Review: BOA San Antonio (Prelims) - Part 1 of 3

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Review: BOA San Antonio (Prelims) - Part 1 of 3

Post by airons0678 » Tue Nov 04, 2003 2:11 am

This review is dedicated to my brother, Mark Irons, who like me loves the performing arts.

***Part 1 of 3***

Pre-Show Thoughts: It was hot and humid in San Antonio, Texas. Like last year, on the first day of prelims there were a few people outside the Alamodome more than an hour before the event started. I met a friendly married couple from Laredo, Texas there to support the John B. Alexander High School Marching Band. They had never been to this event before, so they did not really know what to expect. They did know, however, that the band they were supporting was quite strong where they lived. When the doors of the dome were opened, and a rush of cold air came out, I could not help but think that it was nearly a year ago today that I saw some of the best high school marching bands I have ever seen. Now I was back, this time at the first ever Bands of America Super Regional Championships. 57 bands competed over a two-day period for a Division rating and a chance to be one of the top 14 finalists bands. Here in the Alamodome were people from all over the nation watching these outstanding performances. For eexample, the woman sitting next to me on the second day of preliminary competition told me she was originally from New York, and took her daughter from Florida here to see one of the college marching bands in exhibition that her daughter wanted to march with. It is stories like these makes Bands of America great. As you can see, it is not about winning or is all about what we share, which is our love of the performing arts.

My review of the Bands of America Regional Championships will cover every band that performed at the event, because *every* band at *every* show deserves to be covered, and because *all* students that perform are our "winners" in life. My commentary also includes "my scores" as opposed to "judges' scores" for fun, but more importantly to provide further insight on what did and did not happen. All in all, however, we must constantly remember that the high school marching band activity is a subjective activity. My "judging" may be awkward for two reasons: 1) I have never judged a high school marching band competition, nor have I had any prior training as a judge, and 2) As an individual, it is practically impossible to do what eight highly knowledgable people with differing perspectives do. You will notice that general effect is weighed heavily by Bands of America, which promotes an "overall" show rather than a music show or a visual show, and therefore you will notice my scoring has a lot to do with general effect. I scored each band one by one, and did not alter the scores following the announcement of the actual scores. (Also, please note that I have "my score" without the actual score for preliminary performances only, because the actual scores for preliminary performances are not available at this time.) In defense of myself, however, I marched in a high school marching band for four years, in three years I marched in two drum and bugle corps, I have studied and learned from watching many, many high school marching band shows (both live and recorded) sponsored by circuits such as MBASC (now defunct), SCJA, WBA (formerly WSMBC), SCSBOA, and BOA. I am extremely familiar with the Bands of America organization. And finally, to clarify my serious intentions, since 1995 I have written well-received reviews on bands from California, Texas, Nevada, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Also, know that I am not associated with any bands in any way. I do not care who wins or loses at this event before the event is started. Every high school marching band will be rated equally. Now that I have laid out the issues behind the review, here is the review! Enjoy.

Bands of America Super Regional Championships
San Antonio, TX
October 31-November 1, 2003


Aransas Pass High School
Aransas Pass, TX
Repertoire: "African Rites" including musical selections from "Rites of Tamburo," "Ooga Booga" and "Chant"
Comments: This was the first band of the first day of Bands of America Super Regional competition. This band was also one of the smallest. The pit was set up on the field, just in front of where the pit section is normally placed. The musicians wore black from chest to foot, with a band of gold on the chest (with an insignia), and white above that. The auxiliary wore brown costumes. In a filled-in circular form were the wind players in the center of the field and bowing forward. A trombone soloist, who is on his feet, is heard along with the pit and their flexi-tube sound makers. The guard has these giant African masks. Alright, complex dance maneuvers here and there, but ensemble and individual marching not there. There is some moving music in this show, with a sort of jungle beat. I love the part where the band does a side-step, as the color guard raises their bat-like capes. There seemed to me to be timing issues from pit to winds. The band shouts a series of grunts, including "ooga" and "booga." Lots and lots of choreography, including jumping with the feet spread apart, and movement of shakos and plumes. Yeah, there was some big step-size jazz running going on, but the vertical lines looked unprepared. I liked the spirit of the show, even with the show being flawed.
My Score: 56.80
My Placement: 56th

Oak Ridge High School
Conroe, TX
Repertoire: "Paris Sketches" by Martin Ellerby
Comments: This band had large white "canvases," and gigantic paintbrushes on the front sideline. The music ones wore white tops and black pants with a vertical strip of blue and red on the front. The guard wore light brown and dark red costumes with a white collar. The set up of this group was lines of wins left to right of the field. The woodwinds on the left are heard, as the brass in the center lunge and do an arm movement. The first part of the music is played backfield, and then they face the front and pack a wallop of a hit. Watch it trumpets. (Do not go overboard on those notes.) The rhythms this band creates is above average. Oh my. A wind player marching backwards hits one of the canvases, but recovers well. The relaxed section of their show is a pleasure to see and hear. Lots of pods marching single-time, then marching double-time to expand into a larger form. Nicely done, as the band collapses to the center of the field and then is on their knees. The next movement has heralding trumpets, and a small woodwind section up front amplified. The marching of the winds during the percussion feature has some ensemble issues, especially in regards to spacing. Super work taking the crowd by surprise with the jazz running! The huge tarp of the Mona Lisa is inspiring, and what an ending from this strong group wanting to make its mark.
My Score: 63.10
My Placement: 50th

