,” said former band director of Humboldt “Pride” Marching Band, Koelz. “I’m also very proud of how well he put this trip together for all of the Gibson County bands.”

What is next for this show-stopping band? Will it be more festivals and more performances? Only time will tell.  The defining factor will depend on finances for travel. In the meantime, you can catch Tate in action, doing what he loves, teaching music at Gibson County High School. Tate, all the band directors and all the mass band students have made Humboldt and Gibson County proud.

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