By Amie Sites
For the Kokomo Tribune
Shouts and cheers could be heard down the tunnel leading away from Lucas Oil Stadium’s field. Band members hugged each other and applauded as their band director, Brian Caldwell, approached the group standing together in a circle.
Western High School won the Class C Indiana State School Music Association’s state marching band competition Saturday in Indianapolis. The band also claimed the annual $1,000 scholarship awarded by the Indiana Dairy Farmers to each of the four marching champions.
Going in to finals, Caldwell said the strengths of his band included experienced members, motivated and conscientious student leaders, dedicated parents and a supportive administration.
Principal Rick Davis said he was proud of the band and the representation for their school.
Caldwell said it is the fifth consecutive win and the 13th win for the school in total.
“This is the icing on the cake for the kids,” Caldwell said. “This is the first time our school has had five consecutive wins.”
Also celebrating Saturday were the Lewis Cass Marching Kings, which nabbed a third-place finish in Class D.
The only high school band in the state to attend the competition for the 31st year in a row, Lewis Cass has placed in the top three every year since 2006 and won first place last year.
Their show titled “El Ano de Los Reyes,” which translates to “The Year of the Kings,” was special for many reasons.
“There is a lot of pressure, as a senior, but it has been good,” Kelsey Sullivan said. “This was the first day I left the field really happy.”
Dylan Claypool described the performance as bittersweet because he is a senior and because of Mike Clark’s memory.
Clark, the Marching Kings’ former band director, passed away Sept. 30 after a battle with cancer. Clark spent more than a decade at Lewis Cass and took the band to several state band competitions.
“I’ve missed him every day, but today has been especially difficult,” Claypool said.
Shaylee Sparks said the band has been wearing green bands on their shoulders and the staff have been wearing them around their arms.
“I look at it as his hand is touching our shoulders,” Sparks said. “I was nervous for the performance but I thought we did well.”
Sullivan agreed and said Clark had been on everyone’s minds.
Current band director Don Krug said band members were really focused.
“Today was our best performance,” Krug said. “They gave it their best and I think they were pleased with their performance.”
For Western, there was no disguising how pleased members were. After the award ceremony, Evan Carman, a senior on the marching band, said he was proud of the band.
“We had our best performance,” Carman said. “We worked for it and it paid off.”
Carmen said it was even more special because it was his senior-year performance.
Prior to the competition Saturday, Caldwell said a lot of their practices were inside and they were working to master the technical challenges while striving to communicate a high level of artistry.
The music they performed was professionally arranged by Don Barrett, an alumni of Western Band who now makes his living in Hollywood writing music for film and television, Caldwell said.
Caldwell said there is a pressure to keep winning after a band has won several times. He said now it seems a championship is expected and they will be letting everyone down if they don’t accomplish it. To overcome this, the members have worked very hard to consider their No. 1 opponent to be themselves, Caldwell said.
“Their mission is to out-perform what they did previously,” Caldwell said. “The satisfaction comes from approaching a flawless performance that successfully communicates artistic intent to the audience.”
When asked how his band members were feeling about the day, Caldwell simply smiled and pointed at the large group of marching band members hugging each other.
He turned and walked away to join them in celebration.