Floresville High School
Floresville, TX
Repertoire: "Blue Lake," "Variations on a Korean Folk Song," "Incantation and Dance" and "Symphony #2"
Comments: With white tarps and a sash of sparkling red with an "F" above, the winds and battery percussion stormed the field in a horizontal straight line that opened up an elongated form. The opening notes were right on, as was the mesh by two lines of wind players. The slow, long, line rotation by the clarinets and saxophones was a little off, but I was pleased to see that the diagonal lines marching in direction of form were quite straight. The trombones were strong in their sound, and the band ended their first movement with a bang, though the intensity seemed less that the best, perhaps because they did not go at a high velocity. The spacing was fair during the "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" movement, and the music was handled quite well. Lots of delay in between songs. These kids need to keep the momentum going in their favor. Great wood block sound in the next movement, and fine marching by all, especially getting into that block formation, and the multiple diagonal lines that transform into straight lines at the end of the show. The ending looked spotless.
My Score: 62.90
My Placement: 51st

Harlingen South High School
Harlingen, TX
Repertoire: "Seven Last Words from the Cross" by James Macmilen "Symphony No. 2" by C. Rouse, "Flute Concerto" by C. Rouse, "Green" by M. Torke and "Javelin" by M. Torke
Comments: The musicians wore all white with a sparkling orange sash. The auxiliary wore all black dresses and had yellow flags to work with. The band was scattered across the field, with a pod of auxiliary gathered in front of a tuba player. Six alternates stood in the front and sides of the field. I like the varying poses, the deep, deep sound of the synth (almost ear-rattling), and the mysterious sounding music that builds into an immense open-wide-and-take-this sound, and later, wow. The music from this group is out there, with horn pops up and down to the box many times over, and stunningly beautiful sounding woodwinds placed in front of the graceful danching brass and guard. The front of the woodwinds with vertical lines converging behind was icing on the cake to this bravely moving music. Next, we have more line rotations. The superstars of this show were obviously the saxophones, flutes, and clarinets, although the brass was called upon when needed, and that was great. Okay, show me something I have not seen before at the end. The blocks melting into one another, and then opening and closing in size is getting a little stale. Marvelous show, nevertheless. This band was most impressive in weaving the music with the movement.
My Score: 68.50
My Placement: 34th

Taft High School
Taft, TX
Repertoire: Selections from Beethoven including "Symphony #7 Movement 4," "Egmont Overture," "Sonata Opus 26" and "Egmont Finale"
Comments: I noticed some bands marching with concert french horns today, which was interesting. Taft was one of them. The winds and percussion wore grayish tops with greenish bottoms, and had shiney silver helmets with long white plumes. For a small band, they had quite a big sound, and their first movement was a success, no doubt. Excellent work guard, with the rifles. Not bad! The trombone soloist did the job, and so did the quad soloist, although the quad soloist's solo was somewhat lackluster. The hits of sound to the box were not as short and crisp as they could have been. The trombone, horn, and trumpet trio were fabulous, giving this show a very classical feel. Way to wail when you need to, horns! (I write this as part of the winds are in a curve standing and part of the winds in front of them are kneeling...and they all sound great.) Keep on those hands from the drum majors, band. The ending movement had a rhombus form that rotated into a box, and the box came to the front on the field in a diagonal direction to plop those final notes into our ears. Solid job, people! Consistently all as one from start to finish.
My Score: 60.00
My Placement: 52nd

John B. Alexander High School
Laredo, TX
Repertoire: "Industry" featuring the music of Jose Lopez including "Movement I: The Machine," "Movement II: Assembly Line," "Movement III: Creation in the Factory," and "Movement IV: Metropolis"
Comments: This band had a construction themed show, with the percussion wearing hard hads and orange vests. The winds wore black and blue uniforms, with a hint of white at the shoulders, the waist, and the gauntlets. The auxiliary wore black tops, with silver bottoms. Heavy duty orange traffic barricade "barrels" were set up on the sideline near the right 40 yard line. I love the heavy breathing and dutting, while the wind players waver like reeds in the wind. The opening sound was alright, but I was gripped by the attention to detail in those connecting and disconnecting lines up front. Super toilet bowling block that gave me happy shivers as it came together in the end. The assembly line sound from the brass was powerful. A cool robot voice says, "Warning! Warning! Assembly line malfunctioning." The wind players throw off their gloves and clap in time, and also do some complex body movement. They are really moving the crowd, and the percussion go off. Yeah, baby, yeah! What a fun show! The cymbal players at one point lie on their backs and let the rest of the battery line slam on them. The amplified flute music was beautiful, followed by the beautiful sights and sounds by the rest of the band that crept up to the front. The finale had that same-old, same-old feel, but not too much. This was a show that kept you captivated all the way to the end. Congratulations on a fine, fine showing here.
My Score: 72.90
My Placement: 31st

