Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

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Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by airons0678 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:26 pm


Bands of America Regional Championships presented by YAMAHA
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA
October 22, 2016

I had been looking forward to this show for a while. One of the things that excites me the most about BOA shows is the DIVERSITY of the bands that go. Here we had a nice slice of northern California, mixed with some Nevada and southern California. Another thing that caught my eye: the attendance of what could be argued as the best bands of northern and central California, namely Logan, Clovis West, Saratoga, and Homestead. Amazingly, Clovis West, Saratoga, and Homestead are all attending the BOA regional in southern California next week, and with these bands potentially being in the top three here in San Jose, it could be quite the match-up against the best of southern California, which includes Ayala and Vista Murrieta. Could we have an unofficial state championships on our hands? I believe so. I think that Ayala is unbeatable in southern California, currently, even with the top-ranked SCSBOA bands. And Logan/Clovis West/Saratoga/Homestead are the cream of the crop when it comes to central/northern California.

It could not be more picture-perfect. The weather was comfortable; the stadium was amazing, being a cement bowl with no track (think Santa Ana Bowl or CSUF's Titan Stadium, with Silicon Valley's pine trees and the like for beauty) "capturing" the music, and showcasing the units so marvelously; and there was a sense one of the bands performing would "break through" as the underdog, getting a chance to perform in finals, perhaps being a "strictly daylight" band thrust into the night spotlight. I love it. I love that at Bands of America there is no band size, no school size (until prelims awards), no discrimination based on where your bands is from or what kind of band you have. The prelims order has no rhyme to it, nor reason. If your band performs first, they have just as much of a shot at making finals as the band that goes on last. I love that BOA events are more than just a competition, but a showcase for the parents, directors, and kids in the band. I think of BOA shows as sort of a "research" lab. Lots of band directors use BOA to gauge their school's performance on the national level, and to excel at the local and regional level. The sportsmanship, the emphasis on music education, the focus on's all there.

Well, it has been a long time since I wrote a review and "published" it on the World of Pageantry forums, or any other forum. This is my intent: to give you a peek at what I saw with my own eyes. My impressions, of course, are not the impressions of an actual judge--even though for the past 20+ years I have seen hundreds of band shows at the national level--but rather as a spectator with a blank slate--or accurately, a "knowledgeable spectator." Strictly for fun and personal amusement, I have assigned scores and ranked the bands according to my preference, keeping in mind BOA standards leaning heavily towards General Effect (music and visual). I share this with you to give you a different take on the performances, so you have the BOA professionals' take on the shows, and Alan Irons' take, and you may choose to agree or disagree with either. A little background on how I score the bands: I assign a number immediately after the performance of the band, and do not change it. I then use a grid spread sheet drawn in a notebook to rank the groups as the day progresses. I do not change my scores or rankings once I write them down, to be fair. If my score is close to the actual score, or is the same as the actual score, it's purely a coincidence. (Nothing more.) You might find what I write about some groups to be more critical than normal, or negative even, and you would be right. I try to find something positive about each group I rate, even if it is at a "drive-by" pace. However, I feel that if you choose to be in the national spotlight, you choose to be evaluated as such based on comparisons. More than anything, however, I want all the groups that come to a BOA event to have the best show of their lives, regardless of what KIND of show they have. Ultimately, I hope they get an educational experience out of this, and improve for "next time." I'm pumped to have the opportunity to come to a show like this and have the honor and priviledge of witnessing the pageantry, and hopefully sharing it with you in an accurate, unbiased manner.


Independence H.S.
San Jose, CA
Repertoire: "Gettysburg," "The Third Day" by Jay Dawson and "The Battle" from Gladiator by Hans Zimmer
Comments: Nice element of mystery, with the thud of the concert bass, and a dive roll by the winds. Steady air stream was not there by all the winds. Loved the few blind pass-throughs in the drill. The high brass performed. Variance, from left to right, plagued the performers, whether it be step-size, stick height, or flag synchronization. There were big hiccups, too--one being a saxophone squeak that made some in the stands gasp. The overall presentation registered moderately.
My Score: 54.30
My Placement: 19th
Actual Score: 59.90
Actual Placement: 18th

The King's Academy
Sunnyvale, CA
Repertoire: "Anchors Aweigh: An Ocean Voyage," featuring "The Journey Begins," "Dance of Light," and "The Storm" by Jesse Marlin
Comments: In the rear center of the field were backdrops arranged to make one beautiful photographic image depicting a mixed element of sunshine and lightning over the ocean. For such a small band, what great, charismatic introduction. Wonderful sax solo that you could swim to. Wow, this was a show chock full of visuals. I think the pit was overamplified, unfortunately. Well done, drummers (and saxes that doubled as rifles). Spiral toilet flush move to the final expanse was strong, but brief.
My Score: 62.10
My Placement: 14th
Actual Score: 67.80
Actual Placement: 11th

