1999 Bands of America Nationals

In 1999 I was able to realize the dream of taking a band to Bands of America (BOA) Nationals.

I was in my 10th year as director of the Lynchburg Christian Academy (LCA) band. We had attended BOA regionals since 1995 and had won a regional class championship in 1997. Now was the time to step into the National arena.

How BOA Nationals work

Nationals occur in Indianapolis, Indiana each year. 80 bands compete across two days of preliminary competition for 32 spots in semi-finals. 12 bands then go on to compete for the National Championship.

Putting the show together.

I first heard Larry Kerschner’s Casal’s suite in 1990 and loved the variety in the piece. I would occasionally listen to it in my office and dream about how good it would be in a show. It wasn’t until 1999 that I had a group that could pull it off.

I contacted the publishing company and immediately felt my heart sink. The music was out of print. But, they indicated that I could contact Kerschner directly, which I did. He was more than happy to photocopy the parts and send them to us at a fair price.

We started the show with an opener by Kerschner called, “Touched by Fire“. The powerful opening lines would get the audience’s attention. Casal’s Suite would follow and be the heart of the show. For a closer, we chose Roland Barrett’sTouch the Sun“. This piece had a sense of intensity that would allow us to finish strong.

A crazy idea for the opener

Our practice field was an enormous parking lot. There were over 100 yards of lined field available for our use. Early in the summer a staff member suggested spreading the band out for the beginning of the show. It was June and we had time, so I figured, “Let’s give it a try?”.

I placed the students at a 4 step interval, which meant they were 7.5 feet from each other in a single, long line. There was no way this was going to work. They would’t be able to hold the music together. And, the music would be so soft no one would be able to hear what was being played.

We counted them off and as they began to play I was shocked! They sounded louder and clearer in this configuration!

Once the decision was made to spread the band out, I decided to keep that theme going. If you watch the show you’ll see that we use a ridiculous amount of field for a band our size. The band stretches out to the 10 yard line in the closer!

The Season

We had a great ensemble cast in ’99. Each section of the band was solid and we had two fantastic staff members. Everyone knew how to practice hard and was willing to put the effort in. We had lost a student in May and that loss had drawn the band together in a way that would have been otherwise impossible.

We competed in several local shows leading up to Nationals, but the competition in Franklin County, Virginia stands out. After our performance we were in the parking lot packing everything up when I was approached by two fellow directors. They were amazed by our performance.

Later that day I sat watching the larger bands perform and kept thinking that we had a better show. We should be the first place band on the day, but a smaller Class A/AA band doesn’t beat all of the larger Class AAA + AAAA bands. It just doesn’t happen…but it did that day! We were band of the day!

Final thoughts

So how did we do at Nationals? We didn’t win. We performed on Thursday afternoon and placed 27th out of 41 and did not advance to round 2. Did this mean that we failed? Why take a band over 500 miles and be beaten handily by other groups? The answer to that question is one word, “Growth“.

A tree planted in a pot and placed on your porch will generally not exceed the size of that same plant if it is planted in a field. Yes, the environment is tough in the field. The porch is safer. You might get tramped in the field. Something might devour you. The variables needed to grow are easier to monitor on the porch. There are a lot of reasons to stay on that porch!

When the LCA band started competing in ’90, we were a young sapling so we didn’t jump right into the most harsh environment. We stayed protected and kept away from dangers that could negatively effect our development.

In ’95 we had grown and were ready to be transplanted into the larger, more harsh environment of BOA Regionals, and it was terrifying. Nationals in ’99 was a move into the most difficult conditions. Our performance was exceptional because we knew we had to step it up.

You don’t have to grow! It’s ok to flower where you are. But, if you want to grow into a giant sequoia, you’ve got to get off that porch.

Bands of America National Championships 1999

2 responses to “1999 Bands of America Nationals”

  1. I was so miserable when I moved to Lynchburg, and I was dangerously depressed my first few weeks of school. If Jess Mays and Kimberly hadn’t noticed my flute pin and hauled me to the band room, I’m not sure I’d be here today. This summer, I turned 40, and I still look at my first year of band as one of the absolute best times in my life.

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