Written with assistance from Michael Reed

November 11, 2017
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

The Bands of America Grand National Championships Finals was once again held in the inviting confines of Lucas Oil Stadium over four days; November 8-11. Yamaha continued the company’s support of music education by sponsoring the events, as it has continuously done for decades. Finals capped off an exciting season that witnessed 20 Regional Championships held throughout the United States

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 the weekend of March 15-17, 2018. After schools let out for the summer, the Music for All Leadership Weekend Experience will be held at Ball State University, June 23-24, 2018, followed at the same location by the Music for All Summer Symposium, June 25-30. The Grand National Championships will return to Indianapolis November 7-10, 2018.

In the Indianapolis Marching Band Tournament, held on Wednesday night, November 8, Arsenal Technical H.S. captured 1st place in the Corps Style division, winning the Best Music, Best Visual, and Best General Effect awards. George Washington H.S. finished in 2nd place. The Show Style division was won by Broad Ripple H.S., which also took Best Music, and Best Visual. Crispus Attucks H.S. took 2nd place and the award for Best General Effect. Crispus Attucks also won the tournament’s Spirit Award, which includes a $1,000.00 scholarship and is awarded to the school demonstrating the best enthusiasm and support for their band. This is the fourth year the band won that honor.

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Sadly, this is the last year that Broad Ripple H.S. will exist. The school is one of three high schools in the Indianapolis Public School system to be closed as the district reconfigures itself within four remaining high schools. Music for All has pledged $1,000 to each of the four high schools that will be forming new bands in 2018.

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After 100 bands competed in Prelims on Thursday and Friday, the following 37 bands (listed in performance order) advanced into Semi-Finals: Adair County H.S. (KY), Jenison H.S. (MI), DeSoto Central H.S. (MS), Central Hardin H.S. (KY), Norton H.S. (OH), Beechwood H.S. (KY), Archbishop Alter H.S. (OH), Franklin H.S. (TN), Prosper H.S. (TX), James F. Byrnes H.S. (SC), Bassett H.S. (VA), Union H.S. (OK), Broken Arrow H.S. (OK), Marian Catholic H.S. (IL), The Woodlands H.S. (TX), Owasso H.S. (TN), Round Rock H.S. (TX), Marcus H.S. (TX), Avon H.S. (IN), Castle H.S. (IN), O’Fallon Township H.S. (IL), Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (MI), Blue Springs H.S., (MO), Center Grove H.S. (IN), Carmel H.S. (IN), Centerville H.S. (OH), Flower Mound H.S. (TX), North Hardin H.S. (KY), Homestead H.S. (IN), Walton H.S. (GA), Dobyns-Bennett H.S. (TN), Winston Churchill H.S. (TX), Lawrence Township H.S. (IN), William Mason H.S. (OH), Fort Mill H.S. (SC), Fishers H.S. (IN), and Mililani H.S. (HI).

Semi-Finalists included the top 11 bands from both Prelims days, plus the next eight high scores regardless of performance day. The other seven bands were due to the requirement that the top two bands from each class will advance into Semi-Finals from Prelims if those bands hadn’t already advanced on score alone.

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After the performances of all Semi-Finals bands and the exhibition of the University of Alabama 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 Carmel H.S. took Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect, and 2nd place Broken Arrow H.S. took Outstanding Music Performance. In 3rd place was Avon H.S. In Class AAA, 1st place Castle H.S. took all three caption awards, followed by 2nd place Dobyns-Bennett H.S., and 3rd place Fort Mill H.S. 1st place Marian Catholic H.S. took all three caption awards for Class AA, followed by 2nd place North Hardin H.S. and 3rd place Bassett H.S. In Class A, 1st place Adair County H.S. took Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding General Effect outright, and tied 2nd place Norton H.S. for Outstanding Visual Performance. Beechwood H.S. placed 3rd in the class.

The Finalist bands were randomly announced as being The Woodlands H.S., Carmel H.S., Marcus H.S., Broken Arrow H.S., Avon H.S., Flower Mound H.S., Castle H.S., Blue Springs H.S., Marian Catholic H.S., Round Rock H.S., Union H.S., and Dobyns-Bennett H.S. .

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. After Miami University Marching Band opened the Finals festivities with a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Class A Champion Adair County H.S. (KY) band performed an exhibition of its “Ex Machina” production, which explored the wonders and dangers of artificial intelligence.

In Finals, Carmel H.S. was awarded the Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect awards outright, and shared the Outstanding Music Performance Award with Broken Arrow H.S. The Al Castronovo Memorial Espirit de Corps Award went to Hawaii’s Mililani H.S., and Flower Mound H.S. received the invitation to the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Among special awards was the presentation of the George N. Parks Leadership Award to Marisa Weinstein of Warsaw Middle School (MN). The Yamaha Scholarship was awarded to Claire Wilcox of O’Fallon Township High School (IL). Alexis Kilgore of Ooltewah High School (TN) received the Fred J. Miller Family Scholarship, and the Fred J. Miller Memorial Scholarship was bestowed upon Matthew Waggoner of Castle High (IN).

