*This story was originally published in the second quarter issue of the Eagle Eye*
On Nov. 18, under the bright lights of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s marching band, the Eagle Regiment, won first place in the Florida Marching Band Championships Class 5-A finals.
After three years of finishing as runner up to Park Vista High School, the Eagle Regiment finally triumphed.
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s always been a tradition for us to hold hands with the people next to us during retreat, and when they announced another band for second place, I remember squeezing my friend’s hand and both of us immediately crying,” flute Lt. Sydney Shteif said. “It wasn’t the ‘beating Park Vista’ aspect of it, it was more on the fact that we had just accomplished something we worked so hard to do.”
MSD scored a 91.70, whereas Park Vista received a score of 91.35. With a winning margin of only 0.35 points, the Eagle Regiment beat out their bitter rivals by a narrow margin. Their winning score also earned them the title of best overall at States among class 1-A through 5-A.
“Though we knew how breathtaking our performance was, we never truly had the goal of winning to begin with, so this championship was just another extraordinary milestone that we are so grateful to participate in,” head drum major Brianna Sanchez said.
The bands were judged based off of their music, general effect and visual components. The music category consists of the sound and composition chosen. The visual includes the shapes and designs the band makes throughout the performance as they march. General effect represents the excitement and “wow factor” felt throughout the performance.
The music and visual section are split into ensemble and individual, and the general effect category is split between the general effect of the music and the coordination.
Each element contributes to the final score, which is a summation of the points accumulated in the three main categories out of a possible 100 points. The performances may only last for nine minutes, but well-coordinated and colorful displays can leave band members with memories that can last a lifetime.
This year, band director Alexander Kaminsky’s set out to perform at a higher level than ever before, despite the stress caused by weather delays and the days off due to Hurricane Irma throughout the school year.
“I think that the sophistication of the design of the show was higher, which allowed us to get more credit, particularly with the theme itself of piece by piece and also the use of the blocks which served as our props,” Kaminsky said. “And so telling that story through the show for this year definitely helped our general affect scores. And also the music was more sophisticated than what we played before, so we basically performed well, but the difference was that the show itself was more sophisticated in every regard.”
The marching band’s last win at States occurred in 2009 when the band competed in Class 3-A, a category for bands of 51 to 75 wind and percussion players. Now competing in the largest class for bands of 101 and more wind and percussion players, Class 5-A, the band won in the most prestigious of the classes.
“The title of ‘champion’ sounds pretty good, but anyone who has been on that field knows that the real reason we do what we do isn’t for the trophy, or the title; it is for how it changes us, how it moves us, how it leaves us with an indescribable feeling of satisfaction when we walk off that field. It’s about the sense of teamwork, about being a part of a whole,” trumpet section leader Ridley Hutton said.
On the road to states, the Eagle Regiment competed in three regional competitions. At the final Regionals before the state-level competition on Nov. 4, the 12th Annual Striking Cobra Invitational, the Eagle Regiment scored highest in Class 5-A with 91.535, maintaining a first place ranking in their class and overall. The Eagle Regiment won all categories except for the percussion category in which they came in third.
Semifinals took place the morning of the finals at Gaither High School, located in Tampa. Park Vista beat the Eagle Regiment with a score of 93.25 in comparison to MSD’s 91.85. The close margin displayed the inevitable battle between the schools during Finals. In addition to the band, the MSD color guard came in first in their Class 5-A competition for Semifinals.
“After our Semifinals performance, most of us came off the field knowing that we could have done a lot better. However, we took that feeling, and we transformed it into something amazing during our finals performance,” clarinet section leader Sophie Ayoung-Chee said. “It was definitely the best run we’ve had visually and musically. You could feel the energy radiating off of everybody, and you could tell that everyone was performing like it was their last.”
Kaminsky, however, disagreed with these sentiments, asserting that as a whole, the Eagle Regiment should have earned higher placement in Semifinals.
“Honestly, I thought the Semifinals performance was pretty strong, especially with the venue that was used, which was not very good… I thought the band played very well,” Kaminsky said. “Interestingly, we did not get rewarded as much as I thought we should have.”
The Eagle Regiment puts in many hours into their performance, beginning practices in the summer at band camp and then in the school year, practicing from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays with some additional Wednesday practices added at Kaminsky’s discretion.
On some Saturdays, the band practices from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. during competition season to ensure their success at competition and solidify their cohesion to the point where the instrument notes and marching formations seem natural.
“We practiced hard and even added in a few practices as needed. It paid off in the end because we had an incredible performance at finals. Everyone felt that it was amazing and probably the best performance ever, and that amazing performance ended up coming with first place,” mellophones section leader Owen Trent said.
Unfortunately, band members’ long standing commitment to band during the first semester of school requires sacrifices to homework and social time.
In fact, all members of the Eagle Regiment missed out on MSD’s homecoming dance this year on Nov. 4 because it coincided with the aforementioned 12th Annual Striking Cobra Invitational regional competition.
Despite this being their last year as part of the regiment, MSD seniors are thrilled to have been able to end their high school band careers on such a high note, winning at FMBC.
“Of course it’s sad to be leaving. But at the same time, I will be leaving thoroughly satisfied. I also get this feeling that I’ve ‘done my time,’ so to speak, as many others have done before me, and that it’s time to hand the program over to the next generation, to whom I wish the best of luck,” band captain Luis Gomez said.
Next year, the wind symphony will travel to New York City in March of 2018 to perform at the famous Carnegie Hall as one of only six schools to have the privilege to go.