Dan Schack: Pros & Cons Of Judges Being Pulled Off The Field

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Dan Schack is the Battery Coordinator/Choreographer of Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps and the Creative Director of George Mason University Indoor Drumline. Outside of his musical endeavors, Dan is pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Delaware.


In an article I wrote in January of 2019 on the DCI rule change that removed the percussion field judge, I argued that the change would not bring the momentous apocalypse so many naysayers of the rule were articulating. The rule change is merely a reaction to what is already being designed, I claimed, and anyone paying attention to the top-scoring groups could see that their staging was already customized to be read easily and thoroughly by the field percussion judge.

So now, more than halfway through the competitive season, have I changed my mind at all?

Well, no and yes.

Let’s start with the Pros:

Exposed Percussion Staging

In many ways, I think the patterns you can observe in the 2019 staging and drill design are quite similar to pre-2019 DCI. Exposed drumline moments generally take place in front of the front hash and somewhere between the 35-yard lines. This makes sense not only from an exposure standpoint but also from an ensemble timing standpoint.

If the front ensemble is set up in a conventional way, it is much easier to create an achievable and holistic percussion moment if the battery is physically closer to the pit. You would be engineering a season-long headache by designing an “exposed” percussion moment where the battery is all the way to one side of the field, for example, or so far backfield that the front ensemble would struggle to pick up on the nuances of the battery composition.

This need to stage the battery closer for their exposed moments is also healthy for audiences and effect judges. If the battery is more accessible to the eye and ear, designers may make new choices about the level of intricacy and detail in percussion moments. This means we can craft WGI-style moments with the music, choreography, and drill, as viewers can more easily experience percussion features. It opens up a whole new doorway to how we design our percussion moments when our primary concerns are not if we can be read within the context of the entire field, but rather how detailed and finite we can get when our up-close and personal moments arise.

Correlation between Geography and Demand

Considering the time it takes to craft and clean percussion exposures is a must; we are constantly racing against the competitive clock and weighing how much effort any given moment is worth. The way percussion moments are staged has been similar for quite some time, as designers have long considered the quantitative payoff as it relates to rehearsal time.

With the updated judging rule, we know for certain that it is more worthwhile to stake out the time to cultivate an exposed, front field moment than it is to clean that 7 to 5 backward oblique that is 15 steps behind the back hash in a full battery arc. That is simply the reality of this rule. Percussion designers and instructors now have a scaffold for how to structure the composition, staging, choreography, and day-to-day cleaning of the moments in a show.

Why spend a block polishing battery parts that are both visually and musically inaccessible? The overload of attempting to clean a 12-minute show has been somewhat suppressed; now we know exactly which parts will be accessible to the percussion field judge. 

The rest of the content can serve its purpose, which is likely setting up the ensemble timing and supporting the total music ensemble. That being said, much of that can be taken care of in a full ensemble rehearsal setting. 

So, it would not be an understatement to argue that this rule has fundamentally changed how we should go about writing for and cleaning our drumlines.

Increased Front Ensemble Reads

Percussion judges are reading much more front ensemble content than they were before this rule change. 

Many doubters of the removal of the field judge feared that the judges would miss the bulk of the battery content. I would argue that this is not a problem, and in fact, this change has increased the judges’ abilities to assess, analyze, and rank each percussion ensemble. 

Will judges miss certain content that is wedged between or behind the hornline? Certainly. But that is likely not the battery’s most impressive material anyway (or at least, it shouldn’t be).

More importantly, front ensembles are receiving a much more equal read to batteries, as opposed to the “ballad-only” type of reading front ensembles used to receive. If the battery is not in a geographically accessible place, the front is likely going to be getting the attention. 

Considering that the front ensemble’s main role is playing music, while the battery has increased visual demands through both drill and choreography, this balance feels much more suited to what each section can manage.

New Ensemble Challenges

Because there is a need to bring the battery into a more intimate, judgeable space, we have introduced new ensemble timing challenges into our shows. 

