By Dawn Hatfield
DARKE COUNTY — Band competition has been a part of the school music scene in Ohio since the early part of this century. The 1924-founded Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) and its forerunners were all formed, at least in part, to foster competition in the state. Darke County’s musical history is no exception to this, and a competitive spirit, to always be better tomorrow than one is today, lives at the core of many of the districts’ marching band programs.
Ohio’s first marching band contest was held in 1924 in Fostoria with eight bands in attendance. Decades later, OMEA decided to sanction marching band contests that followed the OMEA-designated format and gave permission to hold the first State Marching Band Finals (SMBF) in November 1980. Thirty-six bands qualified the first year throughout 16 qualifying contests. By 2019, the number of contests had grown to 67 with 131 bands qualifying to compete in the SMBF.
This year, Darke County is the proud home of three SMBF-qualified marching bands: Arcanum High School Marching Band, Greenville Band of Pride, and Versailles High School Marching Band.
Arcanum (Class B) performed their show, “El Matador y La Rosa,” on Oct. 31 at the Dayton Welcome Stadium and received a Superior (I) rating at the State Marching Band Finals (SMBF). Director Heather Marsh-Myers expressed her pride in the band’s season, “We had an incredibly successful fall. We attended four local contests and earned Superior ratings at all four and Grand Champion at two of them. Arcanum Band had the highest 2021 season score of any Class C or Class B band in the entire state of Ohio, often outscoring schools much larger than us. At State Marching Band Finals, we received straight Superior ratings, which is the highest score you can possibly receive.”
Versailles (Class B) also received a Superior (I) rating on Nov. 7 for the performance of their show, “Amazing,” at the Dayton Welcome Stadium. The message of this year’s show was ‘you are amazing just the way you are.’ Testimonials of amazing life moments were written by students and presented throughout the performance. Ronda Stammen, Director, had this to say, “It was Versailles’s first Superior [rating] since 2010 in marching band. It is very exciting for the students and community!”
Greenville Band of Pride (Class A) made it to SMBF for the first time in 30 years with this year’s show, “Picturesque.” They performed just after Arcanum on Oct. 31 at the Dayton Welcome Stadium and earned an Excellent (II) rating. Director Carl Phlipot’s enthusiasm was obvious as he spoke about their accomplishment, “I am so proud of the students. Hard work and the desire to do well has paid off! Going to State was a long-term goal for the band. To make it to State the first year as their new director has been amazing! The future is bright, and I’m excited to see where the band goes in the future.”
To be eligible to participate in State Marching Band Finals, an Ohio band must have received a final rating of Superior (I) in at least one of the 63 OMEA-sanctioned marching band adjudicated events held in fall 2021. The bands are not competing against one another, but rather against a standard, as determined by the Ohio Five Rating Plan. Each band brings to these State Finals its own musical and marching style identity, therefore OMEA states the ranking of these bands would be inappropriate for the educational arena.
The Five Rating Plan per the OMEA SMBF Guidebook is as follows:
Rating I (Superior): An outstanding performance with very few technical errors and exemplifying a truly musical expression. This rating should be reserved for the truly outstanding performance.
Rating II (Excellent): An unusual performance in many respects, but not worthy of the highest rating due to minor defects in performance, ineffective interpretation, or improper instrumentation.
Rating III (Good): An acceptable performance, but not outstanding. Showing accomplishment and marked promise, but lacking in one or more essential qualities.
Rating IV (Fair): A poor performance showing many technical errors, poor musical conception, lack of interpretation, incomplete instrumentation, or lacking in any of the other essential qualities.
Rating V (Poor): A very poor performance indicating deficiencies in most of the essential factors, and indicating that much careful attention should be given to the fundamentals of good performance. This rating should be used sparingly and only when it is possible to cite major faults.
Seven OMEA-approved adjudicators evaluate the bands on “musical performance,” “general effect” of the show, the “visual program,” “percussion” performance, and the “auxiliary units” of the band. Together, these ratings are totaled for the overall final rating.
Each band is scheduled a 15-minute time block in which to perform. “Show time” starts with the first step or note and must be a minimum of six minutes and a maximum of 11 minutes in length.
Classifications are based on the school enrollment of grades 10 to 12 minus any vocational students who attend school off campus and are as follows: Class AA 901+; Class A 501-900; Class B 301-500; Class C 300 or less.
Full criteria are listed on the OMEA web site at www.omea-ohio.org.
Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.