Tim Cunningham said he knew the Conway High School band had a strong performance heading into last weekend’s Showcase of Bands at War Memorial Stadium. What the long-time band director did not know was if his marching band’s execution would be enough to take home the hardware.
Competing against 45 other bands, Conway, 252-members strong, won all award categories in the 4A/5A classification including Outstanding Music, Outstanding Marching, Outstanding General Effect, Outstanding Color Guard, Outstanding Drum Majors and Outstanding Drum Line — in addition to the most prestigious award, the Brandon Award.
Needless to say, the band’s execution was more than enough.
"(The showcase) was our best run to date," Cunningham said. "(The students) seemed to be really dialed in, and focused on what we needed to do, so we had a good run.
"I don’t know of another time where a band has ever taken all the awards in their classification, so I was very pleased with that."
Saturday marked the fourth time Conway has won the Brandon Award, reserved for top musical-performance, under Cunningham’s tutelage. The first three wins came in 2004, 2007 and 2011.
For the band’s 63 seniors, earning back the top award, which the group won its sophomore year, was an exciting experience, although many shared Cunningham’s pre-performance thoughts.
"Going in there I wasn’t really sure about it," Senior Morgan Bernard, snare drum captain of the drum line, said. "The rehearsal before that day, we weren’t doing so hot, but when we got there we ran a super show. I was pumped afterwards, we all were."
Senior drum major Miki Brewington admitted the time leading up to the performance was stressful.
"It was really nerve-racking. I was praying the entire time," she said. "That’s one of the biggest things we do, so it was a big moment."
Once the performance started for Conway, fellow senior drum major Maddie Shaw said adrenaline took over for everyone.
"The first big hit after ‘Summertime’ when (the band turns) around, it’s just that impact moment," she said. "The crowd goes crazy behind us, and I know I had this cheesy grin on my face, but it’s just an awesome, awesome feeling being out there."
Senior co-section leader of clarinets Kayla Hamilton said one of her more memorable moments of the weekend was the celebration that ensued following the win.
"It was really exciting, all the seniors were excited," she said. "We were all on the field, yelling ‘blue, white,’ it was really fun."
For senior co-captain of the color guard Marianne Burnett, the best moment was receiving the actual trophies earned from Conway’s award-winning performance.
"I got to actually go down and get the trophies with the drum majors, so it was fun to get to hold all the trophies, and be there in the moment," she said.
Conway’s performance, dubbed with the theme, "365," takes crowds on a trip through the four seasons with renditions of "Summertime," before moving to "September" and into "Joy to the World" and "Baby,It’s Cold Outside," before finishing with "I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone," blended with "Summertime."
The performance includes a solo on the saxophone from senior drum major Jake Bass, who Cunningham said the entire performance was built around.
Bass, who won the showcase’s award for Outstanding Soloist, said the opportunity has been a rewarding experience.
"It’s been really fun doing (the solo)," Bass said. "Everybody helps me do that, it’s not just me."
Cunningham has admitted this year’s group is talented and is heavy-laden with senior leadership.
But just as in the band’s performance, the seasons will change and with that will come the end of the senior band members’ high school career. Looking back on the time spent with each other, the seniors admit it will be a difficult time to say goodbye, and move on.
"We’ve been here for six years with the same kids," Brewington said, recalling when the class began band in sixth grade. "It’s going to be really hard, because this has been your life for six years, and then it won’t be."
Both Bass and Shaw admitted that emotions may get the best of them when that final performance is over.
"I’m probably going to bawl," Shaw said. "It’s good memories though, it’s bittersweet, but it’s a good thing to have in your background."
The end of high school will also mark the end of many band careers as both education demands even more time in college.
While many will call it quits after high school, with a planned double-major in music and physics, Bass will undoubtedly continue with his musical aspirations.
"I will definitely be playing after high school, there’s no getting around that," he said with a smile.
Even after the goodbyes are said and all move on to what is next in life, the impact band has had on the 2013 class will continue far beyond graduation day.
"It’s not just the extracurricular activity, it’s teaching you life skills too," Shaw said. "The amount of dedication (for band), you can apply that to other areas and things in life."
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1246. Follow Lee Hogan on Twitter at twitter.com/LCD_LeeHogan. To comment on this and other stories, log on to thecabin.net.)