La Joya High School
La Joya, TX
Repertoire: "James Bond"
Comments: Bond...James Bond...and that was the theme of this show by this band in red and black. What crisp forms, and crisp movement this band had! The trumpets made known that they meant serious business, and so did the mammoth sounding low brass. The break into different poses worked, as did the smooth jazz drum sound. This band did not repeat the sometimes cheesy sounding James Bond theme over and over again, but rather explored other sounds, and were successfull in this. I marveled at the bent back and heads down running man march towards the side, and then back (and so did the rest of the crowd!). The props in the backfield had some great posters of James Bond movies. The marching was near perfect from an ensemble and individual point-of-view. The "Live and Let Die" finale was familiar, and fun, and well, well done. I would have loved to have heard the theme to "View to a Kill" but...this is their show, and plus they can only do so much. Super show, that had all the elements of a great one, no doubt. Now, if they only pushed the envelope just a bit, just a bit.
My Score: 66.60
My Placement: 45th

Crystal City High School
Crystal City, TX
Repertoire: "Beethoven's Fifth," "Fur Elise," "Pathetique Sonata" and "Ode to Joy"
Comments: The wind players, in a horizontal straight line facing the backfield, seemed to wear all green. But when they faced front field, there was some gold and white with the letter "C" for "Crystal City High School." The music from this band was classical, and the music and marching was, uh...okay. The beginning, musically, had lots of repeats of the main theme. The beginning also highlighted lots of "holes" in forms, and person-to-person marching that mostly fit. Too much halting, you guys! Much of that music could be put on the move. Even the big impacts were not that big, and at this rate it might take a band twice as large to pull it off. Okay, nice blast of sound at the end, but where was that earlier? This band did the best they could with what they had, which was not much. Compared to most of the other bands, they were not at the same level. I could tell, however, that they worked really hard to get this product ready, so I will give them credit where credit is due.
My Score: 54.90
My Placement: 57th

Hidalgo High School
Hidalgo, TX
Repertoire: "Pirates!" featuring highlights from "Hook" by John William including "Fanfare," "Prologue," "Presenting the Hook," "When You're Alone" and "Ultimate War"
Comments: A huge treasure chest on wheels was placed on the front right number 40. The wind players, in white, gold, and black formed two blocks. One block was up front to the left and one bloc was far back and to the right. The auxiliary was dressed like pirates. The blocks go side to side, and then one up and one down to meet, and finally the rotation, which was not bad. I noticed their sound was quite muffled. Great work by the flashy guard, with those sabres. The tubas have their moment in the spotlight, while the rest of the low bross takes part in some body moves. Great marching technique coming across the field, band! At one moment, the treasure chest opens and some guard members are rolled away on it. The trumpet solo is there, but not on the mark. This group plays very well as an ensemble. They listen to each other to figure out the right balance. Now, in the third movement the trumpets, who you can hear the most, need to allign those notes perfectly. (Too "choppy.") The end was performed in a block form, and though the end was not momentous, the rest of the show was turned on. Great work by all!
My Score: 59.50
My Placement: 53rd

McAllen Memorial High School
McAllen, TX
Repertoire: "To Tame the Perilous Skies," by David Holsinger
Comments: Three guard members on the parts of the field dressed in khaki military costumes wore orange vests and used orange wands to "bring the band in for a landing." The winds, in dark blue and silver helmets on, did some jazz running, and seemed to make everything come together musically and visually in peformance as the feet apart during one section come together. This was a tough, tough show to do! (It was "upper level" Holsinger music). And though this show was handled at a snail's pace, it was handled quite well. Spacing was alright. Ooh! Got to come up together with the horns, trombones. Nice stepoff there. I was glad to see this group look great from above. Stellar work, drums, but...kind of killed the mood, band, by not lacing this movement with the next. Nevertheless, what happens next is powerful, with the guard stripping off their tops, wearing red beneath. A huge propeller prop is twirled by one of the guard, and by the end of this show the band is out of breath. I can see why this band is out of breath. They did what many bands would not attempt.
My Score: 65.00
My Placement: 46th

Seguin High School
Seguin, TX
Repertoire: "Seasons of Four" featuring original music by Mark Waymire inspired by the Four Seasons including, "I. Fall," "II. Winter," "III. Spring," and "IV. Summer"
Comments: This band had red, orange, and gold colored leaf props on the front sideline. The uniforms for the musicians were modern looking, with a fold of yellow over a fold of white on the chest. The auxiliary had on red and gray flowing dresses. The percussion began the first movement, and then the band turns around and plays ear-piercing sound that will make your jaw dropp. Aaaah yeeeah, horns! Sousaphones, way to get in front. The woodwinds have their music down! Strong style of the breakout sound in the free form. Awesome effect by the synthesizer, giving us the feel of the wind blowing. The next movement has arcs peeling out of one another, along with music that defies black remarks. I like how the collapsing blocks on four points of the field have their own sound. (But careful not to lean in to the step-off!) The third movement has the trumpets giving us a joyous sound, and...yes, kind of fun! The rest of the band joins in on this fun, and wow do they sell the show! Perfect rifle toss to a perfect end to the movement. Okay, here we go. The last impression! Geez! They never cease to impress! These kids were knocking on the door of greatness. This guard was perfectly staged up front during the finale, and the finale had closure that ringed.
My Score: 78.00
My Placement: 21st