Specifically, we are used to sticking the drumline in the back of the field as the source for timing. The brass, guard, and pit could listen back for the percussive accents that gave them reference for tempo. Now that the battery spends much more time in the front half of the field, we are faced with the challenge of teaching entrances to the brass that are not cued strictly from listening back.

In fact, the brass and guard must rely much more on their sense of sight (the drum majors’ hands or the timing of the flagpoles) and block out what they hear from the battery, which will inevitably sound behind what the actual pulse center is. 

The front ensemble at Carolina Crown, for example, now has the added responsibility of watching hands, watching feet, anticipating entrances, and straight-up maintaining tempo. Although this feels like a headache right now, this year, I believe cultivating these new timing skills is ultimately going to be healthy for the activity.

Safety

As DCI made clear in their original announcement, this rule change has improved performer and judge safety alike. 

Performers do not have to have the fear of ramming a judge in the head with their tuba on a huge backup, or jumping over a percussion judge who is trying to sample a battery moment that is placed deep into the field. 

Judges can do their job without having to constantly worry about disrupting the performance, or even worse, taking a performer out and causing a major collision or pile up. It is clear that this rule has successfully addressed this problem.

Mental Processing

Now that the judges don’t need to fear for their lives as they run from the back hash to the front sideline, they have mental space to view each group with more acuity. In a first read, it is extremely difficult for a judge to process what they have seen and put a perfect number to it. 

To make the perfect assessment is a feat of strength that may be only theoretical and not totally possible anyway. But with the rule change, we have allowed judges to slow down, take more in, and process the immense amount of detail each percussion ensemble is bringing to the table. This single detail may be enough to persuade me that this rule change has been absolutely worth it.

But let’s take a look at the flipside to this all ... the Cons:

Limited Access to the Full Percussion Ensemble

For percussion ensembles that have chosen to stick with the conventional setup, judges frequently position themselves between the pit and battery, likely in an attempt to sample both in a more holistic manner. 

This means that during percussion features, a field judge will likely be able to sample the battery and the back row of the front ensemble from behind the front ensemble. This is certainly not ideal for the front ensemble, but it is also not tremendously different from what was happening prior to 2019.

Field judges never really had the capability to read the total package from the ground, which has lead many critics (especially WGI-oriented minds) to suggest we take the percussion judge off the field all together. Based on the size of the DCI performance area, a field judge was not previously able to sample the pit and battery together. 

This problem is not a new one, but certain tenets of it are being brought to light. For example...

An Increase in “Out of Position” Evaluations

Now that the percussion judge is limited to a certain area for assessment, playing that takes place outside of that area is simply not available to the judge. 

This means two things: 

First, the judge cannot get physically close enough to the music to pick up shape, texture, dimension, nuance, or quality differences between groups. 

Secondly, what a judge hears from the front does not represent what is actually going on back there. In percussion speak, we call this being “out of position.” Certain angles or distances will make something clean sound filthy, or something filthy sound possibly clean.

Due to the new rule, judges may find themselves in those marginal, unreadable positions more frequently, and must actively not evaluate what they are hearing. On a first read, this is a difficult task, but this is the reality of giving the judge a restricted vantage point from which to read the percussion ensemble. More things are going to sound dirty from far away, and judges have to be cognizant in how they approach those moments of uncertainty. 

Some judges may note what they hear, and follow up by noting that they are out of position. This is an issue we need to continue discussing and training on the judge level.

Missed Battery Content

It is a somewhat unfortunate reality that A LOT of battery content is going to go unread—probably around 65-75%. While this feels quite doomy on many levels, it is a reality that, as I mentioned above, gives us a new economical way to think about writing and cleaning.

If we know the battery has to play to support the music ensemble (both in the orchestration and in the timing), but that those moments will not add up in the percussion caption, that music simply does not need to be mind-blowingly hard.

I think some of the smartest designers were well on top of this phenomenon years ago, and many others are now catching up to the trend. If it is not going to be read by the percussion judge, the part should fulfill its utility and not much more. 

