Marching band goes out with a bang

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, November 6, 2013
The West Liberty marching band earned a Division 1 rating at the Iowa High School Music Association (IHSMA) Marching Band Contest on Oct. 19.

Division 1 is the highest of five possible rankings at the state-wide contest. West Liberty, class 2A, scored 74.8 of a possible 100 points to achieve the score. A minimum score of 68 is needed to achieve a division 1 ranking.

Over 150 bands competed in the contest. However, West Liberty's high rating was special to the band, considering that it's been years since the marching band has done so well.

"According to the plaques hanging in the band room, 2008 was the last time the marching band received a Division I rating," Band Director Ashley Smith said.

This is Smith's first year in West Liberty. She and the band have been perfecting their show "The Music of James Bond" since the beginning of the school year.

The show featured music from the popular 007 franchise, including "Skyfall" by Adele for the second movement.

After she picked up an envelope with the band's final score from the judges at Muscatine High School after the contest, she boarded the bus home.

"As soon as they saw me approaching the bus, envelope in hand, they were instantly silent – I think they were holding their breath," Smith said. "After opening the envelope and announcing that we’d received a Division I rating, the entire bus exploded into cheers. I’ve never heard them scream that loud!"

This has been the crowning achievement of what's been a great season for the marching band. At the Little Hawk Marching Invitational in Iowa City Oct. 5, the band came in first place for its class.

On Oct. 12, they came in second place for class 2A and third place overall at the Wilton Festival of Bands at Wilton High School. It also received awards for outstanding drum major, color guard, drill design and marching execution.

In order to prepare for the IHSMA Marching Band contest, West Liberty students examined their performances in the previous contests, discussing feedback and scores they received from the judges.

They also focused on good breathing technique, good posture and marching. But what it really came down to was time spent practicing the show.

"The students are on the field every morning for rehearsal from 8:15 to 9:05," said Smith, "Their dedication and their impressive work ethic, even in wet or cold weather, has really allowed us to excel this season."

While competitions are now over, the band performed one final time for Senior Night at the football game on Friday against Mid-Prairie.

There were six seniors in the band, while junior Josue Romero was the drum major.

After setting the bar high, the marching band will now transition into concert band for the winter season. Its first concert will be Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. However, Smith will begin looking into next year's marching show.

She's also grateful for the help she received from parents and the fine arts boosters, as well as staff members Aaron Ziegler, Magee Glenn-Burns and Matt Hill.
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