Marching Black and Gold

How do you build one of the nation’s top high school band programs? It takes a great team and a ton of patience, according to Jay Webb, director of bands at Avon High School. Here is some more advice from Webb on building a championship program.

This year’s Bands of America (BOA) Grand Nationals champion, the Avon (Ind.) Marching Black and Gold, also made history by earning the highest score on record, a 97.75. Director of bands Jay Webb discusses this feat and the years of consistent training and quality that led up to it.

Halftime: What are some of the band’s unique traditions?

Webb: On the bus they sing the show on their way to a contest, and we have some senior traditions that we do the last time that we rehearse and warm up together. We play our band chorale.

Halftime: What’s your favorite memory at Avon?

Webb: Well, I have a lot of great ones because we’re successful at many levels. Our concert bands are exceptional, and we have a world-class drum line and winter guard. It’s hard to pinpoint, but it comes from one of our first experiences in my first year. We didn’t even make the first division of the regional, but I could see that they were starting to buy into my program at that point. My first band 16 years ago, going through the process of learning to achieve anything, even though we weren’t very successful. It set the foundation for everything that first year.

Halftime: With such a large program, how much of a personal relationship do you have with your students?

Webb: It’s not as good as it used to be when we were smaller; we used to have 80 to 90 students. I kind of get to know them and pat them on the head a little bit. When they’re freshmen, I try to spend a little time with them, learning their names and finding out their hobbies and ambitions.

As we got bigger, we’ve gotten more corporate. We have the marching band, five concert bands, four winter guards, two drum lines and two jazz bands. It’s difficult to be the director and be the one that all the kids look up to, but I think the kids know that I’m in the background organizing things, and that they can always come talk to me if they have issues and concerns with being in band or just with being a teenager. I think the kids that come in and take that time get to know me more as a director. It is harder as we get bigger and there’s more of a separation because I’m not teaching every student every day, but I do take the time to teach them and get to know them.

For more information about Avon High School, read our Q&A with Webb.

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.

Q&A With Kansas’ Phil Ehart

While preparing for Kansas’ Collegiate Symphony Tour, drummer Phil Ehart spoke with Halftime Magazine about the band, the upcoming tour, his views on music education ...