Brazoswood High School
Clute, TX
Repertoire: "Distant Shores" by Mark Higginbotham including "Mvt. 1 Green," "Mvt. 2 In Pace," "Mvt. 3 Tempest," "Mvt. 4 Crystals" and "Mvt. 5 Home"
Comments: Most of the front part of the field was hidden by skinny, rectangular backdrops The synthesizer gives ths show some zing, with ocean sounds. The wind players hold their hands to their heads as if gazing into the distance. Wow! Powerful opening! Trills from all, and dang trumpets, that sound is killer. Keep up the great work! Love the combo single-time marching with double-time marching, and music that had your head boppin' along the whole way through! Go trumpet squealer, go! Oh my goodness, this band...set a very high standard. Okay, super stutter step by the winds. The synthesizer is rocking with the sound of flowing water, and the percussion feature is one I need to hear again! Holy smokes! Can someone please slow these guys down? They are putting on a show to remember. The brass plays an angelic melody while the woodwinds lean side to side. Line rotations, perfect. Horn flashes, perfect. This band was in the groove. Magnificent build to the end, with a sound to conquer most bands that near them.
My Score: 84.70
My Placement: 10th

Alamo Heights High School
San Antonio, TX
Repertoire: "On the Sands of Time" by David Mairs (inspired by the Longfellow poem "A Psalm of Life")
Comments: On the field were members in blue. The marchers were in different "pods." The tubas have a sweet sound, and start the show. In fact, the whole band does not sound band. Their presence was sure not reduced by their size. The second movement was jamming! Great horn flash, but one horn was not with it. Great showmanship from the flute that runs through the wind players with a crazed expression. This show was quite moving, I think, as I had few qualms with the sound. The "halt" visual expression was right on, as was the horn raise. Lovely horn solo...just plain lovely. Great work trumpet, as well. I fell in love with this show, too. This group had something original to say, and took their show as high as it could go. In fact, I can still hear the show in my head as I write this. Ah, the dramatic sweeping immersion of sound.
My Score: 70.30
My Placement: 32nd

Nikki Rowe High School
McAllen, TX
Repertoire: "O Heaven," "O Earth," "Miranda," and "Brave New World" from "Storm" by Stephen Melillo
Comments: Circles here. Circles there. Circles everywhere. All of them expand in different ways to create some connected forms. The hidden power of this group soon comes out, and yes they do a swell job of keeping you involved to the end. Now, demand is one issue they need to address. The first movement was not as spectacular as it should be. Wonderful mellophone duet at two different octaves. Great work by the auxiliary, who match the band in moves at times. We could say their coordination is right on! The Mellilo music is recognizable and incredibly well done. Trombones, great sound coming before the end, and before the end the band put a gentle twist to their show before juicing it up and creating a symmetrical form that worked. Swinging cymbal players, you got my attention, so keep that excellence. From one end to the other, this band is clean. Now, if only more challenge challenged these kids out there...and I know they can do it! (They surely "did it" today!)
My Score: 67.00
My Placement: 40th

Samuel Clemens High School
Schertz, TX
Repertoire: "Medea's Dance of Vengance" by Samuel Barbar and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
Comments: This band swallowed the field. They were large, with a curved form seeming to wrap them up, and "stuff" in the midst of it all. The Samuel Barbar music was handled alright. I do not know what was going on with the synthesizer players, though, because they drew attention to themselves at times by pressing buttons and making loud buzzing sounds. The guy trying to work his keyboard seemed to me like he was trying to correct the problem. Tge drill was very "Simple Simon," with members doing follow-the-leader drill at times. They did make a full impression with their sound, though. The sitting woodwind ensemble up front set the tone for the next tune they did, which was by none other than Queen. Now how often do you hear Queen on the field? (Especially "Bohemian Rhapsody?) Or perhaps a better question would be how often do you hear Barber and Queen on the field? Unique. Watch the drum major, because timing was slipping. This band was careful in playing their music. Their show was quite entertaining, but not at the level of some of the best. They kept plugging away, despite their technical difficulties. This was definitely a "show band," and there is nothing wrong with that. They put on quite a show, of course, with few flaws, but did not move me the way I wanted to be moved.
My Score: 64.80
My Placement: 48th

East Central High School
San Antonio, TX
Repertoire: Excerpts from "The New Moon in The Old Moon's Arms" by Michael Kamen
Comments: Questionable spacing throughout, but that seemed to be erased by unique movement by all. The saxophone soloist had all the winds on their backs and doing a bicycle pedaling motion with their legs. Yes! This band had it going on! Uh-oh! A few late moves by a few winds. Acceptable recovery, though. Their sound was mature, and movement seemed to define it. I love how this band continued to show me its strength. The second movement had a lush horn sound, and a crescendo that was perfect. Again, nice cut-off. These kids sure have been listening to their music teacher(s). Careful going through the battery, winds! Battery, help those winds out. The end of the show made a big impact musically, but not visually, and I am sure that fact will hold them back some. Despite this somewhat negative remark, I think their show was decent enough to put them in the middle of "the pack," which would be indeed a fine reward at this event.
My Score: 66.90
My Placement: 41st

