Northwest Arkansas high school bands flock to Little Rock for second state marching contest

Posted: October 29, 2017 at 1:06 a.m.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Sousaphone players practice during a marching band rehearsal Thursday at Bentonville High School. Nine Northwest Arkansas high schools will participate in the 2017 Arkansas State Marching Contest on Monday and Tuesday in Little Rock.

The Bentonville Pride Marching Band returns to Little Rock this week to defend its state title, but director Tim Hendrix said he's not too concerned with where the band places in the event.

"Our only obligation is to do our absolute best. If that gets us first place, that's great. If it gets us last place, that's fine too," Hendrix said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Marching band members rehearse Thursday at Bentonville High School. Nine Northwest Arkansas high schools will parti...

State Marching Band Contest

Nine Northwest Arkansas high schools are among 65 schools scheduled to compete Monday and Tuesday in the 2017 Arkansas State Marching Contest at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Here’s when each Northwest Arkansas band is scheduled to perform and the classification in which they’ll compete. Each school gets a 15-minute time slot for its performance.

Monday

1:30 p.m.: Gentry High School (3A)

4 p.m.: Pea Ridge High School (3A)

4:45 p.m.: Gravette High School (3A)

6 p.m.: Prairie Grove High School (3A)

Tuesday

9:30 a.m.: Farmington High School (4A)

11:30 a.m.: Bentonville West High School (4A)

3:45 p.m.: Fayetteville High School (5A)

4:15 p.m.: Siloam Springs High School (5A)

4:45 p.m.: Bentonville High School (5A)

Source: Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association

Bentonville High School's band cruised to first place in its classification last year in the first Arkansas state championship contest. Bands from Prescott, Arkadelphia and Paragould also won their respective divisions.

This year, 60 bands are scheduled to perform, ranging in size from 18 members to 220 members. The Bentonville band has 212 members. More than 5,000 students from across the state are expected to participate, according to a schedule posted online by the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association.

They will compete at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium in one of five divisions based on their sizes. A 15-minute time slot is assigned for each band to perform either Monday or Tuesday. Bands had to qualify for the competition by earning either a first or second division at a regional marching assessment.

Bentonville will compete against 12 other bands, including Fayetteville and Siloam Springs, in its division. Fayetteville didn't attend last year's state championship, said director Barry Harper.

"We were so impressed by the caliber of judges they hired last year that we wanted to participate this year," Harper said. "We really enjoy and value getting great critique from experts. This gives us a chance to get that."

The state championship is the cap to a busy fall season for band students and directors.

"They really work hard, as hard as any organization you can imagine," Harper said of the students, noting a rehearsal session last week was scheduled to start at 7:15 a.m. and last more than 90 minutes.

Harper, like Hendrix, said winning the competition isn't foremost on his mind.

"Any time we go to a contest, we consider it a success if we have prepared and we have a great performance," he said. "If we prepare as well as we possibly can and put on a great performance, that makes us happy. That means more to us than placement."

The Fayetteville band's show this year is titled "Alchemy: Good As Gold." The band has been working on it since August, adding a little to it with each performance at football games and competitions, Harper said.

Fayetteville competed this fall at a Bands of America contest in Clarksville, Tenn., where it finished 14th out of 24 bands in the preliminaries.

Bentonville also just returned from a Bands of America contest Oct. 20-21 in St. Louis. The competition attracted 66 bands from 11 states. Bentonville reached the finals and finished 11th overall.

Bentonville's show, "Weights of the World," is the story of Atlas, who in Greek mythology was condemned by Zeus to hold the heavens aloft. Hendrix described the music as "intense," as it's meant to convey a sense of heavy weight. One of the props they use is an inflatable globe, which is 10 feet in diameter.

"We started with a 6-foot globe, and we were like, nah, we need something bigger," Hendrix said. The globe, which the band has nicknamed "Bertha," takes 20 to 25 minutes to inflate using a leaf blower. It was ordered from BeachBallWorld.com, Hendrix said.

Abby Brookhart is a Bentonville senior who plays baritone and trombone. Her commitment to band requires between 10 and 15 hours per week during the fall, she said. Her interest in band was piqued by siblings who went through the program and raved about the experience, she said.

"All my best friends are in band, and so it's a great way to get to know people and accomplish goals with them and a way to be involved in the school," Brookhart said.

Hendrix, who's in his fourth year at Bentonville and his first as band director, believes this year's band is better than last year's. Staff members have made an effort to focus on individual students' needs and have stressed a family-oriented focus, he said.

Though Bentonville isn't scheduled to perform until late afternoon Tuesday, the band plans to leave for Little Rock at 6 a.m. in order to make it in time for West High School's performance at 11:30 a.m. Showing support for their peers in Centerton is "what we should be about," Hendrix said.

West High School, now in its second year, competes in the 4A division; it finished fourth out of 14 bands at state last year.

Pea Ridge High School will be making its first trip to the state competition. It will perform its "Music After Dark" show at 4 p.m. Monday, two days after playing at the Northwest Arkansas Invitational in Siloam Springs. Pea Ridge has 58 in its band.

"Everyone plays when it comes to band. We don't have a bench," said Kevin Hume, Pea Ridge's band director. "So every kid has to perform at a certain excellent level. We're only as good as our weakest player. That's pretty exciting when you see kids under that pressure and decide they're going to do it."

Hume believes band is a great thing for students because it teaches them responsibility, teamwork and other life lessons. Plus, he said, there is college scholarship money available for band members.

Pea Ridge plans to take two school buses to Little Rock, starting out at about 8 a.m. Monday. They'll stick around until the awards ceremony, so they probably won't return home until after midnight.

"Then on Tuesday, we start thinking about what we'll do next year," Hume said.

NW News on 10/29/2017

Congratulations to Gentry- finishing as the #2 band in class AAA!

Posted by: TheBatt

October 30, 2017 at 9:53 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Great story NWA Democrat Gazette! The schedule helped a lot of community get there. These kids give their time and hearts for this.

Posted by: marciebayles

November 1, 2017 at 2:31 p.m. ( | suggest removal )