The Panther Band's fall marching season wrapped up on Saturday, November 17 at Fairfield High School’s Tournament of Champions. This was the final stone, set in a strand of events which covered an intense eight day interlude.
The first event, held on November 10, was hosted by Golden Valley High School in Merced. 20 jazz bands and 33 marching bands from throughout Northern California attended. The Panther band had outstanding performances, as seen in their trophy tally: Second place for the Jazz Band and Drum Major, and a Sweepstakes award for the Color Guard. The marching band made their mark by winning Sweepstakes awards in both Showmanship and Parade Music. This earned them the top award of the day as Parade Grand Sweepstakes winner, their first of the season.
Four days later, they shifted gears and performed a free evening concert for the community at the high school. It featured all three groups within the band and showcased eight pieces. The Symphonic band started softly and elegantly, with the Wind Ensemble following suit. A first time guest, Mika Li, said, “The music was absolutely fabulous! The sound moved my soul.”
The Jazz Band rounded out the evening as they punched a hole in the pleasant spell woven by the two prior bands. The drum solo ended the concert, but not really. As the finale dropped in place and the tension was released, the drummer tricked everyone and ended again, then yet again, bringing the crowd to their feet. Everyone would need a few hours to wind down from the rush of the invigorating finish.
Finally, on November 17, the band had their final competition of the fall season, held at Fairfield High School. This 16-hour day was filled with heavy rain. Benicia was among the first schools to arrive at the quiet campus for their 7:35 a.m. competition. The day was ready to unwind all the stored-up music that would eventually cover the entire campus for hours, transforming the grey setting with flickers of warmth in the gyms, the library and even the street.
The Symphonic Band played a piece in which they had less than three weeks of preparation. The adept and confident result prompted a music educator to go out of his way to pass along his admiration to Mr. Patrick Martin, Band Director.
Next, the Wind Ensemble played three pieces, rendering them a powerful force at 8:25 a.m. Then, there was a quick change into marching uniforms, away from the comforts of a simple roof over one’s head. On the street, the rain claimed its soggy and cold territory inside instruments, hats, shoes, pockets, silk flags and rifles. The resiliency of kids and adults was evident as their drive for the team helped to offset the misery of the march.
In the parking lots, all schools had set up a temporary city, with rows and rows of base camps containing small universes of adults making food, preparing uniforms and moving equipment. Despite fearless efforts, everyone was soaked. They had tough jobs and watching them helped to drive the point home: this is where you see the true commitment to a musical education and all that surrounds it. In Panther territory, there were at least 38 parent boosters who worked to support this effort.
Finally, one last uniform change brought the Jazz Band to the library for the final performance. One spectator, a staff member from another school, said, “I’ve seen many good school groups today. But your group was sophisticated, phenomenal, awesome and wonderful. Thank you. It was a pleasure. I travel to New York and Europe and I would pay money to see Benicia perform.”
A three-hour break allowed the band and parents the rare treat of supporting and listening to the concert performances of other schools. Even more poignant, was the chance for the Panthers to share time with the Benicia Middle School band, which also placed very strongly throughout the day.
Booster Parent Debbie Flores had this comment, which summed up the feelings for many, “As I watched the high school and middle school perform in the midst of wet and blustery conditions, streets every bit as lined with booster parents and supporters as they always are despite the elements, that familiar deep appreciation for our band program and all the hard work, time and dedication of the Band Directors, coaches, booster parents and especially the KIDS came over me.
"As the middle school disappeared down the street, in all their littleness, I smiled knowing one day many of them would fill the bigger shoes of the high school band, and I once again was reminded of why we all do it. The bond and experiences these kids share will shape them, teach them, and be with them all their lives. They will forever "stay in groups of three," not literally, of course, but inwardly because they have been fortunate enough to have experienced what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to be "one among many," to know what it means to conduct one's self with dignity, honor and most of all humility ... to take pride in success but most importantly to stand and applaud the opponent for their triumph.”
Benicia achieved First place finishes for their marching band, Color Guard and Jazz Band. Their Symphonic Band finished second only to their own Wind Ensemble, which received another First place trophy to add to their undefeated record for the last decade. The Panther Band gave standing ovations to their opponents who earned the Sweepstakes awards for the day.
In the final debriefing, Mr. Martin told his band, “I’m happy with the results…I think we did a really good job. I couldn’t be happier with our performances throughout the entire day.”
The band will next perform twice on 1st Street: at the Tree Lighting on November 30, and the holiday parade on December 8. After that, their Honor Band and Winterguard seasons will be in full swing.