Robert E. Lee High School
San Antonio, TX
Repertoire: "Reflections" based on David Gillingham's "With Heart and Voice"
Comments: (No Show)
My Score: N/A
My Placement: N/A

George Bush High School
Richmond, TX
Repertoire: "Chance for Peace" featuring selections by John Barnes Chance including "1st and 3rd Movements" from "Symphonic No. 2," "The Ballet" from "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" and "Finale" of "Variations on a Korean Folk Song"
Comments: Five vertical lines contained gold and dark blue clad wind players, while the auxiliary, in different parts of the outer portions of the field struck different poses. This band got off to a fantastic start, and kept the momentum. What a full sound from the low brass section! Again, there is that single-time marching with that double-time marching that is always impressive to watch when done right. The second movement had the pit playing "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" while the wind players stretched their arms to the heavens and watched it move. Then the winds got into some of the musical action. Okay trumpets, no bad, but a little "wavery" in the tone that makes you sound like you are nervous. What more can I write about "Variations" that I have not written before? It is a great work, but much too overplayed. This band, I think, does a better job with this piece than most. I like how they energized the end a bit.
My Score: 66.70
My Placement: 44th

Johnny G. Economedes High School
Edinburg, TX
Repertoire: "Spain: Reloaded"
Comments: This band had black backdrops with neon-like green letters and numbers, a la Matrix. The color guard had wild costumes, in fluorescent green and black stripes with 4-pointed hats. This band had no trouble getting into the music of their show. What is with the "Malaguena"? I thought this show was about "The Matrix"? Ah! I see. It is spanish-styled music with a twist of The Matrix. The electronics, right? Clever. Great sounw, and watch them jazz run almost effortlessly, and always good at giving something for us to look at. Alright! I like the techno beats, and the dancing was nuts! Great work, guys. The end of the second movement had the band on the ground and moving to an ensemble of wind players up front. The visual elements of this group were very well coordinated. Okay. Okaaay. Great way to end the second movement, with that bravo mello sound, yes. This band did not sound the best, but they sure seemed to move like the best. Neato! I love the zipping synth sound in the end with a crowd of band members dominoing towards the center.
My Score: 68.00
My Placement: 37th

James Bowie High School
Austin, TX
Repertoire: "Heavenly Bodies"
Comments: This band almost covered the whole perimeter of the field, with a line of winds shoulder-to-shoulder on the 35 yard line, Side A. One auxiliary member in gray and sparkling silver, carried a silver ball. And they are off! Many silver balls go bouncing onto the field. The middle brass and reeds carry out the central melody before all other become involved. Their exciting beginning includes a menacing low brass sound and straight lines (to an extent) during drill movement. Great visual work to start the second movement. One mellophone is out of phase in the drill, but when the drill gets moving again, who cares? These kids are great! Some of the "whole" drill formations are not as smooth as others. The third movement is a visual feast for the eyes, no doubt, with one sousaphone clicking his feet in the air. The legs look great on the field, especially during the crab-stepping. Holy smokes! We got mega line rotations going on. Great shrinking and expanding going on with the boxes, and the end really packs a punch! They were loud with a cause!
My Score: 82.00
My Placement: 19th

Judson High School
Converse, TX
Repertoire: "Linear Limits" an original work by Craig Turner, presented in four movements
Comments: Near the side A inzone were wind players standing in front of poles set in an "X" form. Other wind players had single poles. Before the show starts, those in front of the X's either kneel or extend their arms into the air like a "half X." Great mellophone solo as dance ensues. Lots of responsibilities for these kids, but they handled them well. The sound was just right. Make sure the shoulders do not move during direction changes, winds. The auxiliary have splendid moments in their half red half black spandex constumes, playing with the poles with ease, and preventing the poles from falling with their leg at one point. Okay, spacing alright in the third movement, but could be better. Little things make a big difference, like how straight the lines are, and how some individuals march. Zero in on the detail. Yeah, great show! The show ends with the guard sculpting themselves into one in the center of the field, and tearing down the house was the rest of the band with huge chords. Not a bad show, but a lack of "fine tuning" slowed them down.
My Score: 75.30
My Placement: 29th

Winston Churchill High School
San Antonio, TX
Repertoire: "TOXIC!" featuring the music of Stephen Melillo
Comments: What appeared to be a giant barrel (with the words, "Caution, Toxic, Hazardous") took the back field next to a high platform with three ramps. Up front there were more smaller barrels with biohazard warning symbols. The guard, in yellow like the barrels, have yellow poles. Neat snare drummer soloist who kicks the big barrel, and then a warning sound is issued. Fog comes out of the big barrel and a couple of the smaller barrels, indicating toxic gas is escaping. The music, which is far from being easy, is exerted. I like how the band brings down the pace, and in no time they are pushing the limits again. Some "iffy" drill moves, with a few wind players getting lost, but nice, nice recovery. The auxiliary really power up this show, with handling that rivals the best of them. Much of this music was indeed not new, because I was reminded of Center Grove's 1995 Grand National winning show, yet this was by far an "update," with a different theme. And just when you think it is over, it goes on, with inconspicuous music that becomes conspicuous. I love the clicking of the rifles as they twirled, one section of auxiliary at a time. The explosive ending of the show had rifles flying through the air and hitting the ground intentionally.
My Score: 86.90
My Placement: 7th

