INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14, 2009)—The marching band from Avon High School in Avon, Ind., just about 20 miles to our west, took the field in the finals competition as the defending grand national champion for Bands of America. Expectations were therefore high, and the band delivered everything we expected on the field.
The band’s show, entitled “Comm-UNIFORM-ity,” begins with solo trumpets opposing each other, accompanied by a dancer at each end of the wide football field. After the opening sequence, the band sets for a few seconds in a huge unison block, stretching between the 20-yard lines, something like this:
And that produces a full sound from a group that looks like this, pushing its sound right up to the stands:
Championship bands only hold a pose like this for a few seconds until it starts to unfold and unwind and morph into the next formation. And that’s exactly what happens. After the opening sequence concludes, the band segues into a slower movement, led by a sax solo inside a French curve stretched across the entire field.
Photographs can’t really do justice to the design, so I’ll attempt to diagram what the curve looked like. The saxophone soloist, accompanied by a few dancers, is at the “X”:
(Except the band was much smoother than my freehand drawing.)
Then, in order to underscore the mood in the band’s theme, members leave their shakos (hats) on the ground, take off their black masks, and group themselves into small trios with dancers interspersed.
For the final movement, everybody wears a gold mask to cover his or her face, probably to symbolize a uniform change, and the dancers from the color guard, who dazzled us with spot-on rifle-tossing precision, more so in the semi-finals than in the finals, where there were just a couple of dropped rifles, form this bonfire-looking thing in the center, surrounded by band members reaching in.
We learned earlier today that Avon had donated their uniforms to Broad Ripple Magnet High School in Indianapolis, a public school with a shrinking music budget. Broad Ripple director Kelly Hershey acknowledged that all the band’s equipment was donated and that their uniforms came from Avon. This makes Avon’s show uniquely artistic, even to the casual observer, in that it depicts and interprets not only an important event in world history but an important event in the lives of the schools and students who are the actual artists on the field.
The Avon High School marching band, directed by Jay Webb, and led on the field by drum majors Robert Walker, Jessica McKinney, Ashley Hancock, Aaron Creeden, and Khirston Sims, did end up being named grand national champion for this year as well, making them only the fourth school in the history of Bands of America to be named grand national champion in consecutive years.
However, the leaving of the shakos on the field and the symbolic uniform change will mean far more than the final score on the recap sheet as this school and their neighbors in Indianapolis leave their accomplishments on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium to the purview of history.
Only Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Ill., has ever been named grand national champion for three consecutive years, and that happened in 1987, 1988, and 1989. Eyes will be on and expectations high for Avon in the 2010 marching performance season.