They came with trumpets, cymbals, costumes and more.
One by one, the bands marched through the gate and onto the field, ready to unleash a flurry of visuals and sound for the several hundred spectators who gathered on Saturday at Richland 2 Stadium at Blythewood High School.
There was plenty to take in at the Town of Blythewood Tournament of Bands. There was the band instructor who fist-pumped and yelled “Yes!” when a trumpeter nailed her solo. There were judges pacing around the bands as they performed, watching carefully and logging their thoughts into voice recorders. There was the woman walking around with a T-shirt that read, “It’s football season” – only with “football” crossed off and replaced by “marching band.”
And there were the 34 bands that took the field, with performances varying from Gilbert High’s renditions of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” to the Westwoood High’s “The Game” show – which featured band members in red or blue uniforms pretending to clash with each other in a competition as they played dramatic music.
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Here, the bands were the stars of the show, not bound to play second fiddle to the football team as they sometimes do on Friday nights.
“It’s a great way to reward the students who perform in the band in their arena beyond a football game,” said Roderick Henderson, the band director at Richland Northeast High School. “They work just as hard as the football team, if not harder. I know on Friday night, that’s not always the focus of the night, so it’s good for them to have a day to showcase what they’ve worked on all year since the summer.”
Meleah Riddle, the drum major for Westwood High, said it’s a treat to perform in front of a band-crazed crowd.
“Performing at football games, it’s nice, but not the entire crowd is there specifically for the band,” Riddle said. “With these band competitions, everybody knows what they’re looking for in the band program, they know what to expect, and they appreciate it a lot more. So it’s a lot of fun.”
Eleven Columbia-area marching bands performed Saturday at the competition hosted by Blythewood and Ridge View high schools, with other bands coming from across the state. Some local bands affected by flooding in early October had to miss practices, games and competitions over the past few weeks, making the competition Saturday a valuable test run before the state preliminary championship competition next week.
Gilbert High band director Hunter White said his band has been working on its show since January but that it had only been able to perform once all year – at the football team’s opening game.
“The kids have worked hard, and they’re ready to perform, so I’m glad we got the opportunity,” White said.
SEE THE WINNERS
Awards were set to be presented at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday.
A full list of winners can be found online on the tournament’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tournamentofbands.