It all started when Athletics Director Wayne Bragg arrived at Green Hope in December 2011. He went to the band to ask about starting a pep band for basketball games.
While the band director wasn’t interested, a young man named Hunter Markson and his friend Ryan Mulder latched onto the idea and approached Bragg about putting the pep band together.
On Jan. 25, 2012, when the boy’s basketball team took on Wilson-Hunt, Markson started a tradition that changed the atmosphere of Green Hope athletic events.
“The crowd looked like they were starting to get tired, so I suggested we play the fight song,” Markson said. “My friends said, ‘Nah, but you can lead a cheer or something.’ I smiled at Ryan and walked down the steps, ran out and played the fight song, and the crowd went crazy.”
Since that game, Markson carries his trumpet to play with the pep band, and has played the fight song during every basketball game. He’s even played the national anthem prior to select games.
Before the last home game of the basketball season, when the Falcons took on Panther Creek, Markson was shocked when he was honored by the team as part of its senior-night ceremonies.
“I had no idea I was going to be recognized until just before the game,” he said. “I was meeting with coach Bragg and making sure we could play the national anthem, and he said, ‘Yeah, and you’re going to be recognized.’ That was just so awesome for me and made me feel special.”
Following the basketball season, his friends on the baseball and girls’ soccer team asked him to come out to their events in spring. After clearing it with Bragg and the coaching staffs, the pep band began playing at those events as well.
Since Markson and the pep band started playing at Green Hope events, the boys’ basketball team went from 12-12 to two straight 20-plus-win seasons; the baseball team won two more games than the year prior; and the girls’ soccer team just finished a 27-0 season with a 4-A state title and No. 1 national ranking.
“I didn’t know how well it would work at first, but it just took off,” Bragg said. “There might be five people or there might be 30 people, but Hunter was always there. He even got kids from the Cary and Holly Springs bands to come over and play, even when they weren’t playing.
“The athletes loved it and got into it as much as the crowd. He found a way to unite arts and sports.”
With Markson heading to Chapel Hill to attend the University of North Carolina next fall, Mulder plans to lead the pep band, along with some other candidates – including Markson’s sister, Emma.
Markson plans to try out for the UNC marching band and hopes to get the pep band to attend baseball games and other events, but said he will never forget the traditions he started at Green Hope.
“This has just been a great way to reward Green Hope for all that it’s given me,” he said. “I’m proud of this accomplishment, more than anything I’ve done throughout high school. I’m not one of the top musicians at the school, but I feel like this was one thing I did that set me apart.
“This is my legacy at Green Hope, and I hope it continues long after I leave.”
Smith: 919-829-4841; Twitter: @RCorySmith