by Kirsten Kraus and Audrey Payne | feature editor and copy editor
Senior Sarah Rodriguez stands anxiously in the middle of the field, alongside her fellow band members, at her very last BOA competition. The announcer calls out the finals placements one by one. As the first place band is called, the Alamodome erupts into the sound of cheers from band parents and friends.
“Winning BOA San Antonio really made the whole entire journey seem worth it and its just incredible to see all of us grow together and accomplish something amazing, Rodriguez said. “Every single year we seem to get better, and we don’t really know what we do, but its just amazing to see everyone push harder and harder every year to make ourselves improve.”
The Claudia Taylor Johnson Band participated in the Bands of America San Antonio Super Regional competition, a competition that included 64 bands from Texas and around the nation.
“This particular contest, it’s considered to be almost on a par and sometimes even more difficult than the national contest,” band director Alan Sharps said. “I would say it’s probably the toughest marching band competition in the entire country.”
This BOA competition is often said to be one of the most competitive of all of BOA competitions. The band competed against previous BOA winners, as well as previous national winners.
“You’ve got between 60 and 80 groups a year that come down, and there’s not a class restriction so we’ll have everything from what would be a 6A high school down to a 1A high school that will compete. And some of the best groups in the state are actually not in 6A, they’re 4 and 5A high schools that may be a little bit smaller but are as competitive in their UIL division and BOA strips away the classifications and just puts all of the groups together,” band director Jarrett Lipman said. “You really get the top programs in the state, and then they get the top 14 into finals, so you have a much better reading competitively than maybe the UIL event, which doesn’t allow all of those groups to compete for the top 14 spots, because of the way that numbers break down and gerrymandering of the areas. BOA is a little bit more representative.”
The band has been participating in these competition for seven years now and this is the first year that the band has won a BOA competition.
“It’s very gratifying to know that we’ve reached that level in Bands of America. Bands of America is a contest that there’s only one championship organization in the country, and it’s…unlike a lot of the other things that happen in school where there may be very many national championships,” Sharps said. “Bands of America is the only one for band, so when you have a high level of success in that particular venue, it really means a lot. We’re very, very proud of all the students in the band that they’ve gotten where they can operate at that level.”
Every year the band practices extensively throughout the summer, followed by rehearsals after school. The students, along with the directors, work efficiently to put together their competition field show.
“We always, basically, prepare the same way we start, with making sure the band is really fundamentally sound, they can play very well, they can march very well, they have a really healthy understanding of what each individual responsibility is to be great at what they do,” Sharps said. “And then we sort of put the pressure on and give good feedback so that each individual pushes to the full extent of whatever their abilities are.”
However, this year’s show was different from all of the show is previous years. This year’s show, Chameleon, was longer and more demanding, both physically and mentally.
“This show this year is a lot more physically demanding than they have been in the past, because we’re marching at 180 beats per minute for most of the show. There’s also a lot more dance this year, and that’s also because the new uniforms allow us to move more. The music is harder, too. We’ve just kind of upped our game all around,” senior Sam Morey said.
Every part of the band, directors, wind players, pit, drumline, and color guard, have all dedicated their time and energy into producing magic on the field.
“I’m in the pit, so I don’t actually march. Its very different than actually being on the field. You don’t put in nearly as much physical labor as the marchers do, but there is just as much, if not more, emotional and mental stress in the pit. You have to be on top of everything, you have to learn your music, memorize it faster than everyone else, so you can be ready for changes when the winds change,” sophomore Rachel Delgado said.
The band won their first BOA regional at BOA Conroe, where they took first place in finals, along with the captions for best visual, general effect, and music.
“Winning BOA Houston this year has told us that we can win, so now its just a matter if we step up and do it,” sophomore Jazmin Robinson said. “Instead of taking a step back after winning a competition, we stepped up and rehearsals were more productive.”
However, the wins from this year aren’t only a result of the work put in by this years band students, but of years past too.
“It really is due to the groups from past years. This year benefitted enormously from the work that had been done in prior years. When you have a strong foundation and you keep building upon it, eventually you’re going to get to the top,” Lipman said. “But, it’s not that this group did anything differently from prior years. If anything, what’s been so special about this group is they’ve made it a point to continue the work ethic and the tradition of what came before them, then that really has enabled them to achieve success, so I think not reinventing the wheel, and continuing to work hard has been what this group has done so well.”
Throughout the years, the band has continues to grow, improving in their playing and marching abilities each year.
“It’s been very very gratifying personally to me because we started from a level where we had great facilities, students, staff, and we had lots of things that would make a band program good. We still really were very much starting from scratch and so each year we’ve had a chance to watch the band progress,” Sharps said. “It’s been absolutely amazing to see that the band has gotten better and better all seven years. We realize that at some point in time we’ll plateau out and there will be ups and downs in a minor way from year to year, but it’s been one of my greatest professional joys to be able to watch and see how the band has adapted over the course of the years.”