Westmont H.S.
Campbell, CA
Repertoire: "Pandora's Box," including "Raein" by Olafur Arnalds, "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky, "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, and "Pandora's Box" by Jeff Chambers
Comments: The pre-show visuals connect well. Well done, expressive auxiliary. Pretty solid music, with nice full sound that did not taper off. The marching made me cringe. However, individually, especially musically, there were "glimmers of great." They had just one tuba player, but he packed a punch. The guard, I felt, was underused. Utilize, utilize, utilize! (They perform well when the perform. Use them!) Well that was a show. The concept was scattered, not focused, and incomplete overall.
My Score: 60.00
My Placement: 17th
Actual Score: 60.85
Actual Placement: 17th

Ann Sobrato H.S.
Morgan Hill, CA
Repertoire: "Perseus and Andromeda"
Comments: Rock steady beginning...perhaps too steady? (Safe.) One trumpet player fell down and did not recover as smoothly as I would have hoped. In fact, it looked like he cared little. Each section in the band seemed to own a piece of the show. Not everyone did their part. Aesthetically, they were okay. They have to do more than just play through the notes. It seemed an effort for this band to make it to the end. This was a lethargic performance.
My Score: 58.80
My Placement: 18th
Actual Score: 58.25
Actual Placement: 19th

Los Gatos H.S.
Los Gatos, CA
Repertoire: "Westward I Go Free," including "The Promise of Living" by Aaron Copland, "The Red Pony" by Aaron Copland, "Future Markets" by Jonny Greenwood, and "We Go On" by Gavin Greenway
Comments: Solid thematic flow, as performers drift from east to west. Interferance from the drums to muddy the line of thought...was certainly apparent. Overall: relatively uniform! A trombone player halted with feet not together, frozen in mid-march, and you could see it in his face all the way from here. The concert tuba player sitting on the sideline excelled. There was not much "oomph" from the invisible auxiliary, with just two of them and in the beigest of beige costumes.
My Score: 60.90
My Placement: 16th
Actual Score: 63.40
Actual Placement: 13th

Covina H.S.
Covina, CA
Repertoire: "Daredevil" by Frank Sullivan
Comments: There was quite a long delay after this group was announced into competition. They appeared to be sorting out some internal electronics issues. I sensed a lack of confidence, and heard timing inconsistencies right off the bat. I appreciated the ambitious program, however. Wow, nice saber catch! There was moderate improvement as time passed on. Outstanding arm motions at the start of the second movement. Creative electronics melody--nice. (That added flavor.) Ha! They were scrappy, no doubt. They JUST pulled it off. It was an effects-heavy show, but in heart but fell short in excellence.
My Score: 63.00
My Placement: 13th
Actual Score: 63.20
Actual Placement: 14th

Leigh H.S.
San Jose, CA
Repertoire: "The Mind of an Artist," including "The Inspiration" from What Dreams May Come, "The Block" from Serenada Schizophrana Mvt. I Pianos, and "The Epiphany" from "What Dreams May Come" featuring the music of Michael Kamen and Danny Elfman
Comments: Amazing soprano saxophone soloist wailing well, and a lift of one of the wind players, visually, to top it all off. Sweet moment. Live a wave, they roared, crashed, and then went at ease. Yes! Powerful! The battery was on point. I felt the aggression. I spotted individual inconsistencies, but as an ensemble, not bad. The end was abrupt. I was on the edge of my seat, and then...plop. Over.
My Score: 63.90
My Placement: 9th
Actual Score: 60.90
Actual Placement: 16th

Fremont H.S.
Sunnyvale, CA
Repertoire: "How I Wonder...," by Michael Pote, "1. Opening," "2. Shooting Stars," "3. Looking Up," and "4. Gravity"
Comments: Way to set the tone, pit. Smooth transition from direction-less drill to drill that made sense. The "star" platform prop that moved with the star performer on top, and then the drill extending from the "points," was great. The shrinking and expanding guard props and the brass ensemble--some "star-gazing"--was stellar. Variance in intervals, side-to-side, was evident. Strong clarity, musicianship-wise. On the whole? Mostly average.
My Score: 63.40
My Placement: 12th
Actual Score: 64.65
Actual Placement: 12th

