BUCKHANNON – When the World Association of Marching Show Bands brings the 2023 World Championships to Buckhannon this July, cultures from across the globe will converge on central West Virginia for a vibrant cultural event showcasing the common language of music.
The WAMSB 2023 competition will take place in Buckhannon from July 17-24, and preparations for the event are intensifying as the kickoff date approaches. Last week, representatives from the Ghana delegation visited Buckhannon and toured the site of the event.
As their weeklong visit wound down on Friday, Nicholas Nii Tettey-Amarteifio and Evelyn Naa-Dei Thompson sat down with My Buckhannon to talk about music in Ghana, their impression of Buckhannon and their hopes for the upcoming competition, which is being held in the United States for only the second time in its 26-year history.
Thompson said they arrived in the United States after a grueling trip that included stops in Amsterdam and New York City.
“It was dark [when we arrived], so we couldn’t appreciate it until morning,” Thompson said. “You live in a beautiful place, and the people are so sweet.”
The competition will largely take place at West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Ross Stadium, with parades and events in downtown Buckhannon scheduled throughout the week. Thousands of visitors from across the world are expected to attend.
“We’ve seen the accommodations,” Thompson said. “The rooms are very warm and accommodating. They have wonderful scenery, and the dining halls are also very good. We’ve seen the fields that will be used for the event.”
She also commended local officials for the security preparations taking place.
“We were at the police station and then the fire station,” she said. “They work together to provide wonderful security.”
When Ghana competes at the July event, expect to hear the unique sounds of the West African nation, which boasts a population of about 32 million people.
Tettey-Amarteifio said Ghana’s band members were selected after a series of competitions held across the country.
“They have school competitions in the various regions,” he explained. “Let’s say in one region, they have 20 schools. These 20 schools come together and compete, and once they compete, the best are selected. Then all the best bands come together in a camp, and they also compete with each other. And out of that, we select our participants, people who can play all kinds of music, including our traditional music.”
The band will incorporate unique instruments from Ghana’s multi-ethnic culture, he added.
Ghana plans to make the trip to the United States this year after missing out on the 2022 competition in Bangkok, Thailand.
“The band secretariat got in touch with the Association and they said, look, this year’s world competition is going to be held here [In Buckhannon],” Tettey-Amarteifio said. “They said yes, we can participate. And the story is yet to be told.”
The band is part of Ghana’s National Cadet Corps.
“It’s an amalgamation of the army, navy, air force, police, fire, customs and immigration,” Tettey-Amarteifio explained, comparing the National Cadet Corps to the ROTC program in the United States. “It exists in various educational institutions, and it’s widely spread in all the regions. It is to give the youth the spirit of patriotism, of loyalty, the spirit of good citizenship, the spirit of trying to give back to society.”
Ghana values both academic quality and extracurricular excellence outside the classroom, and WASMB is a way to cultivate and reward students who excel in music, he said.
“These young boys and girls, it doesn’t mean that they are not good academically in school, but they’re in love with music, right? We are able to engage them to play musical instruments, and then there’s this competition. Why don’t they go and participate and find out whether they are indeed the world champions, or they are the world losers?” he said, laughing.
That out-of-classroom experience is important to Ghana’s society, Thompson added.
“We call them extracurricular activities,” she said. “They allow children to develop their talents. Some are good at dancing, you know? We have very good dancers.”
After exploring Buckhannon and seeing the ongoing preparations for the 2023 event, Thompson praised the WAMSB 2023 Buckhannon Host Committee and its president, Randy Sanders.
“We think in fact they have done a yeoman’s job,” she said. “The organizers here, they are doing great.”
Ghana looks to be among about two dozen bands from around the world who will compete this summer. The final number is still fluid, Sanders said, as the bands complete their fundraising efforts and the committee works with U.S. officials to secure the necessary embassy appointments.
Even after the competition, both Sanders and the Ghana delegation hope a spirit of collaboration between the regions will continue.
“One of the things that I’m excited about goes beyond the competition,” Sanders said. “They’re very interested in cultural exchange programs and educational exchange programs, both on the high school level and the university level.”
Sanders mentioned both exchange students and possibly May term programs through Wesleyan, but also teacher exchanges.
“We might select one of our best teachers and give them an opportunity to go to Ghana and be a lecturer or preside over some classes, and in exchange, they would send one of their best teachers to Upshur County to lead us in some lectures and preside over some classes.”
Tettey-Amarteifio is excited to show the world the beauty of African music this summer.
“Our students take a very keen interest in music, because they believe that there’s something unique about music. There is a lot of music, everybody plays music, but African music is the best in the world,” he said, smiling.