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D-B competitive marching band headed to Grand Nationals in Indianapolis

Rick Wagner • Oct 31, 2017 at 7:15 PM

KINGSPORT — The Dobyns-Bennett High School Band is again headed to what amounts to the Super Bowl or World Series of high school band competitions.

D-B will be among 100 bands to compete at the Music for All’s Bands of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis in early November. Barring tie scores, only 12 of those will make it to the finals, and only one of those will be named Grand Nationals champion after performing at Lucas Oil Field. 

“The kids have worked very hard. This show has continue to improve and improve,” band director Lafe Cook said. In comparison, he said in some past years the competitive show reached a plateau, much as a dieter might reach a plateau and find it hard to lose any more weight. “Your goal is always for your kids to have their best performance to date.”

In 2016, the Marching Indians finished  13th in preliminaries and 11th in semifinals, becoming the first Tennessee band to make finals in two decades. The 280-member competitive band, a subset for the 375-member football band, has been practicing the competitive show since summer and also performing it at recent home football games.

Since D-B has its first post-season football game at J. Fred Johnson Stadium on Friday, Cook said the band once again will do the competitive show during halftime. Cook said both the football and competitive performances are dependent on student and parent work, as well as financial support from parents and the community through band discount card fundraisers, as well as the fruit, cheese and candy fundraiser for which orders are wrapping up this week.

“Consistent support we have from the community is very special,” Cook said.

Many of the schools in national and regional competitions are private or richer public schools than D-B, he said.

What do the students say?

Head Drum Major Ashley Dixon, one of five drum majors for the marching band, said the community support was vital. She plays oboe in the wind symphony and, like many of the band members, plans to travel to New York City in March to perform at Carnegie Hall and in the St. Patrick’s Day parade there.

“We do put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Ashley said, adding that the show is more difficult than past shows. This is the first year any of the drum majors have held that position. “It’s (the harder show) put us out of our comfort zone. There’s no way for us to plateau.”

She said the 11-minute performance makes all band members perform to the best of their ability.

Thomas Jolley, a senior in the front ensemble who oversees sound effects and the microphones, said band is like a family. And the family really wants to make the finals for the second year in a row at Indianapolis. Normally, getting out of preliminaries requires making 12th in semifinals, but last year a tie meant there was a 13th place for D-B in preliminaries that moved the band to semifinals.

“Band is really like a family and a support group. I know that is kind of cheesy thing to say, but you’ve got about 400 people who have your back,” Tolley said. “I think this show that we’re playing this year, I think it really puts us in a level we’ve never been.”

On the road to Grand Nationals

The competitive band kicked off its season of competition in the Tri-Cities, then went twice to North Carolina.

— At the Oct. 7 Music in the Castle event at the Stone Castle at Tennessee High in Bristol, D-B  won grand champion in its category and band of the day among 23 bands. In Class AAAAA, D-B won first in auxiliary, percussion, drum major, music, visual effect and the Brandon Estep soloist award.

— On Oct. 14 at the BOA Regional at Winston-Salem, N.C., the competition band received the following:

Preliminary awards

• Class AAA outstanding visual

• Class AAA outstanding general effect

• Class AAA champion

Finals awards

• Outstanding visual

• Second place overall (0.1 from first place)

— On Oct. 21 at the Tournament of Champions in Cullowhee, N.C., the band received:

Preliminary awards

• Class AAAA drum major, third place

• Class AAAA percussion, second place

• Class AAAA color guard, first place

• Class AAAA champion

Finals awards

2017 Tournament of Champions at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The D-B band is leaving for Indianapolis on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The band will perform in preliminaries at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, with preliminaries finishing up Nov. 10. Semifinals and finals will follow Nov. 11, with finals to start at 8 p.m. that night.

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