Tuesday afternoon at 5:15 p.m. at J. Fred Johnson Stadium, Kingsport Mayor John Clark was expected to honor the “black shirts,” parents of the marching Indians, who work behind the scenes and, among other things, help set up and dismantle the competitive band show platforms and other props. Wednesday afternoon, about 1:30 p.m. or 2 p.m., the competitive band of more than 200 students and its band boosters will board charter buses headed to the Bands of America Grand Nationals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Kristin Thorneloe, a junior trumpet player who is in charge of public relations for the band this year, said the band’s first competition was the Bands of America (BOA) Regional on Oct. 13 at Gaffney, S.C., followed by the Tournament of Champions on Oct. 20 at Western Carolina University. The BOA Grand Nationals at Lucas Oil Stadium go Wednesday through Saturday, although the final placements won’t be available until 11 p.m. or later Saturday night.
WHAT IS THE THEME OF THIS YEAR’S SHOW?
This year’s show is titled “Rise Above” and has different personal meaning for band students. Center drum major Nick Costella, one of four drum majors, said it is about overcoming personal weaknesses and challenges by pressing onward, although interpretations differ. The show is nine minutes long, compared to the maximum of 12 minutes, Nick said. That doesn’t include four minutes to set up and two minutes to get off the field.
“A lot of the nervousness actually goes away when you’re performing,” said junior Vikran Nathan, a bass clarinet player who has been in competitive band since he was a freshman. “As (band Director) Mr. (Lafe) Cook says, there is no defense in competitive band.” In other words, bands are all offense, each playing and performing the best they can without diminishing the performances of others. “You just do what you’ve been trained to do.”
Vikran said without the black shirts, the competitive show wouldn’t be possible.
“They’re the reason we even have a competitive show,” he said, adding that this year’s props and show go beyond past attempts in scope.
Vikran said he plans to become a physican but wants to stay in music performance somehow in college. To him, “Rise Above” is about band’s impact on his life, being part of more than 300 people in the football band and more than 200 in the competitive band of various socio-economic backgrounds, races and religions. Despite tumultuous times worldwide, he said the members “come together and do something they love” and do so “regardless of the biases we see in the rest of the world.”
HOW HAS THE BAND DONE SO FAR?
At Gaffney, the band took second overall but won its class of 3A and general effect.
At Western Carolina, the band was first place and swept all subcategories except for color guard, as well as winning its class in 4A. The subcategories were wins in percussion, drum majors, visuals, music and general effect.
Last year in Indianapolis, the band in effect ranked sixth in the nation and was second in its class of 3A. Kristin said the goal this year is to win 3A, which means D-B would likely have to beat Castle High School of Newburgh, Ind., which took first place in that class last year. In 2017, D-B beat Castle in the finals but not in the class rankings, which are determined in semifinals.
Kristin has been in competitive band all of her three years at D-B, having her first national competition as a freshman. That means she is used to things such as last Saturday’s “band camp” for the competitive band, as well as practices last week in the rain and/or cold compared to the climate-controlled stadium in Indianapolis.
“I’m definitely looking forward to being able to feel my fingers when I play,” Kristin said.
HOW’S THE VIEW FOR A HIGH-FLYING DRUM MAJOR?
Nick, a senior, has been in band all four years at D-B and spent the first two years as a musician marcher and the last two as a drum major. He emphasized the goal this year is to win class 3A at nationals.
His first year, Nick said he was “super nervous” but not so much after that. He said his first year as a drum major he had his nervousness “pretty well under control,” but he still sometimes worries.
“I know if I mess up the whole thing is going down,” Nick said. “Of course I can’t show that on the field. I’ve got to power through it.”
Nick doesn’t plan to major in music in college but hopes to minor in it. He said he may audition for Drum Corps International. His plan is to go to either Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro or San Jose University in California and major in the aerospace science-pilot program. He is working on getting his private pilot license. He has soloed with retired Air Force Col. Bill Powley’s flight program and now serves as office manager at Tri-Cities Flying Service in Blountville.