Take the Field: BOA

Who’s got the best band in the land? Who has what it takes to be a national champion? Let’s take a moment to review top high school bands in the 2006 Bands of America Grand Nationals as the 2007 championships get underway.

The 2006 Bands of America (BOA) Grand National Championships were held Nov. 9 to 11 in Indianapolis, at the RCA Dome. The event showcased 93 high school bands from 40 states throughout the United States.

The Pride of Broken Arrow

The Pride of Broken Arrow marching band, a five-time Grand National Finalist, captured BOA’s top honors for the first time in 2006.

Their 2006 program, titled “Aqua,” featured music “Time to Say Goodbye” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” by Benjamin Britten and “Harrison’s Dream” by Peter Graham.

James Stephens, one of The Pride directors, talks about last season’s accomplishments:

“Performing our show in its final form in front of that amazing audience was truly the highlight of our season.” Stephens says. “Seeing our students take ownership and make the show magical and meaningful made our finals performance an emotional one for everyone in our band family.”

Stephens goes on to talk about the instructional staff ’s philosophy on competition:

“The philosophy of Broken Arrow has never been about winning, but instead it has been about the process.” Stephens says. “We only look at what we can control and try to showcase our own musical and visual strengths. Years from now scores and placements will have faded, but the memories of friendships and working together will remain.”

Dayton Weatherford, trumpet section leader, recalls his sophomore year: “I remember standing on the field during the award ceremony and being overwhelmed to be among the bands that I’ve admired for years like Marian Catholic, Carmel and L.D. Bell.” Weatherford says. ”It was an honor to stand on the same field as them.”

Nick Livingston, drum major now in his junior year, reflects on the elements that make up a successful band show: “In our activity, there’s not just one key to success, or else the accomplishments would lose their luster,” he says. “Instead, it’s a careful mix that consists of talented performers blended with the knowledge and know-how of the staff and show designers, all poured into a big vat of discipline and hard work.”

This year, The Pride’s show is called “Phantasy,” and they will be performing music based on “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” by Richard Wagner.

L.D. Bell Blue Raiders

The L.D. Bell Blue Raiders took second place overall at the 2006 BOA Grand National Championship. A band known for its high musical achievement, the Blue Raiders also took the Outstanding Music Performance caption.

Before Grand Nationals, L.D. Bell had also been honored with the University Interscholastic League (UIL) 5A State Marching Contest Silver Medalist.

Since 2000, the Blue Raiders have medaled at 14 BOA events and four times at Texas state marching contests. They have placed in the top five of every marching contest they have attended since 1999.

“We were very successful last year and had a very good time doing it,” says John Park, a senior alto saxophone player and woodwind section leader this year. “I believe it wasn’t the actual result that we were satisfied with; it was the fact that we did our best to meet our highest potential. Most importantly, we were able to beat ourselves, which was the whole goal for us.”

Not to be outdone, the L.D. Bell drum line was named champion of the 2000 PASIC Standstill Drum Line Competition and the color guard finished in 2nd place in Class 4SA at the North Texas Colorguard Association Championships in 2001.

Director of Bands Jeremy Earnhart is in his 10th year at L.D. Bell.

Artistic achievement is the goal in the L.D. Bell band. The model is applied to multiple facets in the life of the student. In this manner, musicianship, citizenship and scholarship merge and develop.

“Band has changed my whole thinking system,” Park says. “It has involved me with music and let me live in the complex yet very aesthetic world of music. Many memories have been made and countless lessons have been learned.”

Kennesaw Mountain

Since the school’s opening in the fall of 2000, the Kennesaw Mountain band program has quickly risen to national prominence. The motto “A Commitment to Excellence and Innovation” has been the philosophy of the students, parents and directors of the band program since the inception of the school.

Last season was no exception. The Kennesaw Mountain High School Marching Band was ranked 3rd in the nation after last year’s appearance in Indianapolis at BOA Grand National Finals.

Head band director David Starnes comments on the keys to success: “We don’t want it to get to the point where it’s unhealthy and not fun,” Starnes says. “Education drives the competition in our band. It shouldn’t be competition driving the education.”

Starnes credits Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, a motivational speaker and writer within the music community, for finding ways to keep things positive and moving forward.

“The philosophy that the marching band has developed in its short existence is one of pride and integrity,” Starnes says. “Putting on a great show every year is always the focus, but there is a constant emphasis on character building, teamwork and leadership.”

Kelsey Owen, one of the four drum majors this year, talks about her most memorable moments in band: “The trip to BOA Grand Nationals was great because we got to meet other great bands and compete in an atmosphere where people really appreciate what you dedicate your life to,” she says.

Last year, Kennesaw Mountain was one of the very few schools to send the marching band to BOA Grand Nationals in November and then send their wind symphony to a national clinic in Chicago in December. The concert clinic and performance was by invitation only for the top bands in the nation.

Owen reflected on the importance of band in a young person’s life: “Being involved with music is a very different activity,” she says. “It teaches you how to practice smart through repetition. You definitely learn about your limits and how to push yourself.”

Photo by Jolesch Photography, http://www.jolesh.com/.

About author

Gregory M. Kuzma

Gregory M. Kuzma (www.gregorymkuzma.com), who simply goes by “GM,” is a performing arts consultant for drum and bugle corps and marching bands around the United States. A drum and bugle corps veteran, he is the author of the book “On the Field From Denver, Colorado … The Blue Knights!,” which highlights his 1994 summer tour adventures as a drum corps member.