2010 Grand National Championships Review

2010 Grand National Championships Review

Avon Makes it a Three-Peat
By Michael Reed and Michael Boo
November 13, 2010
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis has long been known as “The Crossroads of America,” and leading up to Saturday, November 13, 2010, the city lived up to that name when thousands of marching band members, supporters and fans descended on Lucas Oil Stadium to celebrate 35 years of Bands of America at the BOA Grand National Championships. The four days of events was presented by Yamaha, which was celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary in the United States.

The entire week was a tribute to George N. Parks, director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band for over 30 years, division head of the Music for All Summer Symposium Drum Majors Academy and director of the 2005 and 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. George tragically passed away suddenly just two months prior and his loss was still being felt by all who knew him. He inspired thousands of students to achieve their best with his ageless enthusiasm and dedication to music education. While there was a special tribute to him at the conclusion of Prelims on Friday night, it was clear that all of the 2010 Grand Nationals was dedicated to his memory.

After Prelims on Thursday and Friday, the following 34 bands advanced into Semi-Finals: Adair County (KY), Avon HS (IN), Ayala HS (CA), Ben Davis HS (IN), Bourbon County HS (KY), Brentwood HS (TN), Broken Arrow HS (OK), Carmel HS (IN), Cedar Park HS (TX), Center Grove HS (IN), Centerville HS (OH), Dobyns-Bennett HS (TN), Godwin Heights HS (MI), Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA), Kiski Area HS (PA), Lafayette HS (KY), Lafayette HS (LA), Lake Central HS (IN), Lake Park HS (IL), Lawrence Central HS (IN), LD Bell HS (TX), Lincoln-Way East HS (IL), Marian Catholic HS (IL), Morton HS (IL) Northmont HS (OH), Plymouth-Canton HS (MI), Stephen F. Austin HS (TX), Tarpon Springs HS (FL), Union HS (OK), Walled Lake HS (MI), West Bloomfield HS (MI), Western HS (IN), William Mason HS (OH) and Winston Churchill HS (TX). 

During the first break in Semi-Finals competition, the band from Broad Ripple Magnet HS presented an exhibition after previously becoming Class Champions of the Sharp Business Solutions Indianapolis Public Schools Marching Band Tournament. During the second break, the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band was enjoyed in exhibition. After the performances of all 34 Semi-Finals bands and the exhibition of the Riverside Community College Marching Tigers, caption and placement awards were presented to the top bands in each of the four competitive Semi-Finals classes.

In Class A, Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding General Effect went to Bourbon County HS, with Western HS capturing Outstanding Visual Performance honors. Class A placement awards were 1st place—Bourbon County HS, 2nd place—Western HS and 3rd place—Adair County HS.

Class AA Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect awards all went to Marian Catholic HS, with the band taking the Class A 1st place award, followed by 2nd place—Kiski Area HS and 3rd place—Morton HS.

In Class AAA, Outstanding Music Performance went to Kennesaw Mountain HS, with Tarpon Springs HS taking the award for Outstanding Visual Performance. Both those schools tied for Outstanding General Effect. Placement awards saw Tarpon Springs HS win 1st place, followed by Kennesaw Mountain HS in 2nd and Stephen F. Austin HS in 3rd place.

Class AAAA saw three bands each take a caption; Outstanding Music Performance went to LD Bell HS, Outstanding Visual Performance to Broken Arrow HS and Outstanding General Effect to Avon HS. Avon HS won 1st place, followed by Broken Arrow HS in 2nd and LD Bell HS in 3rd place.

The directors from each of the Finals bands participated in a blind draw for Finals order, and after a couple hours, the big show was ready to begin. At the start of the Finals competition, the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps presented the colors and the Riverside Community College Marching Tigers performed the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Prior to the competing bands taking the field, Bourbon County HS (KY) put on an exhibition performance of its Class A Championship show about a terrifying dream, “R.E.M.”

Avon HS, 1st place: Grand National Champion—97.70

Outstanding Music Performance Award, Outstanding General Effect Award

“Iconoclash” brought Avon its third Grand Nationals Championship in a row, the first time any band has accomplished that feat since 1989. Classic motives were continuously juxtaposed against contemporary rock idioms in “I. Magnum Opus,” “II. Everybody Hurts” and “III. Schadenfreude,” as if the melodies of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” “Symphony No. 5” and “Ode to Joy” were thrown into a blender with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” and R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and served in the late night television infomercial for the Magic Bullet. The yin and yang of the balance of these continuous two dichotomous music styles was first introduced in a yin and yang drill form. The final movement had “Ode to Joy” and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” antiphonally split across the field in two different keys, resolving at the last possible moment and leaving fans standing in disbelief that all that clashing musical iconography could somehow come together in an uplifting sense of spiritual equilibrium.

