This week’s Spotlight is Tom Finigan, Director of Bands for the Colleton County High School Band of Blue. He is a native of Walterboro, SC and is in his thirty-sixth year with the Colleton County Band Program.
Mr. Finigan’s family includes Lori Connelly Shearer and his two sons. Thomas, 26, is a 2018 graduate of the University of South Carolina and is currently Director of Bands at Cheraw High School and William, 21, is a junior music education and tuba major at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.
Finigan has been associated with The Band of Blue either as a student, staff member, director, and a parent since 1976. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Education degree from The Citadel.
He served as an assistant band director for Bill Young at Walterboro High School and Colleton County High School. From 1986-2005, the Band of Blue experienced a huge growth in the instrumental band program at the middle school and high school. Finigan served as one of the assistant band directors when The Band of Blue won the 4A State Marching Band Championships in 1986, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1997. The Band of Blue also performed in the 1994 Tournament of Roses Parade and the 2000 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bill Young was Director of the Band of Blue from 1973-2005.
The Band of Blue under Finigan’s leadership has continued a tradition of excellence in our state. The Band of Blue performs engaging and innovative half time shows and has been named a top twelve finalist at the state marching Championships. The Colleton County High School Band has been awarded the Outstanding Performance Award nine times and has received Superior Ratings in Class III, IV and V at Concert Festival. The Band of Blue was a featured performer in the 2008 and 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, DC. and has performed in the 2010, 2013, and 2017 Mardi Gras in New Orleans, LA.
Mr. Finigan was inducted in the South Carolina Band Directors Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame for Theta Chapter of Phi Beta Mu, International School Bandmasters Fraternity.
He has had many achievements in his career, but one personal achievement is particularly impressive, over the past number of years he has managed to loose half his body weight. From 410 lbs. in 2019 to 186 today. Tom did this without medical intervention but instead with a change of lifestyle. He stopped fast food and walks three to five miles per day.
He also started healthy eating at home, “I bought an air fryer, that was huge. Air-fried steak, salmon, chicken. I love vegetables.”
Finigan had considered retiring but now has a new lease on life, The kids, the students, the band students have noticed a change in me. They say, ‘Mr. Finigan—you are happy again. You are not grumpy all the time.’”
When Finigan took over the Band of Blue, “I felt like Mr. Young gave me the keys to the Ferrari, and said, Have fun. Just don’t wreck the car. And have I done things different than him? Yes, probably having adapted with time. I think that’s what’s kept me in the business as well. I think when you’ve got such a big is a band and it hasn’t dropped down that is strong.” I’ve never won a state championship the last being in ‘97 under Youngs leadership. He adds, one of the things I am proud of is that we’ve kept the band relevant. We kept them in the top 10 in the state and we’ve kept them on the national stage. We’ve done cherry blossom parade a couple of times and we’re doing Mardi Gras in February.
Tom is proud of the band’s heritage, pointing to an original banner from 1973, “That banner went to the Jimmy Carter inaugural. In ‘76, When Mr. Young took the band, to its first national parade for the Orange Bowl parade, there is the orange banner. He also has banners hung in the band room. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and other Banners and band memorabilia. I’m big about our kids seeing our history.”
The Band of Blue just celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reunion for the past band members.
Finigan reflects, “I have no regrets for staying in Walterboro the whole time. It’s the only job I have ever wanted. And if it’s right, it’s right. There are so many people that bash education. And I like teaching teenagers, I really did enjoy middle school band. I felt like they were easier to motivate. I’ve enjoyed high school. It’s been a great career.”