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Marching Band makes School History

Isabella Eslick, News Editor

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For the first time in school history, the marching band earned a competitive spot in finals at the Bands of America (BOA) St. Louis Super Regional held at the the Dome at America’s Center on Oct. 20 and 21.

Band director Joe Padawan said making finals is something the band has been striving to achieve for several years.

“This was a goal for the program well before I took this job,” Padawan said. “When I took this job, I was picking up the baton from a phenomenal director before me who moved this program absolutely in the right direction. It was his goal and that group’s goal then to be a super regional finalist and hopefully eventually a Grand national semifinalist. To have finally achieved that goal is probably one of the most satisfying and exciting things I’ve experienced as a band director.”

The top 14 scores out of 66 bands from a span of 11 states in prelims are awarded a place in finals. The Falcons, with their 2017 show entitled “On Strings of Silk,” finished fourth in class AA and 14th overall in prelims by a slim


margin of 0.15 points over Blue Valley West from Overland Park, KS. Junior Ethan Budge said he was satisfied with the band’s prelims performance, but not finishing in the top three in class was worrisome.

“Effort wise, we did a lot better. On average, this band was more committed to performing than we have been in previous years. Thinking that it was going to be our last show of the year, I felt really proud of the band and that we left it all on the field,” Budge said. “Not placing in class was rough, though. I whispered to Beth [Wisbey] ‘we’re screwed’ once I heard it especially since other good bands like Fort Zumwalt North didn’t place in class either. It was definitely nerve wracking.”

After all 66 bands performed, prelims retreat, also known as the awards ceremony, was held to announce class placements and the 14 bands competing in finals. The finalists were announced in random order; the Falcons were the ninth band called. Senior Natalie Vincent said sitting through retreat almost felt like a habit to her and many others.

“It was like going through the motions of the past four years. You’re sitting in the stands with your friends and it’s super quiet because you’re waiting to hear whether Rockwood Summit’s called or not. You’re kind of thinking ‘now they’re going through finals.’ It was really mellow and no one was expecting much,” Vincent said.

Senior Beth Wisbey said making finals was surprising and it affected her immensely.

“Especially since we didn’t place in class, I was not expecting to get in. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor. My hands started tingling from the adrenaline rush and I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. I remember being completely elated and still a little shocked. It didn’t sink in until about ten minutes afterward,” Wisbey said.

For finals, the band had to prepare to face a much larger audience than they had previously performed for. Padawan said the key to success was not getting too excited and carrying themselves in a professional manner like the bands who often make finals do.

“Every moment that led up to that performance was how it should have been. The warm up situation was excellent. Everybody was focused. No one seemed like they were overhyped or nervous because they’d never been there before. You have to act like you belong because you do,” Padawan said.

Vincent said the atmosphere of finals is something she has always dreamed of and will never forget.

“It felt more intense. We were with schools that it’s their standard to be in finals. It took me back to sophomore year when we were doing our BOA practice run at Summit and Mrs. Long who was still with us was announcing over the speakers. She was saying ‘Rockwood Summit High School in finals performance’ and everyone kind of chuckled. Standing there on the field watching Beth and hearing that actual announcement was pretty amazing,” Vincent said.

The band’s score increased after their finals performance and caused them to jump ahead of two more bands that had previously beaten them. The Falcons finished 12th in finals even though they were competing against bands much greater in size, Padawan said.

“We’re the smallest band by far here even though we had a great performance. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. To take 12th really meant a lot because it meant that not only did we belong there but we earned our way there and certainly had a better performance and then were rewarded for that,” Padawan said.

One of the differences between prelims and finals is how retreat is run. In prelims, only drum majors go to retreat; however, the entire band goes to retreat in finals. Budge said being mixed in with other finalists was amazing.

“It was cool to be able to stand there with people that we always look up to as a marching band. Bands that we normally think we can never achieve near the range of and do as well as, we finally get to stand on the field with them. Overall, it was a lot of people not knowing where we were from and it felt good to finally have us as a band on the map. Now other bands can know where we are and what we can do,” Budge said.

Before the season started, the band directors announced that the summer schedule would be changing to three mini camps throughout the summer before band camp instead of two rehearsals every week like they had done in the past.

Padawan said he feels this is reason for the band’s success this year because of how affected the band’s rehearsal etiquette.

“Having more time at once with the group and having more time off in between really helped us out. You get more bang for your buck when you have everybody in for three days at a time and then give them a bunch of time off. Ultimately, only having met three times over the summer before band camp helped a lot of people,” Padawan said. “This band rehearsed better from the get go in the summer and then as we got into the school year, that kept consistent which was awesome. Morale was up higher in rehearsals because we rehearsed better and there were a lot more positive comments. Everything affects everything in that way.”

Wisbey said the band making finals is still weird to ponder in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s never been done at Summit which is crazy to think that we just made history. Being the head drum major for that feels even crazier. It was definitely a big bang to go out with senior year. Also, the fact that we got 33rd last year and then made finals this year is crazy in itself. Also the fact that everyone in the marching band community knows who bands in finals are and we got to compete against them. It’s very important to the program and I think all the seniors are glad to go out that way,” Wisbey said.

The state of Missouri does not have a state marching band competition like many other states do such as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Indiana, so this is the equivalent for competitive bands in the area. Out of the 14 bands that made finals, only four were schools from Missouri. By this standard, the Falcons achieved one of the highest scores in the state this year.

Budge said the excitement of this BOA St. Louis experience is something that will never go away and students are still celebrating.

“The hype is never going to wear off. It’s such a big goal for us to achieve and the fact that we finally achieved it, that’s something we’re going to carry with us for the rest of our marching band career and our high school memories,” Budge said. “On Saturday the week after we made finals, we got a group of people together and watched

the reaction video of us making finals and then watched the video of our finals performance at the exact same time we performed the week before as sort of a week long anniversary. I think that’s something a lot of people are doing. We watch the video of our performance and the video of us making finals because it’s such a special moment for us. It gives us a motivation boost. The excitement that happened when we actually made it is unexplainable and every time you watch the reaction video, you get to carry a little piece of that with you and remember it.”

Now that the band has made finals at a BOA competition, Padawan said he hopes it will continue to propel them in a positive direction.

“The ripples of this effect should increase retention from year to year,” Padawan said. “There’s always a few kids who decide not to march the next year and maybe this year having achieved this goal maybe more people will stick with it. That helps recruiting as well. These kids are going to have such a higher level of excitement and initiative for next year going in. Looking at it from a global scheme, you look years down the road and say ‘that’s a thing that we did.’ Even if we don’t make it next year and the year after, I don’t think it’s going to matter. I think having made it this one time is going to give everybody this boost of confidence and a feeling of ‘I belong here.’”

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