The Lithia Spring High School band has been selected to march in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 2.
Damien Gaiters, the new director of bands at Lithia Springs High School, has been through the detailed application before while serving as band director at Douglas County High School, and felt this was a great opportunity for band members to experience. But there were other reasons.
“I thought this would be a good way to start recruitment for the band,” he said. “It is also an opportunity for us to give back to the community.”
This year, CHOA is holding a Children’s Battle of the Bands, in which the selected marching bands will compete to raise the most money for the children’s health care system in Atlanta.
“The top band which brings in the most donations gets a special slot on the program,” Gaiters said. “Every year at the schools where I’ve served, the band holds a fundraiser during the year to benefit another organization.”
The Lithia Springs Lions Marching Band will compete against the Allatoona Buccaneers, the Central High School Lions, the Collins Hill Eagles, the Floyd County Marching Band, the Hiram Hornets, the Lanier Longhorns, McIntosh Chiefs, Morgan County Bulldogs, the Newton Rams and White County Warrior Band to see which team can bring in the most donations to support CHOA, Gaiters said.
Individuals or groups that would like to put LSHS over the top can go to the band’s donation site at bit.ly/LSBANDCHOA. The deadline for donations is Nov. 30.
The winning band will be featured in a special TV appearance during the live broadcast of the parade Dec. 2.
While Gaiters may be new to LSHS, he is no stranger within the Douglas County School System. A Shelby County, Alabama native, Gaiters began his teaching career at Douglas County High School in the fall of 2006 where he remained until 2011, when he left to open New Manchester High School and become the new high school’s director of bands.
He spent the last six years leading the instrumental music program at New Manchester High School.
Gaiters obtained his bachelor’s degree in music education with honors from Jacksonville State University in 2006. While at JSU, Gaiters was an active member of the Marching Southerners and was drum major for the 2003-2005 football seasons. In 2004 and 2005, he served as head drum major.
He is an active member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Georgia Music Educators Association, PAGE, and Nfame.
He and his wife, Stephanie Gaiters, have been married since 2005 and have two children, Brandon and Breonna.
“It is my goal as director of bands to build on the legacy of success in musicality both on and off the field. This year is a time to rebuild and refocus,” Gaiters said. “This is a year of transition with a new band director. It is the same concepts, but a new way of doing things.”
This year’s show is centered around the theme, “To Boldly Go.” Fittingly, one of the songs practiced last Wednesday was “Thus Sprach Zarathustra” from the 1968 Stanley Kubrick classic film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Sounds of the opening typani boomed across the Lion’s practice field, as other instruments joined in.
Last year, Lithia Springs’ marching band had dwindled to 38 young musicians. Now he has 75 in the program.
Lithia Springs’ band leadership is made up of Aric Speight, drum major; Elijah Munford and Daniel Knight, brass captains; Dylan Bevins, woodwind captain; Lofton Thomas and Kyana Duran, percussion leaders; Dania Hernandez, color guard leader; and Michael Tate and Christian Collins, equipment managers.
Gaiters has high expectations as to how high his band members can reach.
“Since we’ve been here, the program has grown,” Gaiters said. “We want the kids to feel comfortable with their level of musicianship, and perform at a level they can achieve.”
He said, “I have not worked at a school where the students couldn’t rise to a level of achievement. Because they can.”
Gaiters gives credit to a good “feeder school” at Turner Middle School and its band director Christopher Willis for laying a good foundation for the students moving into high school.
“The foundation he laid down, coupled with what I have will help us have a stronger program,” said Gaiters. “More than half of our band are young, but you wouldn’t know it to hear them play.”
The Lithia Springs High School Lions will participate in two band competitions this fall.
The first is Oct. 15 at the Legacy of Champions at Carrollton High School. On Oct. 21, the Lions will compete at the Yellow Jacket Marching Classis at Rockmart High School.
Locally, the public is invited to see all five high school bands perform at the annual Douglas County Exhibition held and hosted by Lithia Springs High School on Tuesday, Sept. 26. The performance begins at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $5 for adults and $3 for students.
Gaiters encourages everyone to attend this annual showcase of the county’s high school marching bands.
“My goal is to get people back to being interested in the arts,” he said