By JENNIFER MEIER
---- — INDIANAPOLIS – Eighty bands met in Indianapolis Saturday afternoon to fill 40 coveted spots in the upcoming ISSMA Marching Band State Finals at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend.
Goshen, Concord, Fairfield and NorthWood will represent Elkhart County in their respective classes.
Class A Ben Davis High School hosted the Class A semi-state competition with Goshen coming out a winner along with Carmel, Avon, Lake Central, Homestead, Center Grove, Castle, Lawrence Central, Ben Davis and Carroll. It was an emotional victory for Goshen Director Tom Cox and his band. “The show was absolutely amazing. I had tears at the end of the performance,” Cox said. “The kids played with such emotion and precision. The color guard fought the wind and had a great show too.” An increase in school enrollment bumped Goshen into Class A. Although the competition has been fierce, Cox is glad to be in this class. “To be a state finalist in Class A in the state of Indiana is about as high of an honor as there is,” he said. “In Class A you have five national champions, not just state champs, but national champions. That is pretty good company to keep. And Goshen is the smallest school in Class A. To be in the mix with these great bands is amazing!” As the long marching band season comes to a close, Cox is all about gratitude. “The kids are really doing a nice job of communicating the music in the show. As a music educator that is all you can ever hope,” he said. “I could go on for days about these kids.” In addition to the high school students, Cox said he was especially grateful to the middle school students who helped out with practice and to the parents who have been an integral part of the season. “These people (the parents) are the real engine of our band. They chaperone, feed, mend flags, move equipment and do all of the things that help our students perform better,” Cox said. “When you travel with over 230 people it is the little things that need to get done and our parents are the ones that really need the pat on the back from the students and staff.” Cox reserved a special thank you for the band staff at Goshen. “This is a team effort. Josh Kaufman especially, and the rest of the staff is a collection of amazing people who push our kids to excel at the highest level. It is a privilege to teach along side such dedicated people everyday. A big thank you to the community and to the administration of Goshen Community Schools who both support music education,” Cox said.
There was plenty of talent on the field at Pike High School where 20 Class B bands met Saturday afternoon. At the end of the semi-state competition Concord along with New Castle, Plainfield, Greenwood, Floyd Knobs, Dekalb, Plymouth, Northview, Jasper and Munster made the cut for state finals. All season long, Concord director Scott Spradling has contended that this year’s show has been a difficult one to master for the 247-member band. And even though the band had scored at the top of each invitational, the semi-state performance was the one Spradling was waiting for. “From my perspective, which is on the field, I thought it was best show of the year,” he said. “I thought the kids put the most emotional impact into the show. They’re worrying about not making mistakes, and doing the things right, but then they’re trying to get their heart and their mind behind it as well. Tonight was the closest we’ve come putting the two things together.” Drum Major Saris Huneryager was pleased with the performance as well as the weather. “It was definitely the best performance we’ve ever had. I know the band was really excited to go out there and perform because we had fall break this week with hours of practice. So it all built up to be something great,” she said. “We practiced in the snow this week – so this weather was beautiful.” For Northridge High School it was a tough evening. The Raider band performed well all season, scored in the top 10 at ISSMA Regionals and felt their show at semi-state was the best of the season. “Everything we had worked on was sowed up in that performance,” said Band Director Brad Zook. “I’m thrilled with it I thought it was and excellent, excellent job.” As the state finalists were announced however, Northridge found themselves just edged out of the top 10. There were plenty of tears, but senior clarinet player Leah Jennings had a positive perspective. “It was just amazing to be marching on a semi-state field,” she said. “Everyone did their very best and it just a fantastic show. It was all I could have asked for.” Elkhart Central, who also fared well at regional competition, will not move on to the state finals.
Class C Both Fairfield and Northwood performed well at Decatur Central and will march on to the ISSMA State Finals this weekend along with Edgewood, Western, Beech Grove, Vincennes-Lincoln, Concordia Lutheran, Norwell, Angola, and Mount Vernon. It hasn’t been an easy season for the Fairfield Marching Pride. “Our semi-state performance was season-changing,” said Director of Bands Andrew Muth. “All season the students and staff have felt like something has been missing - like it just wasn't coming together and yesterday it all seemed to click into place. It was easily the strongest of the season and of the performances while I've been the director here at Fairfield.” Muth said he knew he was taking a huge risk this year when staff decided to do this particular show. “We knew that there was a chance that the demand would not be rewarded and that we wouldn't be able to pull it together,” Muth said. “Our students, staff and parents have worked very hard this season. We haven't felt that it always worked in our favor this season. Now it's coming down to the end and everything is falling into to place as we had hoped it would when we started this journey.” For Muth and his staff, the season has been about conquering fear and working hard. “We talk with our kids about no fear. You can only control your performance and the rest is up to the judges. This week we are going to work as hard as possible and I know that no matter if we are the State Champion or are awarded tenth place we will have a staff, a group of parents, and a community that will be proud - and that's all we can ask for.”