Spring High School
Spring, TX
Repertoire: "No Fear" featuring musical selections by Elliot Goldenthal, Danny Elfman and Mark Higginbotham including "Tachophobia, Chorophobia, Acrophobia, and Claustrophobia"
Comments: The Spring ban was not as ambition with the tarps as they were last year. (Gee, I wonder why?) Obviously, these tarps did not "get in the way" as much during their performance. A long, black tarp "trail" was used. Holy guacamole! These kids jazz run like maniacs, step size 4 to 5, while and ensemble of brass players go crazy near the pit. Soon the whole field breaks out into dance. Geez! This spasmatic beginning sure fools you, because the band calms things down with sheer joy. And this group does not step on the brake, no. They keep moving, and changing. Soon, long red flags are in the back field, and man, the percussion go wild, and so does the band, doing what seemed like a martial arts kick in the air as they lined up on the black tarps. Wow, what a sound. That cutoff during the ballad was as sweet as can be. Keep that upper body still, woodwinds. What an imaginative show. Their concept was controlled to the max. They did not extend themselves. They overextended themselves. This show was out-of-this-world. Red confetti was shot into the air as the band jazz runs back and forth and to the center of the field to nail this show. Great stuff!
My Score: 87.40
My Placement: 6th

Blue Valley West High School
Overland Park, KS
Repertoire: "October - The Music of Eric Whitacre" including "Ghost Train," "October" and "Noisy Wheels of Joy"
Comments: Black and white boxes were placed in specific spots around the field. In the far left portion of the field was what appeared to be an iron gate with the word "October" on it. A "sssh" was heard on the field as the winds lunged to the side and did a domino towards the direction they were lined up. So far, so good. The trumpets were a dominating force, but perhaps too dominating. Aye! The clarinet squeak was bad enough, but that line rotation needs to be happening. One of the boxes, by the way, had the number "31" on it, which was, coincidentally, today, of course. The slower movement of the show had guard members flipping over the other boxes, which had other days of the month. The sound here is warm. They soothed the soul with their sound. The battery percussion helped the auxiliary to flip around the boxes. Lovely ending, with the October gate opened for the guard and sound came to rest. Great work by the trumpet soloist. Okay, now, do not lose what you have going for you. It sounded as if the trumpets dragged. The sound from each horn was there, and not bad at all! For a school only a few years old, they sure had a lot going for them.
My Score: 67.10
My Placement: 39th

William Howard Taft High School
San Antonio, TX
Repertoire: The Music of Mark Waymire including "Object Potential," "Making Shapes," "Assembly Line," and "Wrapping it Up"
Comments: Outlines of cubes were placed in the outer areas of the field. Great synthesizer sound that initiated motion, seeming to "wake up" the wind players near ground level. This band had a nice, full sound some bands would die for. I kept glancing at the movement, which was, thus far, not overwhelming yet. The line rotations were fine, and the spacing throughout was fine. It is tough to tell what they were doing wrong and easy to tell what they were doing right, because of their attention to detail. The synth played a wholesome role in the ballad, and when the band came it with glorius sound and majestic flags with a dot of purple inside a body of yellow, I thought to myself, "What could go wrong?" Alright, I see that some of the movement has a major part of the assembly line movement. The wind players blew on their whistles, as the drumline nailed their feature, with the marching cymbal players carrying on with style. Splendid show, wrapped up neatly in a package. They had their moments, especially with a dance done by the winds to applaud, and some head/shako movement that worked.
My Score: 76.00
My Placement: 27th

Stephen F. Austin High School
Sugar Land, TX
Repertoire: "Other Dances..."
Comments: A black border hid some of the front sideline. The band, with winds in black, and guard in blue, assumed two formations: One multi-arc on the front left side of the field, and a block on the far right corner of the field. Jaw-droppinly beautiful music from the brass aimed towards the block was pulled off without a hitch. The auxiliary rocked without any "tools," which was new to me. Oh my goodness, you have to listen to this A+ concert band on the field that moved like a bat out of hell! The brass then played backfield, allowing the woodwinds to do their thing, which was wonderful. This show sparkled. What else can I write? A trumpet on one side of the field is echoed by another trumpet. I was almost lifed off into their air by their music. Yes, it was that good. This band was like textbook perfect, with of course a minor, minor scratch here and there. Now, the "game" could only be decided by the most inventive, I guess. These kids pretty much covered everything, except insane drill at the end. But the need to do insane drill was somehow muted by the insane music.
My Score: 88.7
My Placement: 3rd

