2015 Grand National Finals Review

2015 Grand National Finals Review

By Michael Boo
(With assistance from bloggers Michael Reed, Megan Bonfield, and Christopher Drake.)

November 14, 2015
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

The Bands of America Grand National Championships Finals festivities, held inside the magnificent Lucas Oil Stadium, put a grand exclamation mark on 40 great years of spectacular events by the foremost organization of its type. Yamaha once again presented the four days of events in Indianapolis, reminding all that their mission is the same as that of Music for All.

With all the celebrating and looking back on the first 40 years, it’s important to remember there’s still much to come. The Music for All National Festival will be in Indianapolis March 9-12, 2016, followed by the Music for All Summer Symposium at Ball State University June 27-July 2, following up on the Leadership Weekend Experience June 25-27, also in Muncie. And after the 2016 Bands of America Grand National Championships November 9-12, the BOA Honor Band will march in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, 2017.

In the Indianapolis Marching Band Tournament, held on Wednesday night, November 11, Arsenal Technical HS captured 1st place in the Corps Style division, and also won the caption awards for General Effect, Visual, and Music. Emmerich Manual HS took 2nd place. Broad Ripple HS took 1st place in the Show Style division, taking General Effect and Music Honors. Crispus Attucks HS captured 2nd place, Visual Honors, and a $1,000 check for being named winner of the Spirit Award.

Of special interest from Prelims is the Grand National Championships witnessed the first bands ever to compete from the distant states of Hawaii and Alaska.

After 95 bands competed in Prelims on Thursday and Friday, the following 34 bands (listed in performance order) advanced into Semi-Finals: Beechwood HS (KY), Bellbrook HS, (OH), Father Ryan HS (TN), Saint James School, (AL), Kiski Area HS (PA), Larry A. Ryle HS (KY), Jenison HS (MI), Miamisburg HS (OH), Franklin HS (TN), Ben Davis HS (IN), Lawrence Township (IN), Harrison HS (GA), Homestead HS (CA), Dobyns-Bennett HS (TN), Homestead HS (IN), Blue Springs HS (MO), Keller HS (TX), The Woodlands HS (TX), Center Grove HS (IN), Keller Central HS (TX), Broken Arrow HS (OK), Centerville HS (OH), William Mason HS (OH), Lake Central HS (IN), Avon HS (IN), Carmel HS (IN), Round Rock HS (TX), Marian Catholic HS (IL), Hebron HS (TX), Bentonville HS (AR), Adair County HS (KY), Milford HS (OH), Goshen HS (IN), and Green Hope HS (NC).

After the performances of all Semi-Finals bands and the exhibition of the Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, caption highest achievement awards and caption placement awards were presented to the top bands in each of the four competitive Semi-Finals classes.

In Class AAAA, 1st place Hebron HS (TX) took the Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding General Effect awards, and 2nd place Broken Arrow HS (OK) captured Outstanding Visual Performance. Avon HS (IN) took 3rd place. In Class AAA, 1st place Harrison HS (GA) won all caption awards, followed by 2nd place Franklin HS (TN) and 3rd place Dobyns-Bennett HS (TN). In Class AA, 1st place Marian Catholic HS (IL) won all caption awards, followed by 2nd place Kiski Area HS (PA) and 3rd place Miamisburg HS (OH). In Class A, 1st place Adair County HS (KY) won all caption awards, followed by 2nd place Beechwood HS (KY) and 3rd place St. James School (AL).

The Finalist bands were randomly announced as being The Woodlands HS (TX), Avon HS (IN), Hebron HS (TX), Broken Arrow HS (OK), Marian Catholic HS (IL), Round Rock HS (TX), Carmel HS (IN), Harrison HS (GA), Keller HS (TX), William Mason HS (OH), Homestead HS (IN), and Blue Springs HS (MO). Representatives from each band drew for their performing position in Finals. In addition, Finals performances concluded with an exhibition performance by Class A Champion Adair County HS, as Class Champions present an exhibition in Finals if they aren’t in the top-12.

After the performance of all finalist bands, Music for All presented its first Advocacy in Action Award to the Country Music Association’s Music Makes Us campaign, which has pledged $10,000,000 to school music programs. Then it was time to bring out the finalist bands and announce the placements and special awards. Once all the finalist bands were on the field and received their individual accolades, a video montage of all the bands from that participated in Grand Nationals was presented, leading into the presentation of the Semifinals Class Champion awards to the Class Champions and the finalist special awards.

The Al Castronovo Espirit de Corps Award was presented to the Colony HS (AK). Hebron HS won the Grand Finals Outstanding Music Performance Award and The Steve Brubaker Outstanding Visual Performance Award was a tie between Avon HS and Broken Arrow HS. Broken Arrow HS won the Outstanding General Effect Award.

