INDIANAPOLIS — It was the best placing in the band’s history, and Greenfield-Central High School director Chris Wing told his students he couldn’t be any prouder.
But that pride wasn’t necessarily for the Cougar Pride Marching Band’s second-place finish Saturday in the Indiana State School Music Association state finals; no, this satisfaction went much deeper.
“It has nothing to do with placing and getting trophies,” he told the 150-member group at Lucas Oil Stadium shortly after the emotional victory as the Open Class B runner-up. “You didn’t quit.”
Story continues below gallery
When they struggled, he said, they found new ways to work together. When their critics said they wouldn’t make it very far, they rallied to prove them wrong.
“You can do anything you set your mind to if you go at it 100 percent,” he said. “You did everything the right way, and I cannot be any more proud of you.”
Lessons like these, Wing said, will go with the students far beyond graduation. Most won’t pursue music as a career beyond high school, he knows. Some might not even continue it as a hobby. But Wing hopes his students are able to “Think Outside the Bachs” — the title of their show — and realize they can forge their own path if they set their mind to accomplish their goals.
Saturday started early with a 6 a.m. rehearsal. It helped, students said, knowing their community was behind them. “Good luck” signs on businesses and restaurants were just the icing on the cake of the support they already knew they had from their parents, teachers and principal.
Donning their brand-new uniforms, the band arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium for a warm-up and then musical practice. Lining up for competition, they were told to only be excited and to not look at the enourmous TV screens that would reveal every step they took.
While their performance wasn’t perfect — it never is, Wing says — it was better than the last, marking the kind of progress that has been happening throughout the season. The elated chatter afterward showed the students knew that, too.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Maggie Dobson, who is among a dozen or so eighth-graders in the group. “It was amazing.”
Junior Garrett Bice took in the moment with his fellow tuba players shortly before taking the field again to learn their placing.
“This is it,” he said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what 400 hours (of practice) came to.”
The excitement only grew as each place was awarded. Starting with 10th, the students became awestruck as bands that had beaten them in the past were called. They knew after each award was given, they were ranking higher.
“Every time they got closer to one, you got a little more shaky, and tears started to build up,” said senior Mackenzie Hardin, a baritone player.
The second-place win was the best the band has ever received; they earned ninth place in 2014 and eighth place in 2005. Last year’s season ended in disappointment, with the band not making it to the state competition.
That setback prompted a new attitude among those who returned to compete the following year.
“We just changed our perspective entirely,” said senior Justin Madren, a snare drum player. “We just go one show at a time, and we didn’t worry about the scores.”
Drum majors Mikayla Langley, Kaylee Elsbury and Jenna Parsons said last year’s disappointment was only fuel for this year’s fire, and the upperclassmen encouraged the younger students to strive for the state competition. Cooperation and leadership are lessons they said they’re taking away from the program, and Saturday’s performance was their reward.
“It is a lot of hard work; it’s a lot of sweat and tears,” Elsburysaid. “You get here, and it’s all worth it.”
Parents, many of whom have been on the sidelines of every performance and competition, wiped away tears Saturday as they watched the students celebrate. Wing said the parental and community support of the program has been astounding.
Just before taking a group picture in front of the stadium, Wing encouraged the upperclassmen to take in the moment, remembering years of dedication. And he had a few words for the younger students, looking forward to the years to come.
“If you’re new, FYI, we don’t do this every year,” he said. “But we’d sure like to try.”
Here’s a look at the final placings for the Indiana State School Music Association Open Class B state finals:
5. Bloomington North (Tie)
5. Concord (Tie)
8. Evansville North
9. North Side
10. Decatur Central