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Band marches to second place at Ford Field

The musicians got involved in the show by doing more than just playing their instrument. Here is one such physical display. (click for larger version)

November 14, 2012 - By Olivia Shumaker

Review Staff Writer

Lake Orion's marching Dragons strolled to a second place finish in the state championships on Nov. 3 and tied their highest score ever.

"State finals is an honor," said Band Director Michael Steele.

The band competed against 11 other bands from across Michigan, all of whom qualified based on the average of their two highest competition scores this season, what are called championship average scores.

These bands traveled to Ford Field with many parent volunteers to perform their competition shows for six judges, three judging musicianship and three judging showmanship.

"I can't say it's an equal amount (of music and showmanship). I can't say its more one or the other, but it definitely integrates musicianship, marching ability, showmanship, performance quality," Steele said. "It's highly subjective."

This year's competition show was called "Ritual" and incorporated music from Igor Stravinsky's ballet "The Rite of Spring" which tells the story of Russian people dancing at the break of spring to excite the earth so they would have healthy crops.

The second movement of the show focused on the ritual of gathering in prayer, and at one point all band members stopped playing their instruments and sang for that portion of the show. Judges in competition and at Ford Field responded well to the touch, despite band members' initial trepidation.

"Believe it or not, at the beginning of the year they weren't all that into singing," Steele said.

The final third of the show incorporated a piece of music called "War" from the movie Avatar, though the band focused more on showing the ritual of coming together in war rather than depicting war.

"There are theories in marching band that you should try and tell a story," said Steele. "There's another theory that says, 'Good music, good marching, and that's all it needs.' We ended with good music, good marching."

In keeping with the marching band timeline, next year's show is already in the infancy stage of production. Each year Steele brings together a design team together near the end of the official marching band season to begin tossing ideas around for the new show. The team slowly whittles down the list until they find the idea they like the most.

At that point, individual arrangers can go to work. Students will begin to learn the show after school ends in June.

For now, the marching band is waiting on the success of the varsity football team to determine whether they will play at Ford Field again in the state championships. The concert bands are now underway.

Steele has hopes for a state championship, a regional championship and eventually a place in Grand Nationals for the Dragon band in the future.

"This year the students took a lot more of the ownership," Steele said. "They just continued to improve all throughout the year. Great kids, great leadership, from a lot of people."

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