The Madison Central High School Marching Band won the 5A state championship Saturday night, its second in as many years.
The semifinal and final rounds of the Kentucky Music Educators Association competition took place at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
When Central won its first 5A championship last year at Eastern Kentucky University, some skeptics attributed it in part to home-field advantage, but that can’t be said about this year’s victory.
The band was in second place after the semifinal round that concluded in mid-afternoon, but it turned in a championship performance in the rain during finals that evening.
“We rehearse in all kinds of weather, so we were prepared,” said Brent Barton, the band’s director.
“This is a great bunch of kids who have worked hard all year to earn this success,” Barton added.
The band numbers more than 200, including a color guard as well as instrumentalists and drum line.
The victory was “all about the kids,” Barton said. “The director and his assistants can teach, coach, encourage and program, but its all up to the kids when they take the field.”
Even the field conductors are students, said Barton, noting that directors may not even give hand signals or other wise contribute after a performance starts.
Callie Boggs, one of four student field conductors, beamed as she carried the huge trophy from her bus Sunday afternoon when the bus arrived back at school.
Last year’s victory, Central’s first in the 5A category, was a “really, really big deal because it was the first,” Boggs said. But to win a second time was even sweeter, she continued. Band members have been working and fighting to repeat their success since last year, and will do the same this coming year, said Boggs, a junior.
She and every band member felt a surge of energy they believed would carry them to the championship, Boggs said, when senior Alex Beardsley, a senior member of what Barton calls “a killer trumpet section,” yelled “Bring it home.”
Parents, friends, teachers and other cheering fans were waiting when the band’s buses arrived at the school Sunday escorted by police cruisers and fire engines. A small drone hovering overhead captured the scene.
The show’s theme was “eXplore” and played on a range of themes from the frontier times of Daniel Boone to the exploration of space and the daily adventure of life, said Barton. As each day begins, its outcome is unknown, said the director, who composed and arranged the music.
The theme and the victory were especially poignant for some band families who lost loved ones “much too young” earlier in the year, he added.
Phases from such varied sources as Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” symphony and “Home Sweet Home” by the rock group Motley Crue were interspersed throughout the music. The style resembled the theme from “Legends of the Fall,” with motifs from the “X-Men” theme, Barton said.
Both the music and the marching routines are difficult and fast-paced. Either would be a challenge by themselves, he added. But the teenagers had to accomplish both with great precision, playing music while marching at times backwards and sideways to create intricate patterns.
“When I look at them, I sometimes can’t understand how what they’re doing is humanly possible,” Barton said.
Behind every great band is a group of great band parents, the director continued. The program’s X theme made for some great visuals, including one the parents devised to join the students. As the band performed on the field, individual parents in the stands held up two glow sticks to form X’s.
Central has made the final four the past few years, coming in second in 2013, then winning the championship in 2014 and again this year.
The band’s color guard hasn’t lost any competitions the past two years, the director said.
The band is young, with a large contingent of juniors and even a few eighth-grade students, Barton noted. And the band also would be in contention for a state title next year.
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North Hardin High School, of Radcliff, placed second in the 5A competition, followed by Dunbar and Lafayette high schools, of Lexington.
The Madison Southern High School Marching Band competed in the semifinal round of the 4A category, but did not make the finals.
Madison Central’s neighbor to the east, Estill County, won the AA championship. Its neighbor to the west, Garrard County, was second in the AA classification.