Carmel H.S. , 1st place: 97:500
One could sense drifting off to a higher plane of consciousness during “Serenity,” a show that explored relaxation from Amicability to Zen. Billowing clouds on the flags and a plethora of Tibetan singing meditation bowls melted away anxieties amongst the raked Zen gardens, gently swinging swings, and stacked rock balancing. Breathing in deep, relaxing, and focusing has never been done with such musical sensitivity.

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Broken Arrow H.S. , 2nd place: 96.925
“Age of Discovery: The Return to Xeno” introduced a large fleet of interplanetary pedal cart rovers that transported guard members and wind players around the distant planet, allowing the intrepid explorers to explore and then escape when the space aliens became disagreeable. How the winds played their instruments, while piloting the carts demonstrated a level of training far beyond that of the average earthling civilian.

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Avon H.S. , 3rd place: 96.475
“Test4ment” utilized David Maslanka’s staggeringly difficult “Symphony No. 4” and was based on a speech given to the band members each year by the band’s retiring director. His admonishment to note what holds up the bricks in a wall was reflected in the various brick elements of the costumes, the entire lesson leading to the realization that no wall/band could stand without the contribution of each and every brick/band member.

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Marcus H.S. , 4th place: 95.700
The opening set full of googly eyes coldly stared into the souls of the audience as “PrODDigy” lived up to the capitalized middle letters of the title. Referencing the virtuoso violinist Paganini, set to Rachmaninoff’s musical tribute, huge neon fluorescent violin bridges and strings—plus green violin f-holes—visually vibrated throughout, forcibly turning the audience’s own peepers into additional ¬¬googly eyes.

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Flower Mound H.S. , 5th place: 95.625
“Fractured Moments” explored the work of architect Antoni Gaudi. Whites and grays gave way to the fractured ceramics and stained glass of his most extravagant creations, imbuing the band’s jackets with the colors of his wildest palettes. With cracked pieces of color appearing atop the members’ heads, the field came alive with the breathing, heaving intensity of Gaudi’s most eccentric and cherished works.

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Dobyns-Bennett H.S. , 6th place: 92.725
Colorful aqua vines entwined amongst the vivid orange flowers of “Paradisum,” sprouting a fantasy garden of earthly delights. Like seeds scattered in the wind, the metallic repartee in the background of “Pines of Rome” was carried across the field like a summer derecho windstorm, embedding the chaff of the windswept music into the curlicues of the drill forms and making both the visual sets and music shimmer in the light.

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The Woodlands H.S. , 7th place: 91.825
“In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation” was inspired by the maniacal setting of the same name in Scotland, which itself was inspired by cosmology, the science of the origin and development of the universe. Like waking up from an overdose of cough syrup to find everyone around you pulsating with the music of the spheres, the show explored the mysticism of the garden that is at once of the Big Bang and also eons yet to unravel.

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Castle H.S. , 8th place: 91.200
“Fly to Paradise” was an emotional tribute to band member Sophie Rinehart, who lost her life on the road home from last year’s Grand Nationals. The titles of the selections tell you everything you need to know about this loving production; “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” “The Hands of Fate,” “Benedictus,” “I’m Alive,” and “Fly to Paradise.” There was hardly a dry eye in the stadium as angel wings appeared and embraced the hearts of all.

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Blue Springs H.S. , 9th place: 91.175
“Burtonized” was inspired by the quirky feature films of director Tim Burton, filled with visual references to twisted Burton classics as diverse as “Edward Scissorhands,” “Beetlejuice,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Dark and creepy, but with a heavy infusion of quirky levity, the audience walked a figurative emotional balance beam alongside the gymnastic band member who was poised upon a real one.

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Union H.S. , 10th place: 91.025
“This Bitter Earth” was subtitled, “Five Ritual Celebrations in the Future, in the Past,” and explored the sometimes beneficial, often dangerous, always theatrical mixing of machine and nature. Red was the color of the day, appearing just about everywhere in the sets, the costumes, and many of the tribal headdresses. Ramps and stairs leading up to a huge variety of small and large stages elevated the members and the music.

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Marian Catholic H.S. , 11th place: 89.800
Marian Catholic made Finals for the 34th consecutive year with “Paradise Found.” Artificial and mechanical elements fought off nature and serenity, with dials and cogs dominating trees and other natural wonders. Though the planet turned gray and ashen from air pollution and oil spills, nature had the final say as vines overgrew the machines, with the new life of leaves and butterflies filling the planet with hope.

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Round Rock H.S. , 12th place: 89.625
“Errand Into the Maze” utilized the music of Revueltas’ “Sensemaya” to convey the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur, a menacing tale in Greek mythology about a granddaughter of Zeus and the monstrous half man, half bull creature that ate humans to survive. Prior to being slain, the Minotaur was not only confined to a labyrinth controlled by Ariadne, but also added a new element to the tale by proving it could spin a mean rifle.

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See the list of all Grand National Finals results, as well as all 2017 BOA Championship awards results.

For almost four decades, Michael Boo has covered a large variety of pageantry events. He is the Staff Writer for Drum Corps International and has written for BOA and WGI for much of the existence of the two organizations. Michael Reed writes and blogs for WGI Indoor Marching Percussion and Color Guard events.