During breaks while practicing the national anthem, the tightly packed band room at Madison Consolidated High School doesn't quiet down much.

As students lower their instruments, the sound in the room shifts from a finely tuned group of musicians working in sync to a cacophony of conversations.

Band director Ryan Day's voice cuts through - usually - and the group of nearly 80 students regains focus.

"Let's try that one again," he tells the students.

Day has been the band director at MCHS for only a year. He started working with the band part-time in 2012. At the time the marching band had about 25 students and the concert band had 40. The numbers have jumped since he became involved. This year there are 65 students in the marching band and 80 in the concert band.

He also works with the middle school band in the mornings.

Day graduated from MCHS in 2008. While a student, he was a regular participant in the school's band program, playing trumpet.

Day said he didn't like seeing so few members in the band.

"When I graduated, there were close to 70 members," Day said. "It's good to see it being brought back to where it used to be, or even past that."

Since Day took over the band, participation isn't the only thing that has improved.

The band is getting more recognition.

Earlier this month, the MCHS marching band placed tenth at the MidState Band Finals, a combined competition with schools in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. It's the first time the band has reached the finals since 2007.

Day said - while he wants being in the band to be fun for students - it's a lot of work too.

"You have to kind of have a serious mindset," he said. "But the kids do most of the work."

At the beginning of the year, Day and the students set goals. This year, one of their goals is to get everyone reading music at the high school level.

Day said next year's goal is to continue improving. If the band continues to grow, they'll advance to larger band classes in competitions, and the competition will become more difficult.

At the MidState Finals, Day said he and his students watched other bands that placed higher to give them something to aspire to for next year.

"The kids really get fired up watching the other bands compete," he said.

While he wants to continue doing well in competition, Day said the main reason he pushes his students is so they'll be prepared for college and have a better chance of landing a music scholarship.

"Colleges give out a ton of money to good musicians," he said.

To help with that, Day said he wants to create some more advanced programs for his top tier students to participate in as a new way to push his students forward.

"We have all these AP courses for our students, and then we just have concert band," he said.

"We really want to challenge them, so when they get to college they're good to go."