Even before classes began this week, Franklin County High School’s new band director was hard at work pushing his students to new heights.

Rocky Ankeny was hired to the position earlier this year, taking over for former band director Robb Shipp. He previously worked as an assistant band director at Panther Creek High School in Cary, North Carolina.

“It’s really been a dream come true,” Ankeny said of assuming the new role.

Ankeny was first told about the opening from Trey Harris, longtime band director at Bassett High School where he was a student. Harris has been a mentor to Ankeny for the past few years.

Under Harris’ direction, the Bassett High School Marching Band has either placed or won at multiple regional, state and national competitions. Ankeny said he wants to bring the Franklin County High School Marching Band to that same level.

Ankeny has been working with the 80 members of his the FCHS band since June, while also moving back home to Bassett. He said a major reason he took the position was to be closer to his family.

Band members are working on a routine that Ankeny said will bring the band into the modern era of marching bands that goes beyond just marching.

“We are using rope imagery to tell the story of unity,” Ankeny said.

Using ropes and panels, the marching band will perform its story in four parts.

The band will begin segmented, and through each part, will slowly come together until they are all unified. Ankeny said the performance is titled “Better Together.”

Ankeny praised the work students put into the performance throughout the summer. He said they have worked harder and have been more disciplined than any other group of students he has worked with.

“The kids have been fantastic,” he said. The show is slowly coming together, Ankeny said. He expects them to be ready to perform in front of the community for the first time on Sept. 13 during halftime of the high school’s first football game of the season.

Just a few days later on Sept. 21, the marching band will have its first competition at the Blue Ridge Regional in Salem. Ankeny said he is a competitive person and would love to win, but he ultimately just wants his students to perform as well as possible.

No matter what the outcome, Ankeny said students will be able to learn for the next competition.

“Here we grow. That has been my mantra,” he said.