Marching bands to descend on BLHS for first-ever festival
Watching and listening to a marching band can stir feelings of hometown pride, patriotism and nostalgia.
And, Basehor-Linwood High School band director Curtis Westbrook hopes those feelings will help draw spectators to the first ever Basehor-Linwood High School Festival of Marching Bands this weekend.
Five Kansas high school bands -- BLHS, Bonner Springs, Eudora, Lansing and Independence -- are set to perform and receive ratings from a panel of judges beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at the BLHS football field.
"It's not really a competition," Westbrook said. "We're using this as sort of a prefestival to get one under their belts before they do some of the bigger festivals."
A need for such an event stemmed from the lack of festivals available for smaller bands in the area. Westbrook said he and his students were tired of traveling on a bus for four hours during the school day to be able to perform in a festival that best suited them.
"I thought that if we're having this problem, I'm sure there are other people that are having this problem," he said. "We decided to go ahead and give it a shot and see how it worked out."
Planning for the event began in April, Westbrook said, with the Band Booster Club brainstorming ideas and sorting out what they saw at other band festivals that they liked and disliked, as well as sending out information and invitations to other schools.
Depending on the outcome of this year's festival, the hope is to make this an annual event and possibly eventually invite larger schools from other states.
"The Band Boosters have been tremendous about organizing this thing," Westbrook said. "They've literally put in hundreds and hundreds of hours. The administration has also been supportive in getting this thing off the ground."
Making sure the festival provides a positive experience for participants and guests was also an important factor in planning, which included choosing judges. Westbrook said he contacted individuals he knew personally or that he knew of, including other high school band directors as well as a member of the Kansas Music Educators Association Hall of Fame, to serve as judges.
"We need to have quality judges to provide good feedback, so band directors can go back, implement changes and also feel good about the things they're doing well," Westbrook said. "If a band director brings their band, they need to walk away having had a very good experience."
For $2, spectators will be able to enjoy performances from the five bands, including the BLHS Marching Band's regular field show "Journey" -- a collection of songs from the popular 1970s and '80s rock band. Selections will include "Anyway You Want It," "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Separate Ways."
Concession stands also will be open and all proceeds will support the BLHS Band Booster Club.
"This is music advocacy for our community and surrounding communities," Westbrook said. "I want all the younger students to say, 'I want to be a part of that.' That's important to me also."