Local schools receive top honors at state marching band competition

INDIANAPOLIS — Two local schools earned top marks at a statewide marching band competition Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Greenwood Community Schools placed third in the Open Class B category at the 2021 Indiana State School Music Association Marching Band, or ISSMA, Open Class State Finals. Greenwood’s performance, titled “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Thanks,” was patriotic-themed.

Greenwood schools has placed in the top 3 at the competition 11 of the past 12 years. The band most recently placed 2nd at the 2019 state finals. This year’s state finals was the first since 2019, after it was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Red, white and blue flags and outfits fluttered around the field as the marching band performed its piece, which was dedicated to service members and their families. The performance featured large framed photos of military homecomings. Toward the end, the picture frames are turned around to reveal a poster that reads “And the home of the brave,” with a saluting soldier.

Being able to honor and thank veterans was one of freshman flute player Julia Short’s favorite parts about Greenwood’s performance. It was designed to let veterans know they appreciate all they do for the country, she said.

Performing at Lucas Oil was an amazing opportunity, and not the first time this season the band has been there. Earlier this season, they performed at the Bands of America Super Regionals, which was also hosted at Lucas Oil, Short said.

For freshman soprano clarinet player Will Pruitt, performing at Lucas Oil Stadium was a surreal and very emotional experience. His favorite part of Saturday’s performance was flag work performed by several woodwind players.

Pruitt didn’t expect to place third, but the band is taking it in stride and using it to motivate themselves for next year, he said.

“We always say the placement doesn’t matter, but obviously we do care,” Pruitt said. “It was motivation for all the underclassmen to work harder and get that one extra rep in, especially to make our seniors (and) soon to be alumni proud, because they were honestly amazing.”

For Short, third place is just a number, and the band is thankful for the opportunity to compete after not having a season last year.

“The goal was to have our best performance at finals. We did just that. It was definitely our best run of the season,” she said.

Next year, Pruitt said, Greenwood will go even higher and take it to a whole new level. Both Pruitt and Short credit the band’s success to band director Luke Aylsworth, who took over the position earlier this year. Aylsworth is moving the band in a positive direction, Pruitt said.

Center Grove Community Schools also left its mark on the state finals, placing 8th in the Open Class A competition. The district has made the marching band state finals 37 of the past 38 years that competitions were held, said Kevin Schuessler, band director.

Center Grove’s performance focused on the Amazon region in Brazil. The visual aspects of the show, dubbed “Of the Amazon,” included a tarp that represents a river, and a flower that floats down it.

The band used bright colors to get its story across — greens, purples, oranges and yellows covered the field as the band performed its set.

While he thought Center Grove’s band performed better than 8th place, freshman trumpet player William Anspach says the placement is still a success.

“It’s still 8th in the state, which is pretty good,” Anspach said. “I think we will most likely make it to state again next year and I can’t wait. I really love marching band and it is so much fun.”

Center Grove will also compete later this week during the Bands of America Grand National Championships. The championships are a three-day event, which will take place from Thursday to Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

For the Grand National Championships, a minimum of 30 bands will advance to the semi-finals. The top 12 scoring bands from semi-finals will advance to Saturday evening’s finals, according to Bands of America.

Center Grove is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday during the preliminary event.

Those who missed Greenwood’s performance will have an opportunity to see it tonight, when the marching band will perform it again as part of a joint middle school and high school band concert. In addition to the marching band, the concert will feature performances from the 6th, 7th and 8th grade bands, along with the jazz band. The marching band will close out the night.

The concert will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. today in the Greenwood Community High School Auditorium, 615 West Smith Valley Road, Greenwood.

There will also be an opportunity to watch both Greenwood and Center Grove’s performances on TV later this year. The performances are expected to be broadcast on WFYI. A time and date has not been set for the broadcast.