For Waco-area marching band geeks, Saturday is a day to blow one’s horn: The Bands of America Regional Championship is in town.
The day- and evening-long contest, run by a large national band organization, will bring 25 top marching bands from across Texas and Oklahoma to the Waco Independent School District Stadium.
Both Waco and Midway independent school districts regularly host University Interscholastic League band competitions, but Saturday’s Bands of America event goes to the next level. Think big bands, big color guards, big props, big productions.
“Everything is bigger. It takes UIL and ramps it up.” Waco ISD fine arts director Larry Carpenter said.
Waco High School director of bands Scott Stulir, whose connections to the organization from past years with bands in Iowa and Illinois alerted him and the district to the hosting opportunity, agreed.
“It’s a major deal,” he said.
Saturday’s contestants will include reigning 5A champion Cedar Park High School and perennially high-rated Marcus High School and Cypress Falls High School.
Most of the bands in the regional will put more than 200 students on the field with hundreds of fans and family members in the stands. One of the smaller bands competing is the lone Central Texas representative, Robinson High School’s “Pride of the Blue,” which will march with 95 musicians and color guard members.
For Robinson director of bands Wiley Gore, Saturday’s contest will give the band valuable experience as it seeks to progress in UIL competition this fall with its show “Geometrics,” with a possible shot at the state championship.
While UIL judges grade bands on difficulty of music and sharpness in execution, Bands of America’s national judges look for the program difficulty attempted and overall success in presenting it.
“It’s all about communicating to the audience. … The way the trend is going, if you can be very successful in the BOA world, you can be very successful in the UIL world,” Gore said. “We designed our show to be competitive in both areas.”
Robinson will take the field at 10 a.m., one of 25 bands marching in the daylong preliminary round that steps off at 8:15 a.m. Judges flown in for the weekend will choose the top 10 to return that night for finals.
Waco is one of four cities hosting a Bands of America regional Saturday, joining Canton, Ohio, Orlando, Florida, and Gaffney, South Carolina, and is one of seven Texas cities holding Bands of America competitions this fall. A Super Regionals contest is scheduled for Nov. 2-3 in San Antonio, and the three-day Grand Nationals, with almost 100 competing bands, is held annually in Indianapolis.
The Waco High School band, parents and band leaders will provide the 140 volunteers staffing Saturday’s event, and proceeds from parking will go to Waco ISD band and fine arts programs.
Spectator parking will be on the home or west side of the stadium, and band buses and tractor-trailers — yes, these are big programs — will park on the visitors’ side with University High School providing space for overflow parking.
Bands of America judges will hold a post-competition clinic on Sunday, reviewing band videos and critiquing programs for participating directors and their staffs. Waco High School band leaders will be able to participate because of its status as host, Stulir said.