Mayfield High School
Las Cruces, NM
Repertoire: "Pampeana No. 3, Mvt. 2," "Impetousamente" by A. Ginastera and "Inspiration" by Jan de Haan
Comments: The musicians, in all black except for their glittery gold sash and gauntlets (and a hint of green) toop the field with great poise. Most of the winds were in a giant "X" formation. An ensemble of mellophones called the "X" to action, with movement that had grace. I like how the people in the "X" go to the center and are "squeezed" out from the sides. Nice, nice, nice. They were almost like one machine when they performed. The two blocks that made use of the body could not be much better. Yeah, there were some lines that when converged did not "click," but man, these kids threw their name into the hat to be near the top. Wow. Mayfield came to play. They worked each block form they got themselves in. I like, how, at one point, they situated themselves on the ground while soloists do the prime work. Alright, when the field is covered with a form, there are some spatial issues, but not many. Awesome. They end their show with something you do not see too often, which was pinwheel parts of a company front and then a snaking sideways "V" into diagonal lines. Beautiful work, guys.
My Score: 83.00
My Placement: 15th

Loveland High School
Loveland, CO
Repertoire: "The Loom of Clothos" featuring "Atmadja and Incantation" by Jutras Benoit, "Let Me Fall" by Corcoran James Ashley and Jutras Benoit and "Ninkou Latora" by Corradi Violaine
Comments: White pillars that seemed to reflect Roman times set the stage for this band. The wind players near the pillars assumed different poses at the signal of the drum major. A few trumpets came in early at the start of sound. Not a bad sound from the whole, especially when they got comfortable with it. These kids were visual aces. I like the combo vocal and clarinet sound. Way to get the music to echo the moves, wind players. Trumpet player, you know who you are...bring that horn down in unison so it does not stick out. They had me mesmerized with their sound. Okay, feet were everywhere in the last movement. I could tell there were a few more difficulties, now. Way to keep the show energized, everyone, from the changing colors in the backfield with the drapes, to the forms that always seemed to go where they go with confidence. Whether it be breaking lines, or backwards motion, these kids were on it!
My Score: 82.40
My Placement: 17th

Ronald Reagan High School
San Antonio, TX
Repertoire: "Beyond Perimeters" featuring original music by Aaron Guidry
Comments: In a giant "X" formation, with the front portion facing direction of form forward and the back portion facing the direction of form backward. A ripple of wind players go towards the center of the "X" with movement initiated by a soloist at each point. I love it! These kids are the true magicians of maneuvers, doing a cross that collapses until the lines dangerously intersected go through each other. The woodwinds prove they can play, and play very, very well. This band keeps changing things up, like they are masters of control. Well, they are! The end of the first movement has you ready to stand up and cheer. A move that reflects last year's show has wind players in a circular mass that bows down to the center where the trumpet plays, this ballad is rocking. The synthesizer starts the next movement, which gave me chills. I love the futuristic synth sound. That synth player plays with passion, too. Ah yes. The hot pink plumes. I had a smile on my face the whole time. did you see that block "jammer" drill near the end? Picture perfect ending, picture perfect ending.
My Score: 90.70
My Placement: 1st

Calallen High School
Corpus Christi, TX
Repertoire: (Not Listed)
Comments: In almost all black, with a diagonal stripe of gold buttons and some white above it with a "C" at the chest, these musicians took the field. They were accompanied by an auxiliary in bright red costume. The first formations of the group was linear near the center, but scattered in outlying areas. This group had a clear sound that had nice low brass support. Okay sousaphones up front, you guys stick out like a sore thumb so you had better be good. Not bad, although I saw some late turn-arounds and dirty feet. Super pop of the horns to the box after that movement that was on the ball. Keep this positive thing happening! Great control of sound that varied. The strumming of the electric guitar gives us that sound of impending doom. Alright, band. Now trumpets do not force that sound too, too much. Be delicate, here! Not bad. Superior build of notes coming into those vertical rotating lines. The multiple rotating boxes, and then the criss-crossing lines were exceptional. This show was strong in numerous areas, but most noticeably in their presence.
My Score: 69.10
My Placement: 33rd

United High School
Laredo, TX
Repertorie: "In the Spring when Kings go off to War" by David Holsinger
Comments: This brigade of orange took the field with pictures of coat of arms on fabric. The synthesizer gives me goose bumps while the band is singing. Some members are lying down on the field on their backs, while others stroll around. The opening left some to be desired. Woodwinds, great technical expertise, and of course brass you are taking this band to the level it needs to be at. Line twisting at the end of the first movement was not as smoothed out as I would like it to have been, but given the rest of the movement was right on, I was quite, quite pleased. The ballad had superb zing. They did not overdo it at all. The bell players in medieval costume up front had their music mastered. Alright, exciting, exciting progression in to crown form, although I think the crown was not as defined as it could be. Excellent! Everyone sang at the end while the synth added the color it needed to add, and in the end the wind players were on their backs, which was, perhaps, the aftermath of war? This show was tightly knit together.
My Score: 68.20
My Placement: 36th

