Most people think of fall as football season, but band directors refer to this time of year as marching band season.
“Starting sometime in middle to late September, high school marching bands attend competitions each Saturday,” says Gordon Rawls, director of bands at Midlothian High School. “At the competitions, each band will perform their show for the audience and judges.”
That’s exactly what eighteen bands will do on October 13 when more than twelve hundred teens head to Midlothian High School for the Twelfth Annual Showcase of Bands. Bands from around Virginia participate in the all-day event.
Bands are judged on their performance of the music and the visual package, as well as the overall effect of the show and the performance of the percussion, color guard, and drum majors.
“Band Directors get to choose what competitions they will attend and which weekends they will perform, so we’re thrilled that so many have decided to bring their groups to Midlothian High School this year,” Rawls says.
Several bands from the Metro Richmond area and some of the nearby counties will be performing, as well as some from the Hampton Roads area and Fort Defiance.
Most groups will include between three and five pieces of music in their performance. “Each band director chooses his or her own show and decides the format of the show,” Rawls says. “The movement and drill formations on the field are designed to complement the music. It has its roots in the marching and maneuvering of military units, but it’s grown in the last two decades to include elements of dance and storytelling.”
The showcase will hand out fifty-six trophies, such as best music in the class or best percussion to the groups for awards. Bands directly compete against other groups of around the same size. Two Grand Champion trophies will be awarded for the highest overall-scoring band – one for classes 1A, 2A, and 3A, and another for classes 4A, 5A, and 6A.
“These trophies are often taller than the drum majors who come to collect them for their bands,” Rawls says. “These are real showpieces the bands can bring back to their schools to show off their accomplishments.”
As the host band, Midlothian doesn’t compete, but will perform last in an exhibition performance. “The judges will give us comments as if we were competing, but those are just for our benefit so we can continue to improve through the rest of the season,” Rawls says.
The Midlothian High band program includes more than one hundred fifty students in about ten different ensembles. This year’s Trojan Marching Band has one hundred and four members. Last school year, the band received its twentieth recognition as a Virginia Honor Band by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association for band programs that achieve superior ratings at state performance assessments in both marching and concert.
The band has performed in New York and Orlando as well as in state. “Last year, we went on a cruise and performed in Freeport, Bahamas, with the bands and orchestras from Manchester and James River High Schools. We brought over three hundred students and parents. That kind of collaboration was such a great experience,” Rawls says.
Rawls has been at Midlothian High for sixteen years. “I tell the students all the time that I have the best job in the world because I get to go to work every day and make music with the best students in the school,” he says.
Parents in Band Boosters also play an important role with the band. There is always a need for band parents to be involved with Band Boosters. “It’s a critical component of the band,” says parent Gary Powers, chairman of the Showcase.
The Showcase is one of the band’s fundraisers. “The involvement of parents helps that band program succeed,” Powers says.
Rawls hopes the community will come to the Showcase and show their appreciation for the band members’ hard work.
“These are students who gave up their time in the summer when other kids were inside playing video games. These are kids who give up time after school and on weekends,” Rawls says. “These are students doing something positive and creative and athletic. These are kids who are giving their whole being to performing and working together. And on top of all that, the bands are really entertaining, too. And, one hundred percent of the profits go to support the Midlothian High School Band program.”