Nation Ford band marches to new heights at nationals

joverman@fortmilltimes.comNovember 13, 2012 

— The Nation Ford High School Marching Band finished third in Class AA at the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis last weekend. They are the first band from South Carolina to finish in