Santa Teresa H.S.
San Jose, CA
Repertoire: Peter Gynt "Morning Mood" by Edvard Grieg, "Farandole" by Bizet, "Symphony No. 7, Mvt. 2" by Beethoven, "Symphony No. 9" by Dvorak, and "Simple Gifts" (Traditional)
Comments: Snap, crackle, pop from the plugged-in pit. The narration was hard to make out. Whoa! That yellow rifle tossed high was caught-but-not-caught-well. So-so melodic start. Why so harsh, trumpets? Challenging stuff! The expanse to condensed drill was neat. Nice lift in the rear of that formation. Hmmm, that tune was taken too fast and it was too mechanical. More expression, please. They seemed so by the numbers. Big, full sound. But where was the spice? The sizzle?
My Score: 61.50
My Placement: 15th
Actual Score: 68.00
Actual Placement: 10th

Live Oak H.S.
Morgan Hill, CA
Repertoire: "Leap of Faith," including "Leap of Faith" Composed by Rob Stein, "Lacriomsa" from Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor, "Prelude to Paradise" by Jacob Remmington, and "Fly to Paradise" by Eric Whitacre
Comments: Magnificent display of discipline, musicianship, and finesse. The synths were tuned up and the accoustical was right on. The trampoline props provided a nice feast for the eyes, and utilized well. This group had one of the best sounds of the day. This group seemed to float out there! The edge of their show nearly crumbled, but what they lacked in execution they more than made up for in raw, uncompromised power.
My Score: 69.40
My Placement: 8th
Actual Score: 71.15
Actual Placement: 8th

Lynbrook H.S.
San Jose, CA
Repertoire: "Conquer the Dark," including "Lullaby" by Johannes Brahms, "Dies Irae" by Guiseppe Verdi, "Requiem" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, "I Believe" by Katy Perry, and "Fly to Paradise" by Eric Whitacre
Comments: Before the show started, someone in the band--I could not tell who--tossed a mellophone 20 yards towards the side-B end zone, smashing it. The audience gasped in horror. I sure hope that instrument was already broken, ha ha! Wow. I've never seen such a bold act. Excellent theatrics. Things got dark, then darker. The emo guard lead was rockin'! Nice rifle catch on top of that bed prop. Way to mix it up with that muted trumpet soli. This group had so many good things going for them that all the flaws got overshadowed. Oh, there were flaws, but besides those these guys were like a non-stop caffeine hit.
My Score: 72.90
My Placement: 7th
Actual Score: 74.20
Actual Placement: 7th

William S. Hart H.S.
Newhall, CA
Repertoire: "Bittersweet Symphony," music includes "5 and 9 Symphony" by Beethoven, "New World Symphony" by Dvorak, and "Little Fugue in G" by Bach
Comments: Aaah, I love it. The "Bittersweet Symphony" theme came out amongst a field of motion, timed perfect. Hart does music perfect...or as close to it as you can imagine. The extended leg visual, accented by the sounds? Glorious. I like the flute/clarinet stringed bow visual. Exit ensemble sound to synth piano, complete. These kids were the real deal. Complete package. And goodness, drumline. Kudos, kudos, kudos.
My Score: 76.80
My Placement: 3rd
Actual Score: 77.35
Actual Placement: 5th

Homestead H.S.
Cupertino, CA
Repertoire: "Zero," including "Overture" by Bjork, "Symphony No. 5 Movements II and IV" by Sergei Rachmaninov, "Winter" from the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, and "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber
Comments: They portrayed "cold" quite well. A concert horn solo amplified near the 30 in front of white pyramid backdrops was executed well. They did not lack in volume, but they did not seem to align the notes to hit the target. That accelerando was hard to pull off, but they did fairly well. Like their icicle-like props, this show was jagged, schizophrenic. I felt the loud, overwhelming swells in the pit were a distraction more than anything, and unnecessary. Delicately times hula hoop toss to roll to stop, right with the music, the hoop, no doubt, representing a zero.
My Score: 74.70
My Placement: 6th
Actual Score: 77.40
Actual Placement: 4th

Damonte Ranch H.S.
Reno, NV
Repertoire: "Seeing Red," including "Medea's Dance of Vengeance," "This is Your Day," and "Tapestry of Nations: Chaos"
Comments: The amplified mellophone soloist came in and out and there seemed to be some tuning issues. There were some weird problems, such as one person who seemed completely out of place in the drill, and horn snaps that were not in unison (bu may have been done purposely?). The six-man concert horn feature up front was timid, with only two players, it seemed, really delivering. This group limped along.
My Score: 63.50
My Placement: 10th
Actual Score: 68.40
Actual Placement: 9th

