Grand Nationals is the nation’s premiere marching band competition, this season bringing together 91 bands from 20 different states for three days of intense competition in Lucas Oil Stadium. Over three rounds of competition, the field will be narrowed to just over 30 bands, then to 12 bands, before finally naming one band the Grand National Champion.
With Indianapolis being the band capital of the world, it’s no surprise that two of the top bands in the nation are just minutes from Lucas Oil. Avon and Carmel have competed head-to-head for decades and each have numerous regional, super regional, state, and even grand national championships to their name. So far this season, Avon has had the upper hand. They’ve won several local competitions, and most recently the Indianapolis Super Regional. However, Carmel has a history of late season pushes, and should not be ruled out.
Six Texas bands will be making the journey up to Grand Nationals this year, which means half of finals could be made up of bands from Texas. All six of these bands have already made super regional finals in San Antonio, typically a strong indicator of a band that will make finals in Indianapolis.
Vandegrift and Leander were the highest placing groups from San Antonio that are also competing at Grand Nationals. They’re also neighbor schools in the same district. Leander earned second place in prelims, while Vandy grabbed second place in finals. So which of these will have the upper hand in Indianapolis? You’ll have to watch all weekend to find out!
Another group that could have some incredible growth in two weeks is The Woodlands. Their crowd-friendly 2019 production invites you to join a group of sailors as they enjoy a day off in New York City. It’s a blast to watch and just like Claudia Taylor Johnson, you can see the joy on the kids faces as they give it their all. Speaking of CTJ, you will certainly not want to miss their Lion King-themed show. From backdrops, to costumes, this show has bought in 100% to the classic story, and might just make you shed a tear.
Hebron has one of the most challenging shows this year, and every year. The technically demand of what these students are being asked to play on their horns — while marching around the field — is quite impressive. Watching Hebron is one of many times this weekend you’ll forget your watching high school students perform.
Rounding out the Texas contingent is Round Rock, a group that has a history of incredible growth from San Antonio to Indianapolis. Most recently, their 2017 season included an 18th place finish at San Antonio, followed by a 12th place finish at Grand Nats the very next weekend. With a 12th place finish at last week’s San Antonio Super Regional, who knows how high they can shoot up in Indianapolis.
Other super regional finalists
Several other super regional finalists will also be competing for a finals spot Saturday night, including St. Louis finalist Union. Their top half finish and especially strong visual performance puts the group in a good position heading into nationals.
But there’s quite a squad of Indianapolis Super Regional finalist who will have something to say about that. Homestead is the strongest of this pack, with several recent appearances in national finals, but you can also expect strong showing from fellow Indy Super finalists Center Grove, Fishers, Lawrence Township, North Hardin and Brownsburg.
The wild cards
There are also many highly competitive bands that didn’t make it to a super regional this year. While we know anything can and does happen at Grand Nats, these groups bring a bit of extra mystery and excitement because we simply haven’t seen them go head-to-head against other top groups in the last few weeks.
From California, we have Ayala whose recent victory at Bakersfield included a nearly 10-point margin over second place. That’s quite a statement to make, especially for a band whose season doesn’t end until nearly Thanksgiving.
William Mason, from Ohio, is so close to so many regionals and even super regionals, but this season their only BOA event will be Grand Nationals. That means we’re practically flying blind with no current BOA results to use in speculating how they’ll score at nationals.
Georgia’s Harrison and Florida’s Park Vista each competed in one regional this season. At Powder Springs, Harrison won prelims by about 1.5 points, but inclement weather caused finals to be canceled. Park Vista’s fourth place finish in Orlando had them behind only bands that had made national finals the prior year. That’s some incredible company to be among. Plus the Orlando Regional was about a month prior to nationals, giving the band plenty of time to make any necessary changes and adjustments as the push to the end of the season.