We like to call these “the no-rehearse.” Make it work for the music analysis and effect judges, and write it simply enough that it can get clean in a full ensemble rehearsal setting. If your exposed percussion moments are intricate enough, you will need all your percussion rehearsal time to attack those.

The Thrill of the Hunt

When many of us joined DCI drumlines, we set out to throw it down in people’s faces. Whether it’s in rehearsals, in the lot, or in performances, the intimacy of putting something super aggressive and performative down is a major attraction for young drummers. 

Having a judge chase you down while you fly around the field was certainly an experience under that umbrella, and unfortunately, that part of the activity is lost under the new judging rule. Percussion judges can no longer plunge deep into the field to catch that seven-stroke, only to run back to the front sideline to catch the last beat of the pit’s two-mallet run.

Sure, this was an exciting part of the activity, but in my estimation, it was more pageantry than business. We can still throw it down in judges’ faces when the moment is right. 

We do not need to hold onto a tradition that at this point is more arbitrary than useful. Not to mention, the rise of drum corps media (Youtube and beyond) guarantees that DCI percussion ensembles get plenty of facetime. 

This is a generational transition, not the end of something quintessential.

So what does this all mean for the field percussion judge of today?

A thorough percussion judge, similar to before 2019, must still study each show and learn their respective “drill” so that they are positioned correctly for each exposed moment. I do not think this is a huge shift away from prior years. 

If the judge does their homework, they will be able to read everything that is meant to be read and will likely have a more informed takeaway because of the rule.

Now, more than ever, the field percussion judge must leave it up to the music analysis judge to make calls about the percussion ensemble’s timing and balance. Due to the limited access the field judge has to a total read, their task should be to evaluate the nuances of the sections they stand in front of. They must address player to player balance and blend, individual error (and success), compositional elements, and the character of sound and performance qualities coming from the section they are positioned in front of. 

The judges must more actively block out the urge to make evaluations about timing because things that sound perfectly aligned up top do not sound like that on the ground.

Similarly, field percussion judges must now remember that the electronics/balance choices are made for the effect judges and the audience. Much like with the WGI music judge, who is positioned lower in the stands than the GE and visual judges, the field percussion judge should not make calls about the total balance of the percussion ensemble. What sounds great upstairs likely sounds less great on the field, and that is engineered very purposefully. 

Percussion judges now have the luxury of blocking out some of those big-picture issues and can focus solely on splicing the difference between all of the great percussion ensembles in DCI, a task that is already demandingly heroic in nature. 

With more time and training, I believe the 2019 rule change will continue to thrive and allow judges to make even more informed and thoughtful decisions. I say we tread forth, unwavering in the standards of our adjudication system, but flexible enough to understand that anything new will require development and refinement.

Thank you to all of the people who have contributed to this discussion, and to all of the DCI percussion judges who are pushing themselves to improve and innovate alongside the ever-growing DCI percussion activity. See you in critique!

Aimachi Winds Officially On The Schedule For WGI 2020

The last time Aimachi Winds were in Dayton, they were receiving gold medals at the 2016 WGI Wind World Championships. Per a tweet by the group's designer and renowned DCI and WGI creative, Michael Gaines, Aimachi Winds will once again take the floor in WGI competition on Saturday, April 18th, 2020 at World Championship prelims. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

2020 DCI Rule Change Proposals In A Nutshell

null

Eight major proposals made it past DCI's Rules and Systems Task Force (RSTF) to be placed on the panel to be voted on during the organization's winter business meetings, January 10-11.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Tickets For 20+ DCI Events Now Available

As of 12 PM ET on December 9th, tickets for over 20 Drum Corps International events went on sale marking one of the first major signs to the start of the 2020 season.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

What Does A FloMarching Subscription Get You?

