INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14, 2009)—Bands of America held its first stadium Grand National Championships in 1980 at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., and today, here at Lucas Oil Stadium, we have one band from that state in semi-final competition: the Warhawk Marching Band from Seminole High School—by which we mean the Seminole High School in Seminole, Fla., not the one in Sanford, Fla.
You can view a performance of their entire 2009 field show, entitled “Obstacles,” on YouTube here. The show’s theme, stated by the narrator over music, is “to overcome the obstacles that will trap your soul.”
As color guard dancers move through the formations of marchers at the beginning, bright orange sticks that stand out are being twirled at random, dodging obstacles represented by band members.
The dancers, too, seem like obstacles on a course that changes shape from two huge circles, with dancers in the middle, to a single lobular formation spanning the width of the field.
Finding home with Bands of America
The Bands of America organization has held a special place in its heart for Indianapolis since its beginnings, existing as a branch of a band supply company for a few years before splitting off. However, the Grand Nationals weren’t always here.
Before the year in Jacksonville, they were held as part of the organization’s summer workshop and festival in Whitewater, Wis., and after Jacksonville, they came to the campus of Tennessee State University for three years beginning in 1981. By 1984, they were closer to home at the new Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, but the 1987 and 1988 Grand Nationals were up in Michigan at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Bands from Indiana and Michigan (as well as the neighboring states of Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky) continue to figure prominently at the Grand Nationals, while bands from Florida and southeastern states grow fewer in number over the years.
Many factors go into this reduction in force from the southeast, including the current recession. Other influences that have been noted are the regional and super-regional competitive marching band events established by Bands of America at places like the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the Alamodome in San Antonio, and other tremendous venues.
But what may not be so apparent to people at the Grand Nationals (and to band directors at other schools throughout the country) is that the Bands of America organization continues to expand its operations to more local interests, enabling schools that can’t make the trip to Indianapolis to experience some of the Bands of America magic.
In 2006, when Seminole won the Class 5A state marching band title in Florida, Bands of America began hosting “Fall Preview Experiences.” The greatest value for these non-competitive marching festivals was the clinic portion, which allowed bands to travel to new places and continue their pursuit of excellence without worrying about the score, a few directors said:
“The Indy Fall Preview may have been my best experience in the 28 years that I have been teaching,” Bands of America quoted director Joe Stacy of Howell North High School in St. Charles, Mo., as saying. “No rules, no pressure, great weather, a super helpful and friendly host school (thanks Carmel), and a wonderful BOA staff was the perfect recipe for a super day.” He continued:
This experience gave my students the opportunity to see that even great band programs have early season gliches and that those students are not any different than they are. … The Sunday clinic gave my staff and me the opportunity to review our performance with BOA’s qualified judging staff and gain insights as to what works and what needs to be re-evaluated. As soon as the Sunday clinic was over, my staff and I worked all of the way back to St. Charles and I must say that it was a great staff meeting and the shortest trip back from Indy I have ever made.
From an educational point of view, the preview offered me the opportunity to grow as a band director, which transfers over to the students. From a financial point of view, this may have been the best investment we have ever made. From the students’ point of view, the “no rules – just right” approach, gave them the opportunity to perform without pressure. This has been an incredible activity.
The Warhawk Band from Seminole High School, the only Florida marching band at this year’s Grand Nationals, brings its pageantry to Lucas Oil Stadium. The band is directed by Daniel “Chip” Wood. Drum majors are Michael Boeggeman and Laura Dillow.