Valley Christian H.S.
San Jose, CA
Repertoire: "Secret Agent Man," including "Mission Impossible" by Lalo Shifrin, "Navras" by Ben Watkins & Don Davis, "Nessun Dorma" by Giacomo Puccini, and "Neo Dammerung" by Don Davis
Comments: They sprung into action. They had energy, but boy were they sloppy. They had a fun "secret agent" theme, with one of the tuba players--and actually I found out later that he was a jack-of-many-trades--on a cell phone "receiving instructions," no doubt. I just heard drums, drums, drums, and blaring trumpets. I almost wanted earplugs. What was their intent? To excite? Or annoy? Interesting that they had people in the band filing the band with video cameras--at least three of them. Was this part of the show or were they really being filmed? Their presentation was child-like. Interpret that as you see fit.
My Score: 63.80
My Placement: 11th
Actual Score: 62.45
Actual Placement: 15th

Amador Valley H.S.
Pleasanton, CA
Repertoire: "The Garden" featuring "The Colony" from Antz by Harry D. Gregson-Williams and John James Powell, "City Trees" by Miochael Markowski, "Sabre Dance" by Aram Khachaturian, "The Bird Flies" by Randy Newman
Comments: Giant sunflower and white picket fence props took the field with a sea of purple. Exaggerated arm-pumping marching, and whimsical musicality take center stage. It did not take much for them to belt out that sound. A moment of awe was when they all came up front in a mass rectangular form to blow out the eardrums...and so nice! With the more technical passages, some things got lost in translation. There were sprinkles of creativity here and there, but nothing too remarkable or noteworthy.
My Score: 75.00
My Placement: 5th
Actual Score: 75.25
Actual Placement: 6th

Clovis West H.S.
Fresno, CA
Repertoire: "Rhapsody," featuring "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in Concert C-sharp minor" by Franz Liszt
Comments: They had an actual piano on the field, amplified, and on a big platform that was on the 50. A Liberace type soloist pounds the keys. Great whip-crack of breath pause-and-play! The restrained elegance, the unleashed energy...this balance was so key, and they were killer here. Mmm, now that was a warm low brass sound. They took what some would know as the theme from "Roger Rabbit" and kicked it up a notch with flair. Unbelievable performance!
My Score: 76.40
My Placement: 4th
Actual Score: 81.80
Actual Placement: 1st

James Logan H.S.
Union City, CA
Repertoire: [Not Listed in the program, but after some research, it's "The Secret Life of Sir Isaac Newton," with what sounded like some Philip Glass music]
Comments: Massive hard cover books littered the field, contrasting nicely with the organized block of wind players, staged left. Very creative, different poses were struck, followed by en-masse movement while held in these poses. (First I've seen of that!) The frantic woodwind feature worked, I felt, despite a glitch here or there, musically and visually. The guard is the best in the biz. You cannot deny the relentlessness of "looming" Logan.
My Score: 79.00
My Placement: 1st
Actual Score: 78.45
Actual Placement: 3rd

Saratoga H.S.
Saratoga, CA
Repertoire: "En Garde," including "Sleeping Beauty Waltz" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky," "Piano Concerto No. 2" by Sergei Rachmaninoff, original music by Frank Sullivan
Comments: The mirroring visuals were crisp, clear. The first entrance was subdued, but fine. Some rotating block forms were crooked, line by line, and some visuals were missed or not quite in the pocket. The auxiliary danced gracefully. The sound was luxurious at points. The mellophones were well trained. Awesome show.
My Score: 78.50
My Placement: 2nd
Actual Score: 81.45
Actual Placement: 2nd

[End of Prelims Performances]

>>>Actual Prelims Results:

1st - The King's Academy, CA

Visual - The King's Academy, CA
G.E. - The King's Academy, CA
Music - The King's Academy, CA

1st - Saratoga H.S., CA
2nd - Live Oak H.S., CA
3rd - Covina H.S., CA

Visual - Saratoga H.S., CA
G.E. - Saratoga H.S., CA
Music - Saratoga H.S., CA

1st - Clovis West H.S., CA
2nd - Lynbrook H.S., CA
3rd - Damonte Ranch H.S., NV

Visual - Clovis West H.S., CA
G.E. - Clovis West H.S., CA
Music - Clovis West H.S., CA

1st - James Logan H.S., CA
2nd - Homestead H.S., CA
3rd - William S. Hart H.S., CA

Visual - James Logan H.S., CA
G.E. - James Logan H.S., CA
Music - Homestead H.S., CA