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Obviously, you can watch over 50 live events from Drum Corps International, Bands of America and Winter Guard International here, but don't forget that a FloMarching subscription gets you much more. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Recap: BOA Grand Nationals

After three days of intense competition, first-time Grand Nationals competitor Vandegrift was named national champion. Many other bands also set their own record placements, earning coveted spots in semifinals and finals.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

After three days of intense competition, first-time Grand Nationals competitor Vandegrift was named national champion. Many other bands also set their own record placements, earning coveted spots in semifinals and finals.

While finalists are selected based on semifinals results, all 12 finalist bands also finished as the top 12 bands in prelims. Typically there is some movement between prelims and semis, but it appeared judges all weekend were in agreement about which bands were finalist-worthy this year.

National Champion Vandegrift (1st, 97.175) is well-known for their simple and straightforward elegance. In an activity that can so often go overboard with costuming, props, and electronics, their show was simply marching band at the highest level. The drill was executed flawlessly and the music ensemble had perfect balance and alignment. All that combined with an incredibly well-integrated dance team led the band to its first national champion title during their first trip to Grand Nationals. However, finals wasn’t the only time Vandy received top marks, they also earned the highest score in prelims, and won class AAAA and swept captions in semifinals.

There are so many moments during their show when it feels like Avon (2nd, 96.70) is just showing off — in all the best ways. Some of the music these students are playing or skills the guard is demonstrating are truly unbelievable, but they make it look simple, almost fundamental. They’re also a group that really moves around the field, sometimes literally running in between challenging technical passages or huge tosses. It’s no wonder they won the visual caption, but their music contained just as much dynamic energy and every note was placed “in perfect order.” This was Avon’s 13th consecutive year of top 3 placements at Grand Nationals.

In a testament to their excellent training, Hebron (3rd, 95.55) earned the highest scores from both the music and visual individual performance judge. The show is super ambitious, and includes some of the most challenging music heard all evening. Clearly the judges appreciated that and awarded Hebron the finals award for outstanding music performance.

Carmel (4th, 94.575) had their best run of the season at the best possible time: during finals. From the featured horn soloist to the world class color guard, everything clicked for an unforgettable performance. Three consecutive national championships is certainly a tough act to follow, but these students lived up to those high expectations.

If you’re the kind of person who loves big explosions of color, Leander (5th, 94.30) had the show for you. Their jaw dropping ending seemed to get bigger and more colorful each and every performance all season. But it wasn’t just the ending, this show was full of captivating moments, including an awesome soloist and percussion feature designed around Britney Spears’ iconic “Toxic.”

Another of the coolest moments of the night came from Claudia Taylor Johnson (6th, 93.25). Of course no Lion King show would be complete without playing “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” but Claudia Taylor took a step forward by including a captivating improv section with back and forth licks from an all-star saxophone and trombone player. Dressed in full head-to-toe lion costumes, these two soloists perfectly captured the moment both visually and musically, before the entire hornline joined in to play the big hit. The entire audience leapt to their feet in a thunderous round of applause, then sat back down to watch the remaining four minutes of this incredibly long and challenging show.

William Mason (7th, 91.425) had the boldest color palette of any group in finals. Their bright pink and yellow spotted uniforms, mixed with tons of similarly colored props created a stage you couldn’t look away from for a single minute. With such a huge band stretching from end zone to end zone, there was always something going on in every part of the field. No matter how many times you watch the show, you could always find something new to enjoy.

Just over two tenths behind Mason, The Woodlands (8th, 91.200) had one of the most enjoyable shows of the weekend. The preshow quickly set the audiences expectations and didn’t look back. We heard beautiful solos, duets, and some incredibly loud moments where the brass was really rocking out. All that combined with a well integrated visual program created three unforgettable performances.

It may seem odd for a marching band to do a show about mimes. Marching bands are typically loud, while mimes are known for their complete lack of sound. Round Rock (9th, 90.425) took this challenge head-on, and managed to pull it off at an extremely high level. As a group that had a less than ideal start to their season, falling just short of finals at the Austin Regional, finals seemed a long shot about a month ago. But, these students and directors really got to work and took huge strides in just a few weeks. First, making finals at the San Antonio Super Regional, and then here at Grand Nationals. There’s no award for most improved, but if there was, Round Rock would be more than deserving.

