Omaha schools dominated the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association State Marching Competition Saturday, but Norris and Beatrice high schools left the field for the last time this season feeling proud of their performances and overall progress.
Bellevue West High School took first overall at the competition in Omaha, and also nabbed caption awards in best effect, music, visual and color guard.
Norris took eighth place among 16 competing schools.
“I think we had our best performance to date on Saturday,” Norris director of bands Evan Lee said. “For us, it’s about improving ourselves. We always teach our kids and instill the belief that it’s not a first, second, third place deal. It’s more along the lines of how high of quality can we build this product.”
The presentation by Norris is called “Ode to the Farmer.” The competition was at Buell Stadium in Omaha.
An additional three dozen or more high school marching bands performed at two other NSBA state marching festivals at other locations.
At the festival at Seacrest Field in Lincoln, the Beatrice High School Marching Orangemen performed for a rating rather than a ranking. BHS received a Division I rating, or superior rating, which is the best a band can receive from the judges.
“We were happy,” BHS director of bands Andrew Johnson said. “When we left the field, everyone felt good about it. Mr. Meyer (vocal music instructor) and parents in the stands said it was really good. Administrators liked it."
Johnson said the goal is to try to perfect the piece of music as the band works on it from July to October at school and at other regional contests leading up to the state festival.
“As long as we perform and we’re happy with it, the result itself doesn’t matter,” Johnson said.
The group was able to get feedback from judges after past performances on what to change. The BHS show, called “Persian Fantasy,” was more colorful by the time it reached Saturday's judges, including bright streamers and cloth used on tables and by the color guard in the 15-minute performance.
A street market scene at the beginning of the ensemble was also improved, Johnson said. The whole show, consisting of three back-to-back numbers, was as theatrical as the opening stint.
“I encourage my students to be not only marchers and musicians but to really be performers,” he said. “That makes my students enjoy it even more.”
Johnson said the group’s playing and footwork have improved throughout the season.
The BHS marching band will play on the high school football field again if the Orangemen play another home game. Marching band members are shifting gears and rehearsing for concerts which will be on Veterans Day and in December, February and May.
The BHS marching band practiced Monday through Friday at 7 or 7:30 a.m. since July.
“They’ve had maybe seven or eight weekdays off during that whole time,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of energy.”
As the marching band season ends, Johnson expressed thanks to all of the parents, students and fine arts boosters who helped make the performances possible.
“Some parents would ride the bus with us to help with attendance, pin up hair and check to see if uniforms are up to code,” Johnson said.
He estimated 10 behind-the-scenes people assisted the band on Saturday before the performance.
“Like any theatrical production, there are people you don’t see who are critical to the success of that group,” he said.
The Beatrice band has 80 members. The Norris band has 130. There is no limit to the size of a high school marching band, Norris director Evan Lee said. Some of the bands at the competition Saturday had up to 200 members.
“The neat thing that we’re seeing a lot of improvements – in ourselves – but everybody out there is making such strides in this activity,” Lee said. “They’re really doing a great job. It makes our job harder to compete. But that’s a good thing. It’s always good to see all of our groups and our schools really flourishing at this point. Including Beatrice.”