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It's been over 4 months since bands reported for summer band camps across the country. After grueling rehearsals, long road trips, and countless repetitions, the culmination for the nation's best high school marching bands reached its peak inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 2018 Bands of America Grand National Championship hosted 108 bands over 3 days. After it was all finished Saturday night, the Carmel high school marching band was named the Grand National Champions for the third year in a row.
Not only did they first on top, but they also were awarded the Outstanding Music, Visual, and GE awards during finals.
1. CARMEL - 97.350
There is no mistaking when the two-time defending Grand National champions take the field. Carmel walks on to the field knowing they will perform well every time and every time they deliver.
The show begins with an opening sustain from the mellophones on top of their Viking ship prop with an opening fanfare by the rest of the brass. The rifle toss from the world-class guard was in perfect synch with the band unleashing their beautiful sound.
Then, the mellophones again get featured by having these two pods of players doing a call and answer. One of the pods is facing backfield to add to the difficulty of ensemble timing of course. The purity of sound coming from these performers is professional level. It’s easy to see why the arrangement has no other supporting needs underneath the mellophones.
As the Flight of the Valkry reaches is pinnacle drill something to behold. The woodwinds are weaving in and out of the brass as they move this massive block across the field.
Of course, the guard again gets a moment to show off their rifle skills as the movement comes to a close with perfectly executed toss front and center on the 50-yard line.
As the band transitions to a trombone soloist on the front left sideline, guard’s ability to highlight timing with well-placed sabre tosses is unreal. Then as the ballad reaches a climax, the guard covers the field in these massive sail-like flags.
The low brass’ internal timing of their opening volley during the closer is next level good. They are spread from 10 to 10, and hitting up-beat pickups like its nothing. Carmel’s musical ability to utilize space is also quite beautiful.
The show’s design is simple enough but what is really smart about the design is the ability to showcase the performers' skills sets in such a way that no part of the show’s execution suffers. Everything is executed as the maximum abilities of the members.
2. AVON - 96.175
Another band that needs no introduction, Avon has a brand new look to them this season. The show takes place entirely in an aquarium. The band has brightly colored orange tops with scales printed on them. While the guard is dressed in equally bright uniforms that look like fighting fish.
However, in an interesting turn, the show opens with a familiar tune from Romeo and Juliet. The opening trade-off section is beautifully done not only by the musical talents but the drill and guard work as well. As the trumpets come across the middle of the field, their articulation skills are on full display.
As the opener comes to a close, the guard’s weapon skills are on full display. Then as the ballad begins they begin launching sabres over the props only to run underneath and make a catch on the other side.
As the ballad movement opens, a muted trumpet soloist sets the tone on the left side 25-yard line. Then a saxophone player answers the on side 2 20-yard line. The integration of the guard here is beautiful during the ballad impact.
Next comes the world-class drumline as the classic tale of Romeo fighting for his love continues to play out. The drill during this furious climax is quite unbelievable.
As the show comes to an end, you might notice Romeo and Juliet running off the back side of the field. We wondered if Avon’s take on Romeo and Juliet would have a happy ending rather than the tradition sad ending of the two lovers.
Nope. Both lovers hurl themselves over the top of backdrops representing the idea that these two fish have jumped out of the aquarium in one final act of love.
3. BLUE SPRINGS - 95.600
Blue Springs takes the field laying out massive pink tarps in diagonals across the entire field. You might notice the stair-case props similar to the Blue Devils’ 2017 show. As the flutes get things started, the brass form in the middle of the field for a massive opening impact that gets the opening movement going.
Take note of what the brass is asked to do musically during this opening piece. It is not easy. Then the baritones get a feature between the 40-50 yard lines. The side-to-side timing the band has is quite remarkable when they are spread from the 20 to the goal line.
The visual variety is incredible. Note the visual ripple in time with the musical phrasing that starts on opposite sides of the field and seamlessly meets in the middle of the field.
Then a soprano saxophone soloist climbs on top of the stairs behind the pit and blows the roof off the building.
As the furious opening movement comes to a close, a male singer is introduced whose voice is out of this world. Note the front ensemble accompaniment that is literally 45 yards away.
The ballad is filled with moments for the guard to shine, despite their position in the backfield. It's almost like they suddenly doubled in size once the large white/gold swing flags come out as the movement reaches its peak.
This will be remembered as one of the most incredible moments in BOA history.
After displaying his vocal talents, the singer now switches over to playing the violin to get the next movement going. The mellophones accompanying his violin playing aren’t messing around. The closing wave block movements in the drill are challenging to say the least. The energy and excitement Blue Springs brings to the field is contagious.
4. BROKEN ARROW - 95.450
Broken Arrow wastes no time getting the crowd on their feet clapping as they take the field with a traditional march playing Stars and Stripes Forever.
First off, that brass opening is glorious—isolated rhythms, difficult syncopation, a few unisons, capped off with a huge impact that you can feel to your core.