Broken Arrow HS, 2nd place—96.25

Steve Brubaker Outstanding Visual Performance Award, Al Castronova Espirit de Corps Award, Fan Favorite Award (selected by fans who texted in their vote)

“ZO” was inspired by “The Wizard of Oz” and was one of the most joyous expressions of fun ever seen on the Grand Nationals field. Strains of “Over the Rainbow” opened the program with the band in a giant rainbow form. The band must have bought every balloon-tired bicycle (over 50 of them) in the greater Tulsa area, with members of the band having learned how to play while riding. The guard, wearing ruby slippers, cackled and twirled axes amidst the spinning cyclonic forms of the drill that re-created the effect of a tornado. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t watch out for the flying monkeys with buckets of water. Working in extra source material such as Verdi’s “Requiem” to represent the danger of the witches, “Nessun Dorma” to characterize the Tin Man’s desire for a heart and “Fanfare for the Common Man” to convey the regal nature of the Cowardly Lion, the show exploited the comfort of the familiar and brought fans to their feet while the first bicycle parade band to perform at Grand Nationals played the rest of the band off the field.

L.D. Bell HS, 3rd place—96.05

“Honor: We Will Remember” paid homage to the fallen members of the military who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in freedom. The soaring sounds of “Amber Waves” and “Salvation is Created” captured the range of emotions from pride to grief as the military-attired guard expressed the anguish of loss on the battlefield, accompanied by battlefield sounds of helicopters and gunfire. As the show progressed, rows of crosses and Stars of David gravestones appeared across the back of the field as if at a national cemetery. The guard transfigured themselves into angels clad in white watching over the departed souls. At the end, a military drummer led the guard across the field and an American flag was hoisted amidst the faint strains of “Taps,” with smaller American flags placed on all the gravestones. This was a show that forced one to think deep and reflect on the sacrifices of others who made it possible for us to have the freedom to sit in a giant stadium in comfort and enjoy the best the marching band activity has to offer.

Tarpon Springs HS, 4th place—93.35

The supernatural thriller “Paranormal” set a nightmare to music with the field adorned with a giant red eye and tarps representing a maze of stairs. The production followed the terrifying ordeal of a young woman who opens a door and enters a house filled with malevolent spirits. While many bands that feature woodwinds have a few measures of fast runs, this band’s musical book incorporated a constant flurry of finger-busting woodwind sequences. The movement titles were quite self-explanatory; “I Know I am Not Alone,” “Those We Don’t Speak Of,” “This Is No Ordinary Dream,” “Those We Can’t See” and “This Is the End, Let Her Go in Peace.” The General Effect moment of the year was witnessed when the woman, exhausted from her ordeal, lay down and levitated high off the bed, with no visible means of support. Pounding on the door woke her up and she tried to escape, but she found her path blocked at every turn as blood red flags covered the field. As the production reached its furious climax, she bound up a flight of stairs and ducked at the last moment as her pursuer leapt at her, flew over her and disappeared from view to the sounds of shattering glass.

Carmel HS, 5th place—92.05

A statement about the hustle and bustle of contemporary existence getting in the way of enjoying life was the message of “Stop and Smell the Roses.” As if taking a break in a Parisian café, with pink umbrellas sheltering one from the sun, the frenetic pace of the modern world melted away as the band formed a giant flower and we saw a girl stop to literally smell the blossoms. The fast pace of a metropolitan setting, with people hurriedly scattering about, was represented by loudness and dissonance. This was later exemplified by the urge to work heard in the propulsive urgings of the brass, competing with the desire to relax as heard in the beckoning sounds of the woodwinds that were intended to reduce one’s blood pressure. The umbrellas eventually became the petals of a rose, and the joyful exuberance of discovering a better way of living, aware of the beauty around us, ended the show as the sounds of the big city were swallowed up by the awesome power of beauty in full bloom.

Kennesaw Mountain HS, 6th place—91.90

Angels watching over us was the message of “Awakening Angels,” full of many short snippets of classical works that formed a patchwork quilt of hope and emotional respite. Movements were titled, “Awakening,” “Rejoicing,” “Protecting,” “Resurrection” and “Benediction.” Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” accompanied a young girl’s prayer to her guardian angel. Soon, a bevy of celestial beings in pure white emerged from the tunnel to a soft, lush brass chorale.  A lyrical flute solo featured some of the most sensitive playing of the evening. Of course, angels are also powerful spirits, and the band’s brass filled the entire stadium with their glorious strains. A sense of doom enveloped the arena as the pace picked up during Verdi’s “Requiem,” when one sensed divine judgment was being executed. But then hundreds of angel wings unfurled and spread triumphantly, filling the field in a brilliant, blinding cloud of white and reminding us that no matter what travails we experience, solace and comfort await us if we ask for it.

