TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two of the region’s biggest high school bands will face off this weekend against 20 of the Southeast’s top bands.
West Ridge High School and Dobyns-Bennett High School marching bands will compete in the Bands of America Regional Championship in Johnson City on Saturday.
The two groups, both talented, could not be more different. West Ridge is a brand new school participating in its first Bands of America competition. Dobyns-Bennett has a championship pedigree, having won this competition four times and qualifying three times to the national championship final.
The West Ridge group repeated their performance on a wet and windy school football field. For the band members, it’s the biggest band they’ve ever played in. The group, with the exception of freshmen, is made up of the smaller groups from Sullivan Central, North, and South High Schools.
âThey’ve been with these little groups and there are smaller responsibilities in these little groups,â said West Ridge Band director Heath Hopper. “We got out here and it’s like, wow, now we’ve got more depth.”
Hopper said their show “The Journey” represented the new union of the three schools.
The group’s inaugural season was not without its problems, however. Hopper said the group did not have their full uniforms until the day before their first competition earlier in the school year.
Additionally, the music stopped when dozens of members, including Hopper, caught COVID-19 after West Ridge’s first home game.
âWe had over 50% of the group for two and a half weeks,â Hopper said. âIt wasn’t fun. We literally had to close the program.
With the group now back on the pitch, Hopper believes this weekend’s competition may give the group a good opportunity to see how they stack up against established groups in the South East.
The Dobyns-Bennett group is that type of competition. In two weeks, the group will compete for the national championship in Indianapolis.
âWe’ve been lucky enough to be finalists three times before, and we’d love to do it again, but it’s pretty rigid lineup there,â said Dobyns-Bennett group manager Lafe Cook.
Last year, fanfare competitions were closed due to the pandemic. Lauren Bass-Callahan is Senior Dobyns-Bennett and Section Head for Trumpets. She called it disappointing to miss group trips over the past two years.
âEvery other kid in the group got a cool trip every year and I’m just about two years old,â Bass-Callahan said. “It’s incredibly hard work, but it’s so rewarding at the end of it and I’m incredibly excited to be able to do it.”
Cook said he is working hard to make sure his students leave everything on the pitch on Saturday.
âIn the competitive fanfare, there is no defense. There’s only one offense, âCook said. “There’s nothing you can do to stop other bands from being great, so you just want to be the coolest version of yourself.”
Saturday’s competition will take place in the ETSU mini-dome from 11:00 a.m. and will run all day until the awards ceremony at 10:45 p.m.
Visit Johnson City officials said the contest could bring nearly 4,000 people to Johnson City, generating more than $ 750,000.