The show is almost like a journey through vignettes of America as the members spell different words in the drill and create the recognizable symbols of America. The music quickly moves from one recognizable melody to another. Throughout most of the show, the brass and woodwinds are constantly tossing the melody back and forth with ease while splitting the field.
The variety of body movement throughout the show saturates every count on the field. And the execution of the individual members is very precise. The band’s sense of internal timing is quite amazing.
Also, the Broken Arrow color guard is gigantic, and they have the talent to match their size. The amount of work they do is unbelievable. They fill every count of the show with something.
The uniform design is really smart. By having the large blue capes, it creates infinite possibilities of the bands flashing color. It essentially adds several hundred members to the color guard.
Once the trombones and saxophone choirs get going, it's like a party on the field. Pure Americana in jazz with melodies from "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
The transition right afterward is quickly sobering however once the monuments are brought out to symbolize fallen soldiers. All you hear are the sound of flags filling the air, accompanied by a beautifully soft woodwind feature far on side one. The brass coming in just seals the deal. Tears.
It might be one of the largest American flags ever to cover a football field and one of the most well-hidden props in the history of the Grand Nationals. As the band reaches it’s glorious ending, the band makes its way to the back sideline to unravel this massive American flag that makes the crowd rise to its feet.
5. TARPON SPRINGS - 94.600
The show we've all been waiting for. Tarpon Springs' "Ready Player One"-themed show called "RP1" has made the long trek from Florida to Indianapolis.
The field is set with massive screens on each 20 and the 50 as three characters emerge blue, yellow, and red. The band runs out from behind the massive screens and comes out to bathe the stadium in glorious chords. The words "Welcome to the Oasis" show up on the screens followed by "find the key." And we're off.
The massive LED screens lay out the goal for the three main characters of the show when the words, “Find The Key” are displayed.
Their drill is impressive, to say the least. The triangles morphing into the massive rotating blocks at the end of the opening movement is beautifully transitioned into the show logo RP1.
The prop usage is next-level with the massive screens across the field. Each screen is about 5 yards in width and height—they are surprisingly clear, which has been difficult to achieve with screens on the football field.
As the ballad begins the screens begin to ask questions regarding who we really are as individuals. Sayings like “We see only what we want…”
The movement is capped off by the band forming a massive triangle surrounded by the massive guard using double swing flags for a powerfully dark moment.
as the closer begins, a techno saxophone passage shows off the bands musical skills. This leads to a goose-bump inducing moment where the band spells out the R, P, and 1 by using quick shifting drill and power chords. Then, the red character finally secures the key for the last time as the screen flash “Game Over.”
6. WANDO - 93.950
Wando’s show is about the art of Alexander Calder. It begins with piano, voice over, and a flute/oboe duet while the band forms a massive triangle form for their first entrance. The band has a finely balanced sound during that opening crescendo.
As the tempo picks up, trumpets and baritones trade-off melodic lines. This leads to another impact before the woodwinds come to the front to show off their abilities. By the time the opening movement is done, the staging and integration of the guard seemingly have allowed them to go through tons of equipment variety.
The ballad one long continuous dream-like sequence. The soundscapes coming from the front ensemble in conjunction with the duets and soloists put one into a beautiful trance. The impact is warm, beautiful, but not overpowering.
The closing movement opens with a woodwind feature along the front sideline on side 2, which builds to drum feature followed by another well staged woodwind feature. This time it’s supported by a beautiful flag section as well. As the closer builds towards the ending, the massive moving block drill is precise and intricate.
7. WILLIAM MASON - 91.000
William Mason takes the field with 50 circular props upon which the guard all rides onto the field. The color palette is quite beautiful with deep blues, pinks, purples, accented by yellow. The entire field begins with circular formations. Four feature soloists begin to introduce the melody from On The Waterfront as the band does body work. Then the woodwinds take center stage along the front sideline. The brass makes its presence felt by adding some power to the already aggressive melody. As the opening number comes to a close, the guard writing does a wonderful job of supporting the velocity in the music and the suddenness of the ending by slamming the flags down.
After a quick transition, two flutes steal the show on the front sideline. As the guard supports this with sabres work. A guard soloist catches a sabre toss then does a trust fall off one of the props. The front ensemble writing is gorgeous leading into the ballad impact. As the guard members climb on top of the props for the ballad hit, the band forms a massive eye formation in support of the show's concept.
The guard integration during the closing movement is really beautiful. As the movement builds the band forms a massive circular formation only to blow that out into a triangle for the final statement. Then the flute duet reminds us of the opening melody from the Waterfront music. Then the band reforms the opening set of the show as the front ensemble slowly closes the show.
8. HOMESTEAD - 90.150
Homestead takes the field using 11 life-size artist mannequins and a set that represents an artist’s studio. After a quick opening impact, Homestead turns to their woodwinds to showcase their technique along the front portion of the field. After the trumpets have a feature surrounding a prop on side 2 35-yard line, a small woodwind ensemble takes the lead again around another prop on side 1 25-yard line.
