By Traci Chapman
In its final competition of the season, Mustang High School’s Nightriders made school and band history as they became part of an elite group of Bands of America Grand Nationals semi-finalists.
It was the first time Mustang made semi-finals at the BOA Indianapolis competition. The band, which ended in 28th place of 108 total competing bands, also achieved some of its best marks of the season with its BOA performances of “Outside the Realm” – 83.25 in preliminary competition and 80.90 in finals.
“This year over 500 bands participated in regional competitions across the country and 108 participated at the culminating event at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this past weekend,” director Ryan Edgmon said. “BOA Grand Nationals is a three day open class competition that includes multiple rounds – bands are evaluated by a team of seven judges assigned to difference captions and then advanced or eliminated totally based on their performance.”
The Nightriders were one of 37 bands to make semi-finals and part of a highly competitive field that saw the 87.525 score between 12th place O’Fallon Township – which made BOA finals – only 6.625 points higher than Mustang’s tally.
“To be named a BOA Grand National semi-finalist is widely considered to be the top 30 marching bands in the United States,” Edgmon said.
It was an achievement the band’s 260 musicians and 56 color guard members celebrated as they traveled home to a group of more than 100 parents, family members and other supporters who braved the cold Sunday to line Mustang Road to greet them with a police and fire escort.
The group’s BOA accomplishment was also more than a single contest, MHS senior Haley Franklin said – it was the illustration of an ever-growing and improving band program that’s seen an explosion in members and enthusiasm in recent years.
“As a color guard captain, I’ve never been prouder of our group than I am now,” Franklin said. “I’ve watched our guard flourish from a 25-member guard my freshman year to a 56-member guard my senior year – who has won state in winter guard not once, but twice.”
Nightriders’ final contest came just weeks after two other major endeavors – the Oct. 20 Oklahoma Bandmasters Association 6A1-6A2 state championship, held in Broken Arrow and OSSAA west regionals, held at Yukon High School Oct. 23.
At OBA, the band’s 81.55 score in preliminary competition earned Mustang a berth in evening finals; that Mustang performance earned Mustang a 83.20 score and sixth place overall, just 0.20 of a point behind fifth-place Edmond Memorial.
Mustang’s OSSAA performance garnered the band a superior rating, the highest possible at the regional contest, which is judged solely on participants’ music, visual and general achievements, rather than a head-to-head competition, which is the norm for most marching band tournaments.
Nightriders’ “Outside the Realm” was an arrangement of selections from composer Thomas Bergersen, “Big Giant Circles” – known to those who watch Stranger Things” and The Truman Show’s “Truman Sleeps,” Edgmon said.
“We have an incredible team of nationally renowned designers that have a special program built for our kids,” Edgmon said at the start of the season. “We are totally excited – it is going to be a very bright year.”
This year’s marching band totals 260, up by about 30 members from the 2017 ensemble, the director said. That’s just a fraction of the high school’s total band program, which will top 423 during 2018 – up 75 members from last year and 150 the year before, Edgmon said.
“It’s so gratifying to know that we have a band program that calls to so many students and that we have kids who love band and get so much out of it,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have kids who show the kind of dedication and do the hard work they do to make this a reality.”
That dedication includes a major investment, for students and their families alike. Many of the activities undertaken by students are not paid for by the district; some students attend practices throughout the summer, while all take part in summer band camp and other activities, meaning several are working on band-related activities year-round – and that doesn’t include individual practice time and lessons, Edgmon said.
“We rehearse approximately 14.5 hours a week and only five of those are during school hours,” the director said. “Competitions are routinely held on weekends and through the duration of school holidays.
“Many of our students are among the highest achieving academic students here at Mustang as well,” he said.
For Franklin, this final marching contest was something that led her to reflect on four years of that hard work and achievement, dedication and fun as a Nightrider – an experience that began for her and several other members with another record-breaking season, the 2015 “Birds of Prey.” That year, Nightriders traveled to St. Louis for BOA’s Super Regionals, where the band placed 10th of 63 contestants. It was only the third time Mustang took part in Bands of America out-of-state competitions and the first instance it made finals.
“I am extremely grateful to have been a part of this program and am still in absolute disbelief that my class, the seniors this year, have made history at the beginning of our time with the program and at the end,” Franklin said. “It’s really come full circle.”