Less than a point behind was Homestead (10th, 89.80). From intricate and beautiful flowers using guard flags to a perfectly customized Colts helmet tarp to fit the show theme, Homestead left no detail untouched. That same approach was used musically with a powerful sound and strong technical playing throughout.

Separated by less than two tenths, Union (11th, 88.25) and Ayala (12th, 88.10) rounded out the evening’s final competition. Both shows had all the familiar aspects of traditional marching band, but with a bit of a fresh take. Union’s clever title “The Orchestra’s Guide to the Young Person” was exactly that. Through the use of musical selections from “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” Union quickly flips that idea on its head. What begins as the instrumentalists sitting in a set of arcs as if they’re about to play a concert, quickly transforms as the students begin to rhythmically stand up, sit down, stand on the chairs, and even lift chairs high in the air. This is all done while the very platforms they’re standing on begin to move away, expanding their presence to fill the entire field.

Ayala similarly was unlike any other band in finals. As many California bands do, Ayala had exceptionally strong guard and percussion sections, with much of the show effectively designed to show off those two strengths. In what some may view as a classic dark-to-light show, Ayala’s ending was a bit of a twist. Instead of a happy triumphant ending where the color conquers the dark, the show ends with a bit of the darkness creeping back into the props and performers. There’s an eerie and reminiscent feeling that elevates the show above the classic tropes.

Fishers and Lawrence Township earned the first two spots out of finals with two unique but attention-grabbing shows. If you have a sweet tooth, Fishers’ candy themed show might have made you a bit hungry. There were iconic candies displayed all over the field: chocolates, lollipops, candy canes, and even m&m uniforms on the guard.

Lawrence Township’s show also grabbed your attention with they first entered the field, through their outstanding young vocalist’s opening monologue. While some bands try to be mysterious when it comes to the true meaning of their show, Lawrence made sure you knew exactly what it was about and how you could join in on the fun and sing along. After the vocalist cued the announcer with perfect timing, the show began and these students didn’t look back for 10 minutes of incredible music and dance from Harlem.

Marian Catholic seized the class AA champion title, also sweeping captions. They were just five spots away from competing in finals. The other class medalists were North Hardin and Miamisburg.

Kentucky had a clean sweep of class A awards this year. Bourbon County was named class A champion and won each of the caption awards. First year BOA competitor Estill County won second place, while Beechwood tied Bourbon County for the visual award and won third place.

Full DCI 2020 Schedule NOW AVAILABLE

Check out the tour schedule for the 2020 Drum Corps International season including line-ups and locations plus some new additions and exciting changes! Visit DCI.org directly to read up on some of the highlights of the 2020 tour! Please keep in mind that this schedule is subject to change and the most up-to-date info will be available at DCI.org/events! Keep an eye on FloMarching.com for updates on the 2020 DCI Streaming Schedule!

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The Entire 2019 BOA Season In A Nutshell

Take a look at content from each of the 2019 Bands of America regionals including photo galleries, exclusive content, and more!

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Finals Photo Gallery: BOA Grand National Championships

Check out photos of each of the 2019 BOA Grand National Championship finalists from photographers Josh Clements and Tony McCrackin.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Check out photos of each of the 2019 BOA Grand National Championship finalists from photographers Josh Clements and Tony McCrackin.

ALL BOA Grand National Finals Info In One Place
Training | Events | ENCORE

William Mason (OH)

The Woodlands (TX)

Ayala (CA)

Homestead (IN)

Union (OK)

Round Rock (TX)

Claudia Taylor Johnson (TX)

Avon (IN)

Leander (TX)

Hebron (TX)

Vandegrift (TX)

Carmel (IN)

Instant Recap: 2019 BOA Grand National Finals

Read along with live blogger Krista Viveiros as the top marching bands in the WORLD competed in the 2019 BOA Grand National finals.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Read along with live blogger Krista Viveiros as the top marching bands in the WORLD competed in the 2019 BOA Grand National finals.