>>>My Top Ten Bands in Finals (Random Order):
Lynbrook H.S., CA
Clovis West H.S., CA
Leigh H.S., CA
James Logan H.S., CA
Saratoga H.S., CA
Live Oak H.S., CA
Amador Valley H.S., CA
Homestead H.S., CA
Damonte Ranch H.S., NV
William S. Hart H.S., CA

>>>Actual Top Ten Bands in Finals (Random Order, as Announced):
Damonte Ranch H.S., NV
Amador Valley H.S., CA
Saratoga H.S., CA
William S. Hart H.S., CA
Homestead H.S., CA
Live Oak H.S., CA
Clovis West H.S., CA
James Logan H.S., CA
Lynbrook H.S., CA
Santa Teresa H.S., CA

Post-prelims Thoughts:
I loved the faces of the drum majors from Live Oak and Santa Teresa when they found out they made finals. They were thrilled, truly.

As the day went on, an older gentleman asked me what I was doing, and if I was a band director. I told him that I wasn't, and then asked him which group he was supporting. It turns out he was just a fan, and the former band director at Oxnard High School! I asked him what he thought of the shows, and he said he was disappointed that a lot of the bands played tunes that were not memorable, nor engaged the audience. Back in his day (1970's, 1980's) bands played recognizable tunes, and I can see how that would be a benefit. However, I think he knew that the art has "evolved," though I think there *is* room for more nostalgia. I'm not sure what that would look like in the modern, competitive arena, though. Certainly, some things would have to stay in place to keep the culture, aesthetic firmly in their slots. But then again, I could be wrong. There's just not a lot of that these days, particularly on this type of stage.

Some facts and figures:
1) Live Oak won the first BOA (then MBA) Grand National Championships in 1976. They are also the only CA band to accomplish this to date.
2) King's Academy was the smallest school, and likely the smallest band in the competition, and they took 11th place--one spot from finals! (They reminded me of Jackson Academy, with more CA style.)
3) Clovis West's director and his kids came into the stadium to watch Live Oak perform, and were well behaved, and applauded, which I thought was incredibly classy. They probably came in to scope out the field, too, which is smart. (I noticed Damonte Ranch did that, too.)
4) It turns out the mellophone that was chucked into the air by Lynbrook, thus crumpling it, was an already damaged, unusable instrument. One of the kids from the band was talking to a parent in the stands, and said they did that for shock value. It worked!
5) Security was lax at this stadium, which was nice, but kind of scary. I noticed some CSC Event Staff playing cards underneath the side bleachers as I was walking to the stadium. Wha-what? (I guess they were just there to make sure the doors were unlocked?)

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed.

Alan Irons

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Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by Biola » Sun Oct 23, 2016 10:50 pm

Thanks for the review! I always appreciate a good from the stands breakdown.

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Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by Biola » Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:05 pm

What do you think the chances of the three CA bands (Ayala, Clovis West, Vista Murrieta) going to grand nationals this year have of making it to semi-finals or finals.

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Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by airons0678 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:18 pm

Biola wrote:What do you think the chances of the three CA bands (Ayala, Clovis West, Vista Murrieta) going to grand nationals this year have of making it to semi-finals or finals.
I think I will have a much better idea after the Long Beach regional. (I've not seen Ayala or Vista Murrieta, yet.) However, from what I saw at San Jose, as good as Clovis West was, I think they will easily be a semi-finalist, but likely not a finalist. Two things come to mind: 1) their score for mid-to-late October regional was quite low. Some bands have reached well into the 80's or even 90's by now at other BOA contests. Much of this has to do with the fact that bands simply start sooner in the east. But oftentimes scores really do reflect the regional "quality." 2) I've seen lots of shows of CW's quality at GN. Sad to say, pretty soon they all start to look the same. What constitutes a finals band versus a semi-finals band is difference between performance excellence, and excellence of the highest, highest degree. I've seen finalist-level GN bands not make finals. To even crack the top 15-20 would be an achievement.

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Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by Hostrauser » Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:40 pm


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Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by Fremont Firebird » Fri Oct 28, 2016 2:18 am

Alan, my staff and I enjoyed your candid review regarding our band. You were spot on in your critique. It is neat to see what a "fan" of the activity thinks of the groups. Thanks for sharing.
Joe Kelly
Instrumental Music, Fremont High School
Sunnyvale, Ca.

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Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA San Jose PRELIMS

Post by airons0678 » Fri Oct 28, 2016 8:24 am

Fremont Firebird wrote:Alan, my staff and I enjoyed your candid review regarding our band. You were spot on in your critique. It is neat to see what a "fan" of the activity thinks of the groups. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Joe,

Thanks for the feedback! Congratulations to your staff and the kids on a great show. Best wishes on the rest of the season, and I hope to see you guys back next year even better.


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