With less than ideal conditions including heavy winds, exhausted musicians, an unfinished performance and strong competition, the Marching Wolves were both shocked and excited to discover their numerous victories at the Oconee Classic Marching Contest on Sept. 30.
At the competition hosted by Baldwin High School, the Wesleyan band faced 19 others in five classifications, ranging from bands with under 40 members to those with over 400. As the classification is determined by the number of woodwinds and brass members in a marching band, Wesleyan is numerically set to perform in the single A division; however, to give them the advantage of a later performance and a larger audience, the Marching Wolves chose to perform against two other bands in the AA classification.
In the late morning, the band and color guard performed their piece “Dual” in front of a large audience, other bands and a panel of judges. Freshman Siobhan Davenport loved this atmosphere and said, “Though it’s always fun to perform for the student body, performing for people who do the same thing as we do is a really cool experience.”
Aside from spending time with each other and the members of other bands, drum major and senior Abby Yang stated that she “wasn’t expecting that much [from the show] as we hadn’t finished our performance or added in all of our visuals yet.” Yang continued by saying, “It was meant to be a learning experience of being in a competitive atmosphere.”
Still, the band practiced persistently to improve and prepare for this event. Sophomore Braden Thorne has looked forward to the competition season for weeks, as he and the rest of the band “have put so much work into the past few months leading up to this competition.” After working so intently all summer, the Marching Wolves were slightly disappointed in themselves after their performance.
Marching Band Director Jeff Foster said, “The kids didn’t feel like it was their best performance [and] the energy level wasn’t as high as the night before or when they were warming up.” After a long week and the trek to the football game at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy the night before, the Marching Wolves were exhausted and struggled to perform at the level they are used to. Davenport agreed with Foster in saying, “The run for the guard, and especially myself, wasn’t our best.” Yet, when the time for the award ceremony came around, it was clear the judges did not feel the same way as they were incredibly touched and impressed by the Wolves’ performance of “Dual.”
The Marching Wolves, contrary to how they felt about their performance, succeeded in sweeping the competition. They won in their division: first place for overall band, first for color guard performance and first for musical performance, in addition to winning the extraordinary honor of first in overall effect across all divisions of the competition.
This victory truly came as a surprise to the band. Foster said, “Once they had finished the AA divisional awards, we were checked out and ready to go home. But when they said there was a tie for first and announced Wesleyan as a winner for overall effect, we were totally shocked.” The Wesleyan band had performed six hours before the last band, and along with the Marching Wolves, Foster “did not expect their effect score to hold up for the entire day, but it did.”
When asked why they believed the concept and effect of “Dual” to be so successful, Yang and Davenport both said that unlike past shows, “‘Dual’ is easy to follow.” Thorne has a great appreciation for this year’s piece. “Through the drum majors, colors and musical selections… the Marching Wolves show the different sides of the music spectrum and are able to bring them together in the end.”
Foster believes the straightforward nature of “Dual” is the key to its success. He said, “You never know what type of panel you’re going to have or what the judges will catch or miss.” With four judges already having commented on the fluidity, artistry and unique juxtaposition of “Dual,” it is clear that this year’s performance is a hit and will continue to be successful at future competitions.
After this competition, Yang looks forward to “finishing the show—polishing it, cleaning it and refining it,” so that the band can reach new highs at upcoming competitions like Bands of America. Foster is ecstatic at the results of the Oconee Classic because “getting that much credit for the effectiveness of the show this early in the season is really encouraging.” He continued saying, “We know very well that for musical and visual [categories] we have a lot to improve [and] a lot to clean up.” He is excited to know that the concept itself has already proven entertaining and emotionally poignant to audiences and judges alike.
As of Oct. 21, the band was victorious at another competition at Sprayberry high school, where they won most outstanding for general effect and performance in their division and took home first place in the AA division and the grand champion trophy in the silver division.
The Marching Wolves are excited to see how far their performance can take them in their final competition, Bands of America.
As Davenport said, “We know we can get better… and who knows what will happen when we actually do our best?”