ALL BOA Grand National Finals Info In One Place
Training | Events | ENCORE


Good evening everyone and welcome to another exciting evening of marching music live from Indianapolis! I hope you're as excited to see the culmination of the 2019 BOA season! Bourbon County H.S. (KY) already kicked us off with an incredible exhibition performance; congratulations to them on an incredible season. 


8:00 pm - William Mason H.S. (OH)

  • Dressed in neon, so you can't miss them, William Mason is now taking the field! Their uniforms are SO bright. 
  • How many people can say they slid onto the field for their finals performance? It's really fun visually
  • Beautiful kickoff from that quartet up front, too! 
  • Great commitment to performance from the hornline with a lot of that choreography. 
  • Nice front ensemble interlude with a flute duet to bring us down a notch for a ballad
  • The continued use of the slides throughout the show to hide performers doesn't get old
  • What a crazy and fun push to the finish, thank you so much, William Mason!


8:15 pm - The Woodlands H.S. (TX)

  • Next up, our first Texas band on the night!
  • Always love an on the field front ensemble set up
  • The stark white Navy uniforms are another standout on the field tonight! Coupled with the music certainly takes us back to another era
  • The dynamic between the colorguard and the hornline is so so so fun. 
  • Who doesn't love a good swing flag ballad moment?! And with so many colors too?!
  • Those kids must be having a BLAST with that moment. Absolutely wailing away on a few fun jazzy chords
  • Just as soon as they arrive, they're gone! Congratulations on a great season, The Woodlands! 

8:30 pm - Ayala H.S. (CA)

  • Setting up now is Ayala H.S. all the way from California! And our only California band of the evening. 
  • Another different front ensemble set up, too! Been starting to see this one more and more this the boards angled facing each other. 
  • Ayala drumline kicking us off with a strong start, leading us into the first dissonant horn hits
  • Here comes a uniform change! The colorguard switching from the all-black to a colorful pink design
  • Always appreciate a drumline visual moment with swing flags!
  • Those props opening up looked like flowers blooming, a beautiful visual moment
  • But still bringing us back to the darkness in the end. Congrats to Ayala on an incredible season and a great run tonight!

8:45 pm - Homstead H.S. (IN)

  • Welcome to the field, Homestead! 
  • Beautiful start from the saxophone soloist leading into the flute feature and just a hint of a first hornline hit. 
  • Nice drum feature from that backfield stage prop
  • Some great brass moments throughout this dark movement, especially in the low brass. 
  • The colorguard made a flower in the center of the field, just like the flower from the show intro! 
  • Time for a fun and colorful push to the finish! 
  • Hah! They even redecorated the Colts football helmet AND the field! 
  • Congratulations and thank you, Homestead, for an incredible performance. 


9:00 pm - Union H.S. (OK)

  • Now on the field, our only Oklahoma band of the night, Union!
  • Loving the very orchestra-esque start, very formal
  • Yet another great moment from a few Union flutists
  • But take the musicians away from the rigidity of the chairs and the setting and we get to have a bit more visual fun
  • Some beautiful visual moments in this ballad, loving the additional dimension added with the chairs, gives a lot more options. 
  • The performers looked like they were having an absolute blast towards the end of that one
  • Congratulations, Union, on an excellent performance and season


9:15 pm - Round Rock H.S. (TX)

  • Flying onto the field next is the Round Rock Dragon band! They have some of the coolest looking uniforms year in and year out. 
  • That flower prop really pops off of the field with all of that black and white dominating the field
  • Is that the first cymbal line we've tonight? 
  • Sweet mellophone feature!!!
  • Very nice one-handed rolls in the front ensemble to kick off this ballad
  • Incredibly strong low brass during this closer! What a great sound
  • Beautiful show, Round Rock! Thank you so much and congratulations again on an incredible season. 