Marian Catholic HS, 7th place—90.40

The marvelously quirky “On Being Hit on the Head” was inspired by the text of David Lang’s “Are You Experienced?,” the show exploring what happens in the seconds between an unexpected blow to the temple and unconsciousness. As the main character struggled to maintain consciousness, the disorganized chaos of his dazed thoughts was heard in the surreal storyline. A giant eyeball reacted in shock and panic, with the narrator (the band’s own director) remembering and regretting paths not taken, stretching the sense of panic to the very end. Frenetic and chaotic dissonance appeared as flashes of light and just as quickly dissipated like moments from the narrator’s life popping into view of the dilating eye. Members stumbled around the field as if about to fall, with a wicked double-tonguing trumpet feature highlighting the struggles to stay vertical. Spiritual overtones filled the lead character’s presence as he expressed the most important thing he learned from life: “The rest is silence…Choose.”

Lawrence Central HS, 8th place—89.10

The Latin American sounds of “Evolución” featured the tango music of Astor Piazzolla and the Latin stylings of Darmon Meader of New York Voices. A fiery river of curved red tarps snaked across the field from end zone to end zone, leading us through the streets of a sultry South American night. Passionate Latin percussion accompanied a Baroque samba and an Argentinean tango that set the fans’ feet to tapping uncontrollably. A change of pace tender oboe solo provided a jazz walk though an affectionate and longing segment of the Latin music identity, while an accordionist provided rhythmic counterpoint to the richness of the unveiled golden silks. The field filled with splashes of red as the band collapsed in a tight circle to the ending strains of the lone accordionist, leaving a solitary figure in red standing and gazing over the field, contemplating the night that had just disappeared amidst the evaporating steam that was about to be burned off by a soon-to-rise sun.

Stephen F. Austin HS, 9th place—88.50

“Miss Understood” featured over 60 members of the school’s award-winning Angels Dance Team, providing a unique visual treat for the audience. During Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the dance team broke loose from the constraint of the oppression of a boxed-in drill form, savoring the temporary liberation as the soaring sounds filled the stadium with a luscious intensity. Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5” softly and delicately enveloped the dancers in a confining drill form once again, but the musical strains weren’t strong enough to keep them from once again bursting through to freedom. Danielpour’s brazenly feisty “Urban Dances” provided the increasingly more contemporary women to experience a life not restrained by the shackles of convention, as the more secure and confident members raised their arms in triumph, savoring their newfound and hard-fought liberation.

Cedar Park HS, 10th place—87.95

The accomplishments of some of the world’s greatest thinkers were lifted up and honored in “GENIUS,” celebrating the highest level of human achievement. Starting with a heroic Mahler trumpet fanfare and leading into a massive French Horn motif that resonated through the stadium, the first movement represented human achievement in music, with some crisp triple-tonguing sealing the deal. Mathematics had its due in the analytical and precise minimalistic musings of Whitacre’s “Equus,” with Einstein’s e=mc2 relativity formula seen in the drill. The abstract faces of Picasso’s paintings emblazoned on the flags articulated the world of art, gracefully depicted to Liszt’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” All the realms of geniuses’ exploration came together in Respighi’s “Roman Festivals,” highlighted by images of da Vinci’s famed Vitruvian Man drawing, reaching out with its arms to embrace the potential for genius in us all.

Union HS, 11th place—11. 87.15

“Reinvention” brought modern and unexpected twists to the Baroque music of J.S. Bach, contemporizing his inventions for piano with updated pop and jazz variations, thoroughly turning his great fugal masterpieces inside out and upside-down. A lot of pyrotechnic woodwind figures, like fingers flying over the piano keyboard, kept things moving in a frenetic fashion. Flourishes of pipe organ-like brass provided a rhythmic urgency to the moving contrapuntal lines. Along the way, contemporary harmonies that Bach—in all his brilliance—could not have imagined were mixed in with abandon. Equally brilliant was the bright yellow that washed over the field at the end of the show. From the Baroque dance of a woodwind quintet to the Latin/Techno rock variation complete with rock guitar, this was a show that truly lived up to its name.

Center Grove HS, 12th place—85.75

A young man trekking through a dark enchanted forest met with a harrowing fate in “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” The wayward traveler was enticed by the beauty of a fair maiden and got tied to a gnarly, twisted tree before he knew what was happening. The tree wrapped its branches around him and unceremoniously ingested him, spitting him out as a hideously transformed monster. Quiet echoes of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” floated across the field with drummers dressed as druids and flags afire with blazing colors, adding to the sense of doom and gloom. With a Beelzebub drill form menacing the band, the maiden killed the monster, not recognizing at first that she was the one who released the dreadfulness upon an innocent man. In the horror of realizing what she did, she sacrificed herself at the end and—as isn’t often said in fairy tales—no one lived happily ever after.

The 2011 BOA Grand Nationals will be held November 9-12 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Come join us as the stadium welcomes us back for another great long weekend of the best entertainment American youth has to offer.

For many years, Michael Reed and Michael Boo have covered a large variety of pageantry events. Michael Reed covers winter guard and indoor marching percussion events for WGI, plus other events for BOA. Michael Boo is the Staff Writer for Drum Corps International and has written for BOA and WGI for much of the existence of the two organizations.


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