George "Matt" Wingard came to York County in July of 1949 following his graduation from New York University. He was recruited by T. G. Kinard, the Clover School District Superintendent. After meeting in Philadelphia, they agreed that Matt would launch the band programs in both Clover and York School Districts. Although Matt had been offered several teaching positions in New York State, he wanted to be close to both Charlotte and his family in South Carolina.
Clover asked Matt to work with them full-time, and the Clover band program began on July 1, 1949. The band marched in its first parade on November 11th in front of a crowd that included Senator Johnson. During these early years, the band went to the state fair every year for the state high school band exhibition.
In 1957, when the new high school was dedicated, the marching band led a parade from the old facility to the new one, and the entire town followed. During Matt's tenure as band director, the marching band traveled to every away football game possible. The band expense required the help of a new band booster club consisting of Frank and Pat Smith. Charter buses for the away games were always covered by the Smiths. The band marched in the local Christmas parades in York, Chester, Gaffney, Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Salisbury, and Cramerton. They performed at the Carousel Parade in Charlotte from 1951 until 1977, and went to the Shrine Bowl three times. From 1952 until 1977, the band received superior ratings 15 times and excellent ratings 17 times from the South Carolina Music Educators Association.
During Matt’s first 20 years as band director, he taught beginning, intermediate, and high school band and sometimes high school chorus without the help of an assistant band director. His first assistant, Brenda Pulley, was a former band student. His pupil Richard McMahon became a band director at Lexington High School and later directed the South Carolina National Guard Band. Many other students went on to excel in music and that is perhaps Matt's greatest legacy.
A large book of arrangements donated to Winthrop University by Bill Kanofs' wife included many arrangements written by Matt. He retired in 1977, but continued playing and arranging for local big bands in Charlotte and Columbia. He also played for the Ice Capades and the circus at their performances at the Charlotte Coliseum, and he was back-up musician for many major artists that came to Charlotte and other large southeastern cities from 1949 through 1989: Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Liberace, Sonny and Cher, Guy Lombardo, Raymond Scott, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Temptations, Andy Williams and scores of others.
Ron Wright joined the Clover Band staff in 1975 as an assistant to Mr. Wingard. In 1977, when Mr. Wingard retired, Mr. Wright became Clover's new band director. Warren Ferrell, from Omaha, Nebraska joined the staff as the assistant band director. In the late seventies, drum and bugle corps were becoming popular nationally, and the movement strongly influenced marching bands. The phrase "corps style" described the new marching band era, and bands began marching from sideline to sideline instead of end zone to end zone. Brass instruments were pointed straight at the audience achieving loud, emotional effects, and large flag lines and rifle units added a powerful visual component.
Competitions increased, and bands began competing in four to five contests every fall. During the 1978-79 school year, Mr. Wright's Clover High School Marching Band traveled to Walterboro and won every award in their class. In November, they earned a superior rating at the state AAA championships, and in the spring, they traveled to Walt Disney World for the band’s first appearance at Disney World. The band remained competitive at the state level from 1978 to 1981, and in 1981, they placed fifth overall for AAA bands. The Disney trips became a biennial tradition. In 1979, David Yandle joined the staff as assistant band director.
On November 2, 1982, at 9 p.m., drum major, Janet Moore, took the podium at Spring Valley High School for the AAA State Championships with her CHS marching band on the field before her. They were 142 strong with over 40 seniors, and they had performed at the World's Fair in Knoxville earlier that fall. Susie Shields set the opening mood with a trumpet solo to Duke Ellington’s "Embraceable You". Britt Elliott on trombone and Mark Black on saxophone performed energetic solos from Stan Kenton’s "Malaga". Midway through the patriotic closer, the band rotated into a huge power front and brought the crowd to their feet with "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Twenty minutes later, Clover was the 1982 South Carolina AAA State Marching Band Champion.
From 1983-1986, the marching band was a top three finisher at the state championships. Glenda Santos joined the staff as a second assistant. Mr. Wright was active in the state association and in 1986, the state marching committee, under his chairmanship, developed the current selection format for upper and lower state champions, and continued state finals. The first upper state championship for AAA bands, held at Fort Mill High School in 1986, saw drum Major Richie Brandon lead a rain-soaked Clover band to their first SC Upper State Championship.
During Mr. Wright's tenure, the booster club started a marching contest in Clover called the "Palmetto Tournament of Bands". The contest lasted from 1978-1987.
Joe Shively became the band director in 1987 when Mr. Wright was promoted to school administration. He directed the band for two years and then returned to college to pursue a doctorate degree. In 1989, during Mr. Shively's tenure, the booster club started the fish fry fund raising event. Danny Lenard, a Clover Band Alumni, became an assistant director in 1987.
When Mr. Shively returned to college in 1989, David Yandle became the director, and Matt Hopper joined the staff as an assistant director. Mr. Yandle directed the band from 1989-1997. The band continued the biennial performances at Disney World, and in 1991, the band performed an American heritage show on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown at Patriot's Point in Charleston.
From 1979-1997, under the direction of Mr. Wright, Mr. Shively, and Mr. Yandle, the band held a large variety of performances by the concert bands, jazz bands, and pep bands. Numerous band students went on to become professional musicians and teachers.
In 1997, David Yandle moved to a new position administrating the Clover Auditorium, and Mike Santiago became the new band director. During his tenure from 1998 to 2003, Clover received the Outstanding Performance Award each year, and the marching band became a top five finisher at the state marching band contests. After Mr. Santiago left in the summer of 2003, Mr. Lenard, Mr. Wright, and interim director Chad Turner all directed the bands. During the 2003-2004 year, the bands placed third at the state marching contest, earned a superior rating at grade six concert festival, and won a sixth consecutive OPA.
In the spring of 2004, Eric Wells was named as the director of bands at CHS. Under Mr. Wells, the Clover High School Marching Band became known for its powerful symphonic sound on the field. The concert band continued a string of superior ratings at Grade 6 Concert Festival and OPA awards. By the 2007-2008 school year, 25 years had passed since the 1982 championship. Clover was now in class 4A. Facing stiff competition at an early Boiling Springs Contest, the band played and marched a difficult show of serious art music featuring senior oboist Liz Honeyman playing music by Leonard Bernstein. Clover surprised the competing high schools when they placed first. Clover then competed at the prestigious Western Carolina Tournament of Champions, placing second overall. When they competed at the SC Upper-State 4A Championships, the band marched to first place. The band continued to improve during championship week, and as Clover fans held hands and held their breath during the 2007 South Carolina 4A State Marching Band Championships, Clover was named the winner.
"In third place: Fort Mill High School," the announcer called. "In second place..... York Comprehensive High School!" Pandemonium broke out from everyone but the 110 very classy students who stood proudly at attention. "The.... Clover High School Marching Band!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
That February brought a special honor when the concert band was selected to perform at the state Music Educators Convention. Mr. Wells directed the band through an energetic program to a standing ovation. At the same convention, CHS Principal Ron Wright, was recognized for his support of music education at Clover High School as he was named the SC Principal of the Year by the SCMEA. The band concluded the 2007-2008 year with another slate of straight superiors at grade six Concert Festival and another SCBDA OPA award.
Original history prepared by: Debbie Wingard, Phil Wingard, and Ron Wright. Updated in 2013 by Eric Wells and Charity Kimmel.
The Bands of Clover 1625 Hwy 55 East Clover, SC 29710 (803) 810-8234