9:30 pm - Claudia Taylor Johnson H.S. (TX)

  • There's currently a "CTJ" chant welcoming our next band to the field! Don't know if you can hear it on the live stream but you certainly can in the stadium. This crowd is EXCITED. 
  • If you can't tell by the props, this show is called 'The Circle of Life' and that alone makes it incredibly exciting. 
  • When you hit that intro sample and the crowd goes wild already... 
  • Love that the show isn't just 'Lion King' music top to bottom, there's a lot of fun and unexpected repertoire in this show. 
  • Yes, front ensemble and drumline get everyone excited for this fun movement
  • Wow. Just wow. That dueling solo moment was just incredible
  • And that push to the end! So much energy. Congratulations to all of the performers on an incredible show. It was truly a blast to watch. 

9:45 pm - Avon H.S. (IN)

  • Here's a band that's absolutely no stranger to the BOA stage, or to Lucas Oil stadium in general, welcome to the field, Avon!
  • Starting out with a beautiful set laying down, swirling all around the field. 
  • Special shout out to the guitar soloist, what a great performer selling absolutely every note. That takes skill. 
  • That piccolo solo was great, too. Everyone knows that playing the piccolo leaves no room for error and she nailed it. 
  • This show is top to bottom musically excellent. So many variations on the same thing, which is the point but it's done at such a high level and is so fun. 
  • The colorguard is having a great show also, a beautiful rifle catch along with the final push to the end here. 
  • An incredible final push, Avon! Thank you so much for a great performance and congratulations on a great season. 

10:00 pm - Leander H.S. (TX)

  • You know it's about to go down when you hear 'Einstein on the Beach' starting up
  • Love that biohazard sign set
  • Get that run, front ensemble!!!
  • I take it back, when you hear BRITNEY SPEARS you know it's about to go down
  • Yes, colorguard bringing the energy to the forefront of this movement
  • As usual, a nice front ensemble moment leading us into the ballad, opening with a euphonium feature
  • Having the hornline under the silk up front is a nice visual effect when they stand up and down. 
  • Countdown to the meltdown! Super fun visual effects all around until the end!
  • Congratulations on your final run, Leander! 


10:15 pm - Hebron H.S. (TX)

  • Hebron wasting NO time taking the field. Setting up that many props is always a little bit of a time crunch. 
  • The stars are certainly big and bright on the flags opening-up this show
  • This front ensemble is tearing it up, echoing a lot of some incredibly tough hornline licks
  • Beautiful star set! Absolutely helps to close that movement out strong
  • Loving this small saxophone and flute ensemble here
  • GREAT percussion feature 
  • AH What a moment, with the rotating star drill!
  • Incredible finish! Thank you so much, Hebron! Congratulations on another incredible season. 

10:30 pm - Vandegrift H.S. (TX)

  • Here comes our last Texas band, and second to last band overall tonight, Vandegrift!
  • Beautiful start with the guard soloist representing the queen
  • And some killer drill straight into a HUGE horn hit. Vandegrift means business tonight. 
  • Strong first movement from every area of the ensemble
  • So many great moments from this hornline already, they don't have a second of downtime
  • Another great trombone feature, pushing us into a percussion feature
  • That show was a great example of just pure top to bottom greatness
  • Congratulations, Vandegrift on an incredible season


10:45 pm - Carmel H.S. (IN)

  • And finally, we are at our last competing ensemble of the evening: Carmel HS!
  • Beautiful intro from the front ensemble, especially the vibraphones kicking us off
  • Carmel's hornline always impresses and tonight is no different
  • This french horn soloist is an incredible player, great presence and playing. 
  • Unison crash cymbals in the front ensemble always look easy but definitely aren't
  • Drumline bringing us back out of the ballad, some wild front ensemble moments with this feature too
  • The Carmel guard is having a great run, too. Wonderful weapons moments all around 
  • And our soloists are finally together again! A great push to the finish from the entire ensemble
  • Congratulations to Carmel on a great run and another successful finals appearance. 

