WATERLOO — High school bands from across the Cedar Valley hit the road this weekend to participate in marching festivals and competitions.
The Iowa High School Music Association held marching band festivals at multiple locations for the northern half of the state Saturday.
Both the Cedar Falls and West high school bands received Division I ratings for their performances. East High School and Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville both earned Division II ratings.
Division ratings from one to five awarded by judges at the state festival reflect the performance of individual bands, rather than how they compare to others. Division I and II ratings indicate superior and excellent performances, respectively.
Other northeast Iowa high school bands earning a Division I at the festivals included Independence, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Crestwood, Nashua-Plainfield and Decorah. Bands receiving Division II ratings included Oelwein, Charles City, Aplington-Parkersburg, Denver, East Buchanan and North Fayette Valley high schools. South Tama County High School received a Division III rating.
“They were performing at a very high level,” said Gerald Ramsey, co-director of the 172-member Cedar Falls High School band, which participated in the festival at Dubuque Senior High School. The band’s show is called “Caravan: Tales from the Silk Road.”
He noted they received “very nice comments” from the judges. Ramsey was also grateful the band didn’t have to perform in rain. Rainy weather has been a concern for bands as they practiced on outdoor fields during recent weeks.
“This last week particularly helped,” noted Ramsey. “We were able to get outside four of the five days.” The band’s final home football game performance will be this Friday.
Danny Kleinheinz, co-director of the West High School band, liked the weather his students performed in, as well, on Saturday at the festival at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids. West’s show is based on “Chess: The Musical.” But the band, which has more than 170 members, didn’t have the same luck as Cedar Falls for its practices earlier in the week.
“Fortunately, it didn’t rain,” Kleinheinz said of the Saturday performance, “which was the first day that didn’t happen all week.” He noted that all week the band wasn’t able to go outside for its practices, which start before first hour, because the field was too wet due to rain. Students did have a chance to practice before their performance on the field of Washington High School in Cedar Rapids.
West went on to compete in the ValleyFest Showdown at Valley High School in West Des Moines, where it came in 11th of 12 4A bands. Kleinheinz cited rain as a factor in how they fared.
“By this date, we’ve missed 20 days of rehearsal on our field,” he said. “I was pleased with what the kids were able to do this year, considering the circumstances.”
West will compete at the Mid-Iowa Band Championships in Ankeny next Saturday. The band has one more home football game performance Oct. 19. It will also perform Nov. 7 during the PMB Live Concert at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center along with the University of Northern Iowa’s marching band.
“We did extremely well,” said East High director Joelle Smith, noting the 80-member band was just under a point away from achieving a Division I rating. She called the performance at the Dubuque festival a “gigantic” step forward from a performance a week earlier.
“It was truly the best performance they had put on,” she said. “I am just overly proud of what they’ve done.” The band, whose show is called “X’s to Z’s,” will perform at its last home football game Friday.
Don Bosco performed at the state festival in Cedar Rapids and planned to compete at the Muscatine Marching Invitational, but that event was cancelled due to weather-related issues. Unlike West High, Don Bosco performed in the rain at the state festival.
“I was extremely proud of the kids and the way they performed under those weather conditions,” said director Myron Mikita.