Rio Grande High School
Rio Grande City, TX
Repertoire: "Medusa" by Key Poulan
Comments: Alright, the almost complete rectangular stage set by the winds looked splendid. The initial movement caught my eyes. Job well done getting those forms to touch from side to side and making that sound excel. The think the jazz running was spotless. For the most part, great spatial awareness. I did not see the exacto "clicks" in starts and stops, and horn snaps. You guys need to be more sure of yourselves in regards to that. Okay, saxophones coming around in the second movement, smooth that out. The musical execution was there, but en masse sound was not as strong as I had hoped for. Where were the tubas? Tubas project, tubas project. I guess more air support is needed. At times, the percussion seemed too overpowering. Shoulder to shoulder trumpets, get that looking cleaner. Okay! An ending that succeeds. This was a show that had the right stuff, but it did not seem to connect with audience too well. One of the shows that "could have been..." But not at all a failed attempt. Keep up the great work, and always focus on getting better.
My Score: 63.50
My Placement: 49th

Cypress Falls High School
Houston, TX
Repertoire: "Circuits" by Key Poulan
Comments: Two large backdrops created an entryway, and black tarps were arranged in different patterns on the field. An electronic voice that says, "Initiating Power Sequence," is heard from the pit. I love the unending sound that goes up and up and up! Neat "unspooling" of the color guard from a giant "cable" wheel that rolled onto the field. The audience gasped at this sightly sight. The electronic sound at the end of the marvelous first movement, got this band in gear. And the auxiliary was spectacular. I love the dance with scratch board sound tricks. The thrill of the wind players jumping up and down in a sequence was neat, too. This show was far from perfectr. There were a few big deal spatial issues, but man, these kids got you absorbed into this show. An inventive rubber band "circuitry" board was stretched when the straight line of winds went side to side. And finally, into multiple V's, and then the "power down," as the sound effect of shortage occurs, and the winds fall to the turf.
My Score: 84.40
My Placement: 12th

Keller High School
Keller, TX
Repertoire: "Stars" including "Belshazzaar's Fears" by William Walton and "The Humming Chorus" from Sergei Prokofiev's "Ivan the Terrible"
Comments: A mass star formation was created by the winds, with a circle of flags around it. The music players wore black, with a band of gold below a patch of blue on the chest. The guard wore all blue costumes of fuzz. Bells are ringing, and so are the notes from this fine band! The full brass sound fills up the dome with no problem at all. Okay, some sloppiness in the criss-crossing lines. Ha ha! Alright, I already knew I was in the heart of Texas, but you reminded me with bravura. Great work! I love that line-squeezing move! And okay diamond at the end of that first movement, although it seems some of the band was not made room for near the points. The music at the standstill was grand, and emotional, too. I would prefer more movement at times, especially near the slower sections. The shooting star, which looked like a thin long line of paper, was an awesome effect. The percussion feature had all the movement I longed for. Early movement by a trombone player, but a nice recovery, I might add. The jazz running was there, but some lines were skewed. This show ended with pizzaz. Very strong, all-around.
My Score: 81.80
My Placement: 20th

San Benito High School
San Benito, TX
Repertoire: (Not Listed)
Comments: (No Show)
My Score: N/A
My Placement: N/A

Westfield High School
Houston, TX
Repertoire: "Because We Are..." including "Virtuosity," "Style," "Rhythm," "Color" and "Creativity"
Comments: Wow! What a stunning first impression! The wind players were doing ballet type move coming onto the field. I heard someone behind me comment that it was like "the yoga warm-up for band." Ha ha! Indeed it was. The prerecorded background music for the band was great. Geez, this was like a show before the show. The pit was somewhat enclosed behind black backdrops around the front right portion of the 50 yard line. The sections seem to "identify" themselves with what I think was prerecorded sound. (For example, one person says, "We are the brass," and another says, "We are the woodwinds," etcetera.) Okay, be careful going at one tempo of marching and then going into another. Wow! I low brass was so loud at times I could hear a severe buzz. I absolutely love the bassoon ensemble on top of the black backdrops behind the pit, rocking with their sound, and also looking like they were playing an electric guitar. Super effect! What a dynamite show, that had your eyes wandering the whole time. These guys had the touch. The chorus in the pit with the woodwind soli had me in awe. Woodwinds mark time in one segment, and I would question if it is as effective as a halt. Oh yeah, baby. Oh yeah. What a supremely dramatic show.
My Score: 88.30
My Placement: 4th

Fossil Ridge High School
Keller, TX
Repertoire: "On the Edge" by Mark Higginbotham
Comments: The auxiliary, with tops of red and bottoms of purple, assumed an "S" form, while most of the marching members were in a circular pod. The synthesizer makes this show a little more "sci-fi" than the rest. They had electronic drums. What a feast for the eyes they put on for us in the first few moments of their show! Their uniforms, all black, could use a little more color, but hey, that is just me, and plus their show was strong enough as it was without my comments on color. One flute bit the dust, but recovered well. Double-tonguing was precise, and man...this is one of my favorite percussion features of all time! Talk about cutting edge! This is why I love marching band! Oh give me a break...these kids were unbelievable! I could not wipe the smile off of my face after that incredible drum break. The second movement was great. Period. The third movement had a little bit of everything, including a super tuba rhythm. When this show was over, I wanted to see it again.
My Score: 87.00
My Placement: 8th

***End of Part 1***

Alan Irons
Fountain Valley High School Marching Band 1993-1996
Pacific Crest of Diamond Bar 1997
Nashua Spartans 1998-1999
UCSB Class of 2002

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