We'll be back again with scores in just a bit but in the meantime, you can enjoy two great exhibition performances. 

11:00 pm - EXHIBITION - Class AA: Marion Catholic H.S. (IL)

11:15 pm - EXHIBITION - The University of North Alabama


Bourbon County Turns Disappointment Into Motivation

Bourbon County’s title defense started in April. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Bourbon County’s title defense started in April. 

2018 was the Paris, Kentucky band’s first time taking home a Class A championship at Bands of America Grand Nationals since going back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Leading up to last season, Adair County — a fellow Kentucky school — had won four Class A titles in a row.

For Bourbon County, it was good to be back on top; it was really good.

“We had won Class A previously, but it had been about eight years since we had last won it,” Bourbon County director Michael Stone said. “And just coming back and being able to do that last year, it was such a confidence boost and such a great accomplishment for our program to have.”

But championships, as always, are short-lived. 

It’s not long before you’re right back at square one, only this time around, you’re the defending champion; you’re the band everyone wants to catch.

That’s been Bourbon County’s gift and curse in 2019. It’s been a motivator, too, to say the least.

“Coming back this year, it was like, ‘Guys, we’re the national champions,’” Stone said. “And I tell them all the time, ‘It’s yours to lose.’” 

“I can say that and it can sound kind of cocky or condescending,” he added. “But really, it’s the reality of it, like, if we want to prove that what we did wasn’t just a one-time thing or a good luck thing, then we’ve got to come back with that same standard of excellence.”

With its title nearly a year in the rearview mirror, Bourbon County came out of the gates red hot this fall. At its first BOA event, the Kentucky Regional Championship in Louisville on September 21, the band took third place in Prelims and fourth in Finals.

The only bands ahead of Bourbon County that night were widely-revered Indiana bands Carmel and Castle, and Franklin, a strong Tennessee program.

Stone didn’t believe what he was hearing. His goal had just been to crack the list of 10 finalists. 

“Honestly, I was shocked,” he said. “We were hoping to make Finals. And we went to the Finals directors’ meeting and they called our name in the top five, and I looked at our assistant band director and I was like, ‘Are we in the right place?’”

Since then, Bourbon County hasn’t checked off all of the boxes on its list of goals this season, but in Stone’s eyes, that’s okay.

The main goal, as he said is the case every single year, was to earn a state championship title in Kentucky, and ultimately, when that event rolled around, Bourbon County was not on top.

At the end of the day, Bourbon County was just inches away from its ultimate goal, falling to champion South Laurel by one-tenth of a point. 

“Yeah, we fell short of that goal,” he said. “But I don’t think that means that we were unsuccessful. I just think that means that there was a better band that night.”

Stone attested, his band was dejected after coming up short in state championships. But the silver lining to that defeat was the spark it provided.

Following a couple of days off, he said the band came out to rehearsals ready to kick into a new gear with Grand Nationals still waiting right around the corner. Despite frigid conditions, Bourbon County lit a new fire for itself. 

After all, there was still a title to earn.

“Just being that close fueled our fire for Grand Nationals,” he said. “They have just been on it. We were out there in 15-degree weather like everybody else has been, just miserable, but they were pushing through.”

It won’t be long at all until Grand Nationals are in the rearview mirror. Bourbon County may very well leave Indianapolis with a second-consecutive Class A title. But of course, they very well may not. 

That’s not a deep point to make, that’s simply how competition works. The point is that Stone and his band came here with a competitive goal and still very much hope to achieve it, but at the end of the day, it’s not the end-all-be-all. 

Stone watched his ensemble put on what he referred to as a “stellar performance” Friday night near the tail end of Grand National Prelims. 

To him, that was enough. Everything else that may happen during Saturday's semifinals is gravy. 

“It’s a competitive activity, so I don’t think that anybody, or at least nobody that I really know, enters a competition, not wanting to compete in that competition,” Stone said. “But to me, the most important thing is that we have our best performance all the time. I feel extremely proud.”