- September 21, 2022
Lakewood Ranch High senior Ava Ebling started a 100-day countdown before the Florida Marching Band Championships state competition Nov. 21.
With only 10 days to go Nov. 11, Ebling, a trumpet player, was anxious but optimistic about the Lakewood Ranch High School Marching Mustangs’ chance of qualifying for the finals at the state competition.
“In 2019, I actually started crying when we made finals, and I did not expect that at all,” Ebling said. “If we make finals, especially for the seniors after coming out of our junior year being really tough, I think it’ll be impactful. It will definitely leave a mark on the band as we leave because the season ends for us in 10 days.”
The Marching Mustangs, Braden River High School Marching Band of Pirates and Parrish Community High School’s Pride of Parrish Marching Band are hard at work finalizing their drills and perfecting their sound in hopes of seeing success at the state competition.
Braden River’s band members and director, Cliff Dawson, hope the band can win its fourth consecutive state championship in the 3A division, but some bands changing divisions this year has left them uncertain as to what the opposition will be like.
For example, Seminole High School was in 4A in 2019 when the last state championship was held, but this year, the school is in 3A with Braden River. Braden River had a total score of 87.7501 at the state competition in 2019 compared to Seminole High’s 86.2754.
“We haven’t been at a competition where we’ve been up against anybody in our class, at least not since the beginning of the season,” Dawson said. “It’s hard to know. You try to see how everybody else is doing around the state. You’re like, ‘I guess it’s close.’ I hope we go in there and have a great show. If Braden River does what Braden River does, we’ll walk away knowing we did the best we possibly could and let the numbers be what they’ll be. We’ll walk away happy knowing we gave it everything we have.”
The Marching Mustangs have faced several changes this year with the ongoing adjustments to COVID-19 and John Schindler taking over as band director after Ron Lambert retired after 15 years with Lakewood Ranch.
Christopher Bracco, a junior, said band members were worried at the beginning of the season because of the changes but their tone has changed.
“As the season has gone on, everybody has sort of realized that we’re doing a good job, and we’re progressing in a good spot,” Bracco said.
Parrish’s band is in its first year and the director, Kendall Carrier, and students hope to qualify for finals at the state competition.
After not having a marching season last year due to COVID-19, both Braden River and Lakewood Ranch bands had to teach new marchers the traditions and expectations of the band while maintaining their standards. Dawson and Schindler said their bands have done well throughout the season.
“The amount that we have accomplished this year has been tremendous knowing that we were such a young band and had such a high level of expectation,” Dawson. “I’m glad to see the freshmen that had no idea what was going on already at this level now. It’s fantastic to see the performers they’re becoming now.”
Sophomore Brian McCoy, who plays the clarinet for Lakewood Ranch, said the band has become “addicted to winning” after placing first in a few competitions throughout the season.
“COVID hasn’t stopped us,” McCoy said. “Last year was bad, but it has not stopped us from moving on from that and going forward. I think this program is providing the flashback into reality that a lot of kids needed because the whole past year was horrible for most people and now it’s such a wonderful energy.”
Emma Hubley, a freshman flute player in Braden River’s band, is nervous for her first state competition, but she expects the band to do well.
“I’m going to try to pretend it’s a football game because it’s going to be so nerve wracking,” Hubley said. “We have our differences, but we can all come together as a family.”
More important to Schindler than the band’s success on the field has been his ability to develop relationships with the students, parents and staff in his first year as the director.
“It’s more important that the kids are having a good experience and enjoying it,” Schindler said.
Schindler has mixed feelings about the season coming to an end.
“I’m excited to see the end of this production on the field,” Schindler said. “I tell the kids it is hundreds of hours of work that we’ve put in over the season all the way back from July through the tough days and the good days. It’s exciting to finally see that end product but at the same time, it’s sad because it’s the last time we get to perform the show. I’m never going to get to see those kids perform that show ever again.”