Marching band collects near perfect festival marks
Basehor-Linwood High marching band members knew they had done something special as they waited in the grandstand for judges to announce scores.
“I still get goose bumps thinking about it,” said freshman Adam Crouse this week.
For the second year in a row, the Bobcats’ competitive marching band earned the highest marks possible at the Neewollah Marching Festival in Independence. The band earned a superior “1,” across the board in parade, field show, drum major, percussion and color guard categories at the competition, held the last weekend in October. The scoring is based on music, visual effect, general effect, percussion and guard.
The band was also named best overall in its class. The superior scores and class rating propelled the band to a fifth-place overall finish.
“We just walked out there and we knew what we were doing,” senior snare drum player Sean Potter said.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” junior drum major Kennedy Bowers added.
A marching band, however, is always chasing that elusive “perfect show.” Just ask BLHS Marching Band Director Curtis Westbrook and Assistant Director Ryan Kazmaier. Westbrook said that, as coaches, the two celebrated the scores for about 20 minutes, then immediately went back to work on improving the 72-member band.
“The scores at competitions like this are a really powerful tool for us,” Westbrook said. “We are able to take them and compare our shows to other schools and then do some research to find out what ideas are out there that we may be able to bring here.”
Westbrook said the last two years of success at Neewollah, one of the oldest marching band competitions and festivals in the state, and the band’s second-place finish at Kansas University’s Heart of America competition on Oct. 12, have raised the bar for the Bobcats.
“In some respects it’s kind of scary because now we have to keep it going,” Westbrook said. “But it’s fun to push the bar higher.”
Westbrook began teaching at BLHS nine years ago and said it has been his mission, along with Kazmaier’s, to build a musical tradition there. Despite the hours both directors put in, they both give all the credit to the band members.
“It’s really the kids and the parents that put in the most work,” Westbrook said. “We have what it takes to be great because we have great kids and very supportive parents.”
The students, on the other hand, deflect the gratitude back onto their teachers along with drum line coach Elliot Arpin and color guard coach Molly Bovos.
“They’re the reason we’re at where we’re at,” Bowers said.
Band members mostly began playing an instrument in fifth grade. From then on, each student has gone through his or her own journey. Sophomore Allen Sedwich, who now plays the sousaphone, said he played several wind instruments before choosing the tuba-like instrument. Crouse also switched instruments several times before landing with the alto saxophone.
“Before band, I didn’t know much about music,” Crouse said. “Now, I want my life to be about music.”
Bowers said the friendships created are some of the best parts of growing together as a band.
“It’s changed each of us personally,” Bowers said. “These are now some of my closest friends.”
The band is now preparing for basketball season when it will perform at every BLHS home game. “This is really a year-round commitment,” Westbrook said.