The syncopation throughout the first movement is executed well by a variety of sections. The arrangement is a very challenging opening movement.
The final push towards the climax of the opener features some very creative drill writing including wonderful staging of the guard.
Then comes a drum feature that gets a little dark while the artist character is tearing apart canvas material. The amount of visual variety happening throughout this show is a lot to take in. The ballad has a beautiful moment for the guard layering in flag work with sabres.
To get the closing number started, the flutes take the lead on side 2 35-yard line. The guard members then begin to introduce new brighter colors signifying that the artist character is having an inspirational moment.
The variety of color and equipment the guard uses during the closer is wonderful. The guard then shifts to 6-foot flags has now fully filled out into a massive block of flags. The drill does some amazing pass through while the show builds to an ending. This ending reveals what is in the artist’s mind by quickly raising a printed backdrop full of color and the mannequins mentioned earlier.
9. JENKS - 90.100
As the crowd welcomes Jenks to Grand Nationals finals for the first time ever the band welcomes the crowd to Jenks’ Automotive. The show, entitled, Car Man, is visually based around everything you might find at a car garage shop. A soprano sax solo leads up into the first impact of the show as the band spells out “man” on the field.
The Jenks guard is having a wonderful run. The timing of the flags in the back along with the crisp catches the weapon line are completing are showing us why they belong in finals.
As the ballad gets started, a beautiful baritone solo with front ensemble accompaniment opens the next section of the show. This leads to the climax in which the band forms the logo from Chevrolet as the guard uses swing flags to cover the back half of the field.
The percussion moves forward for an octane driven drum feature that utilizes two of the strongest rifle performers of the weekend. As the show drives to the ending, the guard takes center stage with furious flag writing supported by the powerful brass behind them. At the very end of the show, you can hear the guard slam home the ending by yelling, “We’re Closed!”
10. DOBYNS-BENNETT - 90.000
If you witnessed the opening volley from Dobyns-Bennett you were treated to one of the most amazing openings of the 2018 BOA season. The band rushes on top of a set of scaffolding platforms that span almost 80-yards and blows the roof off. Meanwhile, the massive guard covers the entire field using 6-foot flags. Following a percussion transition, the woodwinds get into the act climbing onto of another set of scaffolding platforms arching across the back of the field. The final push to the end of the opener features wonderful internal block rotations as the woodwinds and brass form one massive block.
Supported by the front ensemble, a woodwind trio take center stage on the left front sideline while the remaining woodwinds take positions on top of the front props. Then, in a beautiful and difficult orchestration, the brass adds more support by playing backfield to give the woodwinds some depth. But by playing backfield they don’t overpower. As the movement continues to build, the brass now turns forward, ascends the back row of platforms and finish off the ballad in a powerful climax.
The band’s technical prowess is on full display in the closer. From the opening small ensembles on the front platform to the moment when the entire band gathers on top of the front sideline, the closer reaffirms Dobyns-Bennett as being one of the most musical ensembles in the country. Two flutes then take the reign as the entire guard now comes to the front of the field in a beautiful ending.
11. PROSPER - 90.000
The only band making the trip from Texas, Prosper, found themselves in the very first performing slot Thursday morning at 7:45 AM. Come Saturday night, they found themselves in a finals spot performing for the third time.
The opening fanfare is just a beautiful display of the bands warm rich sound. After the band forms a crown image they immediately begin the next movement of the show. After a window for the front ensemble, the woodwinds take over the melody. Then the low brass cut loose from the back hash. The band is doing a wonderful job of filing down and keeping the drill intervals clean.
The chamber music like woodwind feature during the next portion of the show is really a beautiful moment.
The ballad begins with a trombone ensemble front and center at the 50-yard line. Then the remaining brass begins to build to the next impact. Throughout this show, the coverage the guard is able to create is really impressive.
The drill throughout the closer is a wonderful example of contrasting styles of motion. Between the woodwinds moving in linear curves and the brass using block rotations the variety of movement is a pleasure to the eye.
12. O’FALLON TOWNSHIP - 89.300
The O’Fallon Township band made history in 2017 by covering the entire field in tarps. In 2018, they reused the same tarp system but decided to change the concept. Stretching The Canvas is a fun, energetic, and sometimes quirky show about all things that stretch.
The opening impact is followed by one of the funniest things in BOA history. As the woodwinds show off their technical skills and a slide whistle for good measure. The guard makes use of these bright green full-body bags.
In a really creative moment, the band makes great use of contracting circle drill with well times decrescendos and crescendos to create a contracting/stretching effect.
This show does a wonderful job of continuously expanding the set design. This wouldn’t be possible without the help of the extras that are dressed in all white to mask their movements. Without them, this show would not be possible.
The jam session that is the closer, Niagra Falls, followed by the massive rotating block reminds you very much of the early 2000 Cavaliers programs. Then as the show comes to a close, the long strands of fabric suddenly release and contract back to their origins disappearing instantly.