Broken Arrow HS, 1st place, 97.50
“Wild Blue Orchid” featured the searing and soaring music of Dmitri Shostakovich, the opening blue sea of flags swallowing the field and leading one to wonder how the winds were going to swim to shore. Among intriguing visuals were horse heads on the guard, a reference to The White Stripes’ video, “Blue Orchid,” which featured a horse with raised hooves…the show and orchids both relying upon cross pollination.

Avon HS, 2nd place: 97.00
With several counterbalanced pumpjacks and oil derricks dotting the arid landscape, “Black Gold” told the story of the discovery, removal, and exploitation of oil in the developing days in the American Southwest. A huge oil-coated tarp covered much of the band as a well experienced a blowout, accompanied by the shale flags of the oil slick-costumed guard turning gold to represent the riches that were to follow.

Hebron HS, 3rd place: 96.25
In “360,” we learned that what goes around, turns and spins around…and around, and around…in ways that would make the average person dizzy. Who knew there were that many variations on curves and circles? From the mesmerizing oboe solo to the hotter-than-the-sun tenor saxophone feature, this show caught us in a circle of wonder, which unlike circles; had an end that unfortunately came about three hours too soon.

William Mason HS, 4th place: 95.35
With enough scaffolding to supply four blocks of New York City tenement fire escapes, “Somewhere” told the timeless story of doomed lovers Tony and Maria with mostly unexpected non-“West Side Story” music. Multiple Tonys and Marias tried to live their life apart from the violence and hatred surrounding them, as the outside world brutally intruded upon their dreams, ripping them (and our own emotions) apart.

Carmel HS, 5th place: 94.40
“9 Lives” was a veritable homage to our feline friends, with tall scratching posts across the field and a large ball of string tempting the curious tabbies, guard members whose hair was made up to look like cat ears. A glistening jewel was far too much a temptation to the cat burglars who clawed through the laser beams to prevent the jewel from falling into any other’s paws. A purr-fect way to enjoy 11 minutes.

The Woodlands HS, 6th place: 93.70
“TimeBenders” explored opposing elements that make up time, these two disparate elements often split from side-to-side. The representation of “mechanical time” was both musically and drill-wise rather jagged and relentlessly machine-like, and the simultaneous “body time” was curvier and far less structured. The band started and stopped at the command of the announcer, who obviously had time on his side.

Round Rock HS, 7th place: 93.00
“This is My Letter to the World” featured Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and the peacefully pastel vision of a 19th Century spring on the rural open prairie. Enthusiastically embracing the challenges of what could be a rugged and unforgiving life, the hard work of pioneering settlers was rewarded with the gift of a simple peace, making daily life a continuous journey offering up unending opportunities.

Marian Catholic HS, 8th place: 90.90
When Marian Catholic first made Finals for the first of 32 consecutive years, the concept of string theory was still in its infancy. Only slightly less complex than the world of quantum mechanics, “String Theory” delved into a magical world of marionettes who were first controlled by outside forces, then used their control bars to turn the tables, stringing their aggressors along in a grand act of turnabout.

Harrison HS, 9th place: 90.25
“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” was inspired by the story of Mary, Queen of Scots. Music and visuals were regal and demur at times, impetuous and treacherous elsewhere, (with the conflicting emotions sometimes expressed simultaneously). The show provided a Cliff Notes encapsulation of Mary’s life and aspirations; perfect for those who didn’t know how things panned out for her because they never read the book.

Blue Springs HS, 10th place: 89.10
Large digital screens amongst the pit percussion kept trying to manipulate the thoughts of the audience in “Subliminal,” with 40 television test pattern sets across the field reminding all why the great electronic babysitter is to be mistrusted as much as it is to be enjoyed. We know we should adhere to the instruction, “DO NOT LOOK AT THE TELEVISION SET,” but hey…nothing else is on and it’s too nice to go outside.

Keller HS, 11th place: 88.70
A famed Dylan Thomas poem provided the catalyst for the emotional angst that powered “do not go gentle…” Barren, snow-covered tree sets added a sense of foreboding chill. Like the poem on which it was based, the show didn’t plunge into despair, but embraced the affirmation that life is to be embraced and lived to its fullest, sensed in the victorious fanfare-like nature of the music that grew out of the darkness.

Homestead HS, 12th place: 88.25
In “Poiesis – An Act of Creation,” the art of the creative process was brought to the fore as the guard continually adjusting Tinker Toy-like poles to create whimsical assemblages that would have been right at home at a modern art gallery opening. Often, imperceptible drill forms snapped into position as some unseen artist finally experienced a Eureka moment, then sat back to admire their creative masterpiece.


For many years, Michael Boo has covered a large variety of pageantry events. He is the Staff Writer for Drum Corps International and has written for BOA and WGI for much of the existence of the two organizations. Michael Reed writes and blogs for WGI Indoor Marching Percussion and Color Guard events. Megan Bonfield and Christopher Drake are both Staff Writers for IndianaMarching.com.


See the list of all Grand National Finals results, as well as all 2015 BOA Championship awards results.

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