Local bands shine at Bluffton marching band festival

The Homestead High School band claims 244 musicians and color guard members. (Garth Snow)


WABASH — Marching bands brought tarps, stands and a giant candlestick to the On the Banks of the Wabash marching band festival Saturday at Bluffton High School. The Homestead Spartan Alliance brought a small city onto the turf and performed in a grand way, too, to capture the highest honor among the 23 competing bands.

The show entitled “The Reclamation Project” illustrated the music of “A Brussels Requiem,” by Bert Appermont, reflecting on terror attacks on the Belgian capital in 2016.

With 244 musicians and color guard members, the Spartan Alliance combined intricate movement and music to capture the judges’ awards for general effect, music and visual. Homestead took home the first-place trophy in the Open A division for large schools. The Spartan Alliance also captured the Grand Champion trophy awarded to one school among the six divisions competing Saturday.

The show “The Reclamation Project” unfolds as the Homestead Spartan Alliance competes at the On the Banks of the Wabash Marching Band Festival. Homestead claimed the grand champion trophy among 23 competing bands. (Garth Snow)

Brad Wadkins directs the Homestead Spartan Alliance. Bryen Warfield is the assistant director.

Asked to comment, Wadkins replied in an email: “The Bluffton contest is always a great way to start the season. For all of the bands, it is the first contest of the year. All of the new shows are rolled out and it is exciting to see what everyone is doing. There are a lot of great things happening in music education in the Northeast corner of Indiana. Band directors, staffs, parents and students are all collaborating and producing excellent marching band shows and teaching students amazing life lessons.

“For Homestead, we had a great day and topped it off with a very nice first competition performance. I was very pleased with the level of performance displayed by our students.”

Austin Daler, from left, Colin Harding and Camden Craighead perform with the drum line of the Snider High School Mighty Panther marching band. (Richard Pankop)

Northrop High School’s 110-member Big Orange Pride finished second in Open Class A. Rob Wilson directs the Northrop band, assisted by Rachel Thorson. The show is entitled “Circles in a Circle.”

The Heritage Marching Patriots took first place in Scholastic B, with the Manchester Square Band finishing second. Heritage took honors in the effect category, Manchester took the music caption, and judges awarded a tie in the visual caption.

Heritage and Manchester drum majors joined representatives of 11 other schools for the first awards presentation of the day. A game of rock-paper-scissors sent the award home with Manchester. Duplicate awards typically are distributed later in such ties.

Victoria Barfield of the Bishop Dwenger High School marching band color guard joins in presenting “Citizens of Two Worlds.” (Garth Snow)

The Marching Patriots, working under an interim band director as the season opens, presented the show titled “Found.”

Snider High School pulled off a sweep in Scholastic A. Judges awarded the  Mighty Panther Marching Band top place for all three “captions” — effect, music and visual. Snider placed first in the category, followed by New Haven, with Wayne and South Side tying for third.

Helen Smekens and Kevin Klee direct the 109-member band. The show is entitled “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

New Haven’s Mighty Marching Bulldog Band took second place.

Todd Caffee directs the 29-member Bulldog band.

The flag corps members of the Leo Jr./Sr. High School Roar of the Lions marching band truly show their colors as the band’s show “All the Crayons” opens at the On the Banks of the Wabash Marching Band Festival at Bluffton High School. (Garth Snow)

New Haven’s show is entitled “The Greatest Show.” In an email, Caffee explained that the show uses music from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”

“It is a circus themed show using four songs from the movie, ‘The Greatest Show,’ ‘This is Me,’ ‘A Million Dreams’ and ‘From Now On,’ complete with a center ring where you will see acrobatics, hoops of fire, juggling and even sword swallowing,” Caffee wrote. “We were able to put our entire show on the field this year,” he wrote, explaining that that is not always possible so early in the season.

“I was very happy with our performance and our placing,” he added.

Micah Roddy directs the 34-member South Side High School The Green Machine, which presented the show “Latin Rhythms.”

The Marching Eagles guard waits to open the show “Light” at the On the Banks off the Wabash Marching Band Festival. (Garth Snow)

Kenny Woods directs the Wayne Marching Generals. The 30-member band presented “Fundamental Elemental.”

In Open Class D, The Spirit of Woodlan took first place and swept the effect, music and visual captions. 

Robert Slattery directs the 62-member band Spirit of Woodlan. Mike Hardiek designed the drill for “1,000 Cranes.”

The Spirit of Woodlan band is a 16-time Indiana State School Music Association Class D state marching band finalist.

Adams Central took second place. Triton took third. Eastside, Bremen and Whitko received participation awards.

Whitko fielded 30 band members to present the show “Seven.” John Van Patten directs the band.

Concordia Lutheran High School took first in Open Class C, with Angola and Norwell placing second and third, respectively. Concordia won the music caption. Angola took the effect caption. Norwell was first in visual.

The Marching Cadets presented “How Great Thou Art.”

Jennifer Porath and Todd Phillips direct the 70-member band.

The Norwell Marching Knights presented “Angelus Intus: The Angel Within.” Cory Kelley and Jason Brown direct he 81-member band.

In Open Class B, DeKalb won all three captions and claimed first place. Leo placed second and Huntington North placed third. Bishop Dwenger, Columbia City and East Noble won participation awards.

Bob Myers directs the 69-member Roar of the Lions band.

The 2019 show entitled “All the Crayons” opens with guard members standing in a giant crayon box; they turn to the audience to reveal the many colors.

Bishop Dwenger High School’s Marching Saints presented “Citizens of Two Worlds.” In Open Class B, Bishop Dwenger, Columbia City and East Noble took home participation awards.

Don Cochran directs the 50-member Marching Saints of Bishop Dwenger High School.

Clay Kennerk directs the 41-member Columbia City Marching Eagles. The show is entitled “Light.”

In all, 24 schools performed for a crowd that filled and overflowed the bleachers periodically as the competition intensified over more than seven hours.

It marked the first festival of the marching band season. Optional invitationals continue Saturdays into October, with Scholastic Class bands beginning Indiana State School Music Association competition Oct. 12 and Open Class bands entering ISSMA judging on Oct. 12. ISSMA Scholasic Class finals are Oct. 26 and Open Class finals are Nov. 9.

The awards list by category:

Scholastic B — Heritage 1st; Manchester 2nd.

Scholastic A — Snider 1st; New Haven 2nd; Wayne and South Side, tied for 3rd.

Open Class D — Woodlan 1st; Adams Central 2nd; Triton 3rd; participation awards to Eastside, Bremen and Whitko.

Open Class C — Concordia 1st; Angola 2nd; Norwell 3rd

Open Class B — DeKalb 1st; Leo 2nd; Huntington North 3rd; participation awards to Bishop Dwenger, Columbia City and East Noble.

Open Class A — Homestead 1st; Northrop 2nd.

The host Bengal Brigade marched but did not compete for trophies.

The Homestead band competes next at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Bands of America Toledo Regional, at the University of Toledo Glass Bowl. Also from the Fort Wayne area, Norwell competes at noon and Carroll competes at 1 p.m.

Top bands in morning and afternoon competition advance to the evening finals. Tickets are $21 for the preliminaries, $21 for the finals, or $31 for a day pass. For details and tickets, visit marching.musicforall.org.

Though Homestead is taking a Saturday away from competition, many area bands will take the field at the Norwell Knight of Champions or the DeKalb High School Baron Brigade Marching Invitational. Watch inbands.com for details.