MILAN, ITALY – The Mississippi Lions All-State Band made history when it won the Lions Clubs’ International Competition for the seventh year in a row. The winning streak will end this year, as the Mississippi Lions Band will not compete in Singapore next year.
The 2019 competition was held in conjunction with the Lions Clubs’ International Convention in Milan, Italy. The championship is the thirty-fifth for a band from Mississippi. The Mississippi Lions Band is celebrating its seventieth anniversary.
Four students from Pontotoc were part of the famed band this past July. They included: from Pontotoc High School – Ella Kate Nichols (trumpet) and Coda Ethridge (baritone), and from South Pontotoc High School – Kyle Nix (trumpet) and Bobby Onsby (alto saxophone).
Retired Pearl High band director Jeff Cannon has served as Director-Manager for the Mississippi Lions All-State Band for 13 years and has worked in some capacity with the band for 25 years.
“The band members are chosen through a rigorous audition process and are a cross section of the state,” Cannon said. “They represented the state well. Many people remarked to me how well mannered and courteous the students were.
“Prior to competing in Italy we trained together for a week at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. The training week prepared them for the heat in Milan, Italy. The weather there is very similar to what we have here with the heat and humidity often resulting in heat index in excess of 105 degrees.
“The kids were ecstatic when they won because they knew that they had just become a part of history by winning the competition for the seventh consecutive year. It was a great experience for us. During our parade warm-up, most of the competing bands came to where we were staging, listened to our warm-up and cheered.
“The overall experience for the band members was one they will treasure the rest of their lives. Many of the band members had never flown before and even more were going out of the country for the very first time.”
The group took advantage of being in Italy with a number visits to tourist attractions.
“While in Italy we visited the famous Duomo of Milan which houses the nails used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We took a bullet train from Milan to Florence and visited the Museum Acadamie where the original statue of David by Michelangelo is housed. We also visited the Cathedral of Florence and took a city tour.
“While in Florence, we took a side trip to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral. On our way to Rome, we made another side trip to Siena, an ancient walled city where they have their famous horse race in their Central Plaza. The city wall was begun in 1023 A.D.
“In Rome, we visited the historic Spanish Staircase, Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon and Navona Square. We also had a guided tour of Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The final tour day was spent at the Coliseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, which was the home of all the famous Roman emperors.”
Cannon expressed deep gratitude to the Lions of Mississippi for their support.
“I tell you, we can’t thank the Lions of Mississippi enough for supporting these wonderful young people for 70 years.”