Written with assistance from Michael Reed.


November 12, 2016
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

The Bands of America Grand National Championships Finals in Lucas Oil Stadium was a grand ending to the beginning of BOA’s second 40 years. Once again, Yamaha presented the four days of events in Indianapolis, continuing a mission of music education support that is second to none. For the first time, in 2016, all BOA Championships were live-streamed online by FloMarching.com, helping celebrate the most Championships BOA has ever held in the fall with 21 events.

The Grand National Championships is far from the end of Music for All’s yearlong season. The Music for All National Festival will be in Indianapolis, March 9-11, 2017. After schools let out for the summer, the Music for All Leadership Weekend Experience will be held at Ball State University June 24-25, 2017, followed at the same location by the Music for All Summer Symposium June 26-July 1. The Grand National Championships will return to Indianapolis November 8-11, 2017.

In the Indianapolis Marching Band Tournament, held on Wednesday night, November 9, Arsenal Technical HS captured 1st place in the Corps Style division, also winning honors for Best General Effect and Best Visual Performance. Emmerich Manual HS took 2nd place, and George Washington HS took the award for Best Musical Performance. Broad Ripple HS took 1st place in the Show Style division, also capturing honors for Best Music Performance and Best General Effect. Crispus Attucks Magnet HS took 2nd place while taking the award for Best Visual Performance.

In addition to the competition on the field among the Indianapolis Public Schools bands, the schools also vie for the coveted Spirit Award, which includes a $1,000.00 scholarship and is awarded to the school demonstrating the best enthusiasm and support for their band. Crispus Attucks Magnet H.S. was named the winner of the award.

After 100 bands competed in Prelims on Thursday and Friday, the following 36 bands (listed in performance order) advanced into Semi-Finals: North Hardin HS (KY), Adair County HS (KY), Williamstown HS (KY), Archbishop Alter HS (OH), Milton-Union HS (OH), Reeths-Puffer HS (MI), Lockport Township HS (IL), Ayala HS (CA), Green Hope HS (NC), O’Fallon Township HS (IL), Ronald Reagan HS (TX), James F. Byrnes HS (SC), Wando HS (SC), Claudia Taylor Johnson HS (TX), Marian Catholic HS (IL), Avon HS (IN), Owasso HS (OK), Castle HS (IN), William Mason HS (OH), Union HS (OK), Bellevue West HS (NE), Dobyns-Bennett HS (TN), Leander HS (TX), Franklin HS (TN), Cedar Park HS (TX), Center Grove HS (IN), Carmel HS (IN), Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (MI), ), Homestead HS (IN), Lawrence Township HS (IN), Tarpon Springs HS (FL), Vista Murrieta HS (CA), James Bowie HS (TX), Fort Mill HS (SC), Clovis West HS (CA), and Columbus North HS (IN).

After the performances of all Semi-Finals bands and the exhibition of the Ohio State University Marching Band, caption highest achievement awards and caption placement awards were presented to the top bands in each of the four competitive Semi-Finals classes.

In Class AAAA, 1st place Avon HS took Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding General Effect, and 3rd place William Mason HS took Outstanding Visual Performance. In between was 2nd place Carmel HS. In Class AAA, 1st place Leander HS took all three caption awards, sharing Outstanding General Effect with 2nd place Cedar Park HS. Castle HS finished in 3rd place. In Class AA, 1st place Tarpon Springs HS took all three caption awards, followed by 2nd place Marian Catholic HS and 3rd place North Hardin HS. In Class A, 1st place Adair County HS took all three caption awards, followed by 2nd place Williamstown HS and 3rd place Archbishop Alter HS.

The Finalist bands were randomly announced as being Carmel HS, Leander HS, Avon HS, Claudia Taylor Johnson HS, Cedar Park HS, Tarpon Springs HS, Marian Catholic HS, Homestead HS, Wando HS, William Mason HS, Ronald Reagan HS, Dobyns-Bennett HS, and Castle HS. For the first time in BOA Grand Nationals history, there were 13 bands in Finals due to a tie for 12th place in Semifinals.

Representatives from each band drew for their performing position in Finals in two blocks; the 7th-12th place bands followed by the 1st-6th place bands. (Prior to 2016, all Finalist bands drew for position in one block.) Finals performances concluded with an exhibition performance by Class A Champion Adair County HS, as Class Champions present an exhibition in Finals if they aren’t in the top-12.

Other special awards included Tom Hannum receiving the George N. Parks Leadership Award. The Yamaha Scholarship was awarded to Sarah Watt of Bentonville HS (AR), the Fred J. Miller Family Scholarship went to Olivia Klein of Norton HS (OH), and the Fred J. Miller Memorial Scholarship went to Lesly Hinojosa of Roma HS (TX). The Al Castronovo Espirit de Corps Award was presented to the Vista Murrieta HS (CA). Ronald Reagan HS (TX) received an invitation to perform at the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Avon HS was awarded both the Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding Visual Performance Awards, and Carmel HS took the award for Outstanding General Effect. Because Carmel won GE, they were declared the 2017 BOA Grand Nationals National Champion when it was announced that both Carmel and Avon tied with the highest score, being that General Effect is used to break any ties in any of Finals placements.


Carmel HS, 1st place: 97:45

One could be forgiven for wondering why Carmel was so small at the beginning of “Adagio-Presto.” Suddenly, the band appeared to double in size in this production that had no particular theme, celebrating music for music’s sake. Reflecting the show title, brass on one side of the field moved in slow curvilinear forms while brass on the other side moved at an accelerated tempo, resolving in a huge glorious show-ending statement.

