No trophies, but east Bradenton high school marching bands produce sweet final performances.
Jonathan Pavone, a Braden River High School freshman, played the last note of his finals performance at the Florida Marching Band Championships — and it was as loud as he could play the baritone horn.
Pavone then waited to find out where the three-time defending state champion Pirates finished in the 3A class finals.
"I don't even care what we get," Pavone said. "At this point, I just know I'm satisfied with how far we've gone."
The Marching Band of Pirates were disappointed when it was announced the band placed eighth in the finals, but the program performed well despite the adversity of the past year. Last year, the Florida Marching Band Championships was cancelled due to the pandemic and this year Braden River changed its band director to Cliff Dawson.
Even so, they were beaming with pride as they finished their performance of "Renewal" in the Nov. 21 finals at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala. Dawson said it was their best performance of the season.
"I couldn't have asked any more of the kids today," Dawson said. "The first run was fantastic. The second run was even better. I'm so proud of the kids. I wanted them to first, just make it (to the finals), and then after that, it's just for fun.
"I wanted them to enjoy the moment and not even worry about what place (they finished)."
The Lakewood Ranch High School Marching Mustangs also ended its season with some disappointment after coming in seventh in semifinals, one place shy of qualifying for the six-team 4A finals.
"Sometimes that's the hardest spot to finish because then you start thinking what if this one section went a little better, would we have gained the extra points to make the finals," said John Schindler, the first-year director of the Marching Mustangs.
Schindler said in retrospect, every member of the band did his or her absolute best.
Eli Johnson, a Lakewood Ranch senior, was disappointed the band didn't advance to the finals but was pleased overall.
"I'm proud of my performance," Johnson said. "The performance meant more to me than the placement."
In its first season, the Parrish Community High School's Pride of Parrish Marching Band competed at the 2A state championship Nov. 20, but the band did not qualify for the finals, after finishing 11th in the semifinals.
Although all three bands didn't place as well as they had hoped, they were happy to have been able to compete after not being able to do so last year due to the pandemic.
"It's a sense of relief because all of our hard work is finally paying off," said Gracie Scutti, a junior in the Braden River band. "We finally get to reflect on everything and have a moment to think about what we've done this season and how proud we can all be of each other."
Schindler said he is proud of his students' work.
"Being my first year, it can be trying at times because you're coming in after a great director like Mr. (Ron) Lambert," Schindler said. "The kids can sometimes look at you and say, 'Oh, well, you're not that person.' But they did a great job buying in what my vision was and working hard. I have no complaints with how the kids handled themselves this year with the director change. They overcome a lot to get where we are."
Some band members said it was a bittersweet ending to the season.
"It was absolutely surreal," said Hazel Landers, a senior in the Braden River band. "Not only was it the end of this season, but I've also been at this program for five years now. Being out there and being able to perform this show, which happens to be about growth and rebirth, it just feels like a dream. I feel very much like this chapter has come to an end in the best possible way."
Maya Lander, a senior and drum major for Lakewood Ranch, left the field crying after her semifinals performance.
"I was so proud of everyone," Lander said. "I felt like it was a good last performance."
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