INDEPENDENCE — Nearly a month after its last marching competition in Iowa, the Independence High School band is hitting the road for Indiana.
The 93-member group is heading to the Bands of America Grand National Marching Championships Thursday in Indianapolis. The three-day event will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, with Independence performing at 10:45 a.m. Friday.
A total of 107 high school bands from 27 states will compete. Independence High School will be the only Iowa band at the event this year.
“We’ve been attending the Grand Nationals just to watch maybe for the past 20-some years,” said band director David Lang, and get ideas for future shows. But in recent years “our band has gotten so much better we decided we needed to make an appearance” as performers.
Independence participated in six Iowa marching band competitions this year, with the last one on Oct. 13. Junior Makenzie Homan, who plays timpani in the pit orchestra, said earlier this week that initially the idea of adding another month to the marching season seemed difficult. But now, “we’re counting down the days.”
“The last two years, we’ve gotten first place at every contest in Iowa,” said Lang, explaining the decision to compete at Grand Nationals. “We’ve been fairly competitive here in the state.” Independence performs in the 3A category, but he noted its judges’ scores are on par with 4A bands from larger schools.
“It’s exciting, but it’s nerve-wracking,” said junior trumpet player Caroline Reyner, of the “bigger stage” at Grand Nationals.
“We’re still performing the same show there, it’s just a different level of intensity,” added Homan.
“I feel like once we get there we’ll be amped, ready to go,” said junior Grace Janaszak, a drum major.
The band’s show, “Out of Darkness,” draws on two classical music selections and the 1993 song “Creep” by rock band Radiohead. Starting with “Dies Irae” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem,” it continues with “Creep” and ends with “Ode to Joy” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.”
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“It’s designed to take the audience through the spectrum of sadness to joy,” said Lang.
On Monday, rainy weather kept the band’s practice indoors, where students marched in place on the auditorium stage. Lang expected to be able to run through the field show during a Tuesday evening practice in the gym.
Although students weren’t marching across a field, they continued doing choreography that is also part of the show during Monday’s practice. Some of the students’ performances even include the look on their faces — going from menacing to depressing to joyful.
“Most of you are doing really well at practicing your facial expressions, but we need 100 percent on that,” Lang told pit orchestra members during the rehearsal.
Band members also move large cubes around the field during the show, rotating them to show a different color for each movement.
Independence’s band will compete in the smallest category at Grand Nationals, Class A, for bands from high schools that have 600 or fewer 10th- through 12th-grade students. Based on the judges’ scoring, four of the 27 Class A bands will move on to the semifinals Saturday and have a chance to make it to the finals.
“Our goal is to just put on a great show always,” said Lang. “We really try to downplay the competitive part. It’s just getting to perform for a live audience.”
Some students are preparing for the event with high expectations, hoping they can at least reach the semifinals. “I think we have a good chance,” said Homan.
Others don’t want to get too invested in beating all their competitors, just putting on an audience-pleasing performance.
“I think a good goal for me is to get a good crowd reaction,” said Reyner.