Avon HS, 2nd place: 97.45

Kinetic sculptures inspired by Burning Man Festival enhanced the Americana music of “Go Forth,” based on the Walt Whitman poem, “Pioneer, O Pioneer,” which was heard throughout. The program explored the restlessness and adventurousness of youth—as well as the ongoing desire to explore the unknown—by employing the inviting wide-open expanses of the western United States as a thematic motif for manifest destiny.

William Mason HS, 3rd place: 96.55

The music of Samuel Barber and multitudes of giant rolling bubbles helped William Mason achieve its first GN placement in the top-3 with “World Out of Balance.” The bubbles rolled around the field like giant tumbleweeds, each swallowing up a member of the band. The juxtaposition of Barber’s music with a continual visual so wacky, and yet so captivating, allowed this show to roll over the audience as well as the marchers.

Tarpon Springs HS, 4th place: 95.70

“Pandora” studied the ancient Greek story of the first woman on earth, who unleashed all the troubles of the world through her curiosity and subsequent opening of a container full of various miseries. She inadvertently let everything escape the box except Hope, which popped out of the box at the end bedazzled with a giant white peacock-like silk, suggesting there was still a chance of she and all humanity becoming free.

Cedar Park HS, 5th place: 95.30

Eerily spooky and impishly fun, “All Hallows’ Eve” (“Halloween”) delighted with its wry mischievousness, pitting smiling Jack-o’-lanterns (the treats) counter to their more sinister twins (the tricks), each taking turns popping up and just as quickly disappearing. Maneuvering amidst the sticky threads of a giant spider web, flying bats had their way until the sun arose, demonstrating everyone survived the night.

Leander HS, 6th place: 94.65

“The Fourth Dimension” explored the fascinating mathematical field of Euclidean geometry, enhanced by cube props and sets, with many of the flags emblazoned with images of cubes. Rotating 3-D cubes manipulated by the guard and the winds revealed new shapes when viewed from the changing perspective of different angles, the morphing of the shapes further reflected in the continual morphing of the sonic landscape.

Ronald Reagan HS, 7th place: 91.85

“One Love” explored the need to love and embrace the diversity in the world, celebrating how the inclusion of others from all different walks of life adds value to our existence. Shocking to the eyes and brain was when the dresses worn by the massive guard all changed from either pink or blue to yellow in the blink of an eye. The show ended with the band forming a giant hand on the field, reflecting the hands imprinted upon the flags.

Wando HS, 8th place: 91.50

Cataclysmic has never been as much fun as the opener of “Gorgon” suggested in the cerebral production of “Therefore,” which encouraged us to question everything, but only after thinking about it to the nth degree. From “Violence of the Mind” to the reassuring strains of “How Great Thou Art,” the thoughts and words of famous philosophers through the millennia were intimidating, challenging, and ultimately encouraging.

Claudia Taylor Johnson HS, 9th place: 91.30

One could be forgiven for thinking that if a dance had ever been created, there was a good chance it had been snuck into “flashDANCE” somewhere. The show was all about dance, the dancers controlled by a DJ overlooking the dance floor from his platform. Hints of dances of long-ago centuries led into the jazz era of flappers, to the refined artistry of prim ballerinas and throbbing head banging to the latest pop hits.

Castle HS, 10th place: 91:05

In mythology, Sirens were stunning female creatures who lured sailors to their demise upon jagged rocks with the beauty of their irresistible voices. “A Siren’s Song” explored the interplay between such a creature and her unsuspecting prey, the sailor quickly learning that resistance was futile as he reluctantly-yet-willingly joined the Siren in a flute duet prior to being led by the hand to the destiny of the unforgiving rocks.

Homestead HS, 11th place: 91.00

“A Time to Turn” was based on the lesson of Ecclesiastes 3, which inspired the folk song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” LED lights on tree sets changed colors as the show progressed through the times and seasons of life. These included the vibrant summer celebration of tender love, the caring autumn contemplation of mutual embracing, the harsh wintery chill of sorrowful weeping, and the festive spring jubilee of ecstatic dancing.

Marian Catholic HS, 12th place: 90:05

Completing the band’s 33-year unbroken string of being a Grand Nationals finalist, “Unbroken” explored the Japanese art of kintsugi (repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with precious metals) as a metaphor for healing after suffering tragic loss. Out of the chaos of disaster, life moves forward, reflected by the final commentary: “The world breaks everyone. Afterward, everyone is strong in the broken places.”

Dobyns-Bennett HS, 13th place: 89.45

“Echoes of Hope” served elegant old wine in sparkling new bottles by reinventing the music of Richard Wagner, allowing us to hear the master’s work from a novel perspective. Commencing with an unorthodox saxophone octet treatment of “Pilgrims’ Chorus,” the relatively abstract production Wagner-fied a couple contemporary works that one might suspect had been written under a pseudonym by a latter-day Wagner.

The marching band community was shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Castle High School’s Sophie Rinehart, who, along with her father and grandmother, lost her life in an auto accident on the way home from Indianapolis. All in attendance at Grand Nationals were uplifted by her ethereal voice, which will serve as a haunting reminder that life is fragile, must continually be cherished, and is a gift that can evaporate in a heartbeat. Debbie Laferty Asbill perfectly captured the essence of our collective grief with the following reflections on Sophie’s life, complete with a video from what no one could have suspected would be her last performance. https://www.musicforall.org/blog/stories/remembering-sophie-rinehart

See the list of all Grand National Finals results, as well as all 2016 BOA Championship awards results.