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 Marching Band Strikes Atlanta Gold  

October 28, 2006

ATLANTA, GA - The Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble delivered an outstanding performance at the Super Regional Bands of America competition in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night, October 28, earning top honors as Grand Champions of the competition.

Forty-four bands from throughout the Eastern U.S. competed in the 2-day event which started on Friday, October 27. Tarpon Springs' first preliminary performance was scheduled for Saturday at 1:45 p.m., which allowed all day Friday as a travel and rehearsal day.

The performance weekend began on Thursday night with a final home-field rehearsal. The Prop Team loaded the semi and the stage-trailer and departed late Thursday night with the equipment in order to to meet the band in Valdosta on Friday. Other Band Booster leaders flew to Atlanta early on Friday ahead of the band to insure that hotel and other arrangements were in place prior to the band arrival.

Following a 6:00 a.m. bus departure from TSHS, band members, instructors and chaperones arrived in Valdosta, GA in time for lunch. After lunch, the band was treated to the gracious hospitality of Lowndes High School in Valdosta who allowed the band to use its practice field to get in a 4-hour rehearsal under cloudy skies. Mr. Charles E. Todd, Director of the Lowndes High School Georgia Bridgemen Band was, as always, extremely professional and accommodating. He, his staff and students spent time watching the Tarpon Springs ensemble run through their routines. "We couldn't ask for a greater partnership than what we have with Lowndes," said Tarpon Springs Director Kevin Ford. "Mr. Todd is an outstanding director in a great organization and I wish him and his band the best in their Chicago performance this year." (The Georgia Bridgemen Band will perform in the State Street Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago on November 23. They also performed in the 2006 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA. in January.)

The Valdosta rehearsal ended just as the rain started to fall. With percussion instruments and equipment safely loaded and all members on the three charter busses, it was a rainy drive to Atlanta. The band arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel around 10:00 p.m.

Saturday morning found the band up early heading to Woodward Academy in College Park, GA. Previous arrangements had been made with Woodward to use their fine facilities for a 2-hour rehearsal. On a cool (some would say "cold") and blustery day, the band worked on some of the finer points of the program before grabbing a quick sandwich and chips provided by the Boosters. The staff at Woodward were thanked for being so friendly and accommodating, and then it was off to the Georgia Dome.

An Interstate highway mishap with the stage-trailer caused the props and percussion to arrive at the Dome much later than scheduled. Thanks to the efforts of the students, instructors, and many parents, the semitrailer was unloaded at the Dome in record time. Battered and bruised props were repaired, cleaned up and assembled as the clock ticked off towards the performance time of 1:45 p.m. The short turnaround time left members of the Percussion Section unable to properly warm up. Some props were still being assembled "on the fly" as they rolled up the ramp into the stadium. But as they hit the television lights inside the Georgia Dome, the props were as ready to perform as the band members who were pushing them!

It was evident in the ensemble's prelim competition that the students had indeed learned from the theme of their own show about overcoming adversity. A fine (albeit, not perfect) performance was good enough to earn top honors in the AA Division, including Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect, advancing the Ensemble to the Finals competition. At the Directors' meeting following the prelims, Director Kevin Ford drew the 10:00 p.m. (second-to-last) performance slot for the Finals competition that night.

The late performance draw allowed plenty of time for the band, instructors, and prop crew to catch their breath and prepare properly for the Finals performance. Dinner was served in the Georgia World Conference Center adjacent to the Dome and the entire ensemble watched and critiqued their preliminary performance on DVD video.

At the appointed hour, the Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble once again walked through the tunnel before a huge crowd in the Georgia Dome. From the opening chords of Every Passion Has Its Destiny, the ensemble delivered a sparkling performance. Then at 11:00 p.m., the announcement came - Tarpon Springs High School had earned first place in the Bands of America Super Regional Competition! An encore performance followed, with hundreds of members from competing bands sitting on the sideline turf enjoying Every Passion up close and personal.

After the encore performance, Mr. Ford gathered the Band together at the 50 yard line of the Georgia Dome and told the members to "look around and enjoy the moment, because you earned it." By 1:00 a.m., with championship trophy in tow, the band boarded the busses for the long overnight ride back to Tarpon Springs; by 3:00 a.m., the Prop Crew finished loading props and percussion into the truck and onto the trailer and they too headed home after a long weekend.

Director Ford described the experience: "Not to take anything away from our students, but Saturday night's results could have justifiably went to Kennesaw Mountain or Carmel High School as the Grand Champions. Those are some amazing band programs with some of the finest music educators in our country. Regardless of where we finished, we should all just be proud that the quality of our performance efforts are considered equaled with the efforts of those outstanding and classy organizations."

"Our entire organization experienced a weekend that I think all of us will never forget for the rest of our lives. Believe it or not…the experience of being crowned Grand Champions while it was a huge honor was NOT the most incredible part of the weekend. In all of my life, I have never witnessed a greater display of teamwork and effort that was displayed by everyone including students, parents, administration, and instructional staff. I am so proud of each of you! You conducted yourselves with class, integrity, and put forth some amazing efforts."

Complete BOA competition results are available at the Bands of America website (free site registration is required).

"Every Passion Has Its Destiny" will next be performed at the Florida Band Association Festival at Clearwater High School on Saturday, November 4, 2006. The final performance will be at the Bands of America National Championships in Indianapolis on November 11, 2006.

Tarpon Springs High School Leadership and Music Conservatory
P.O. Box 642
Tarpon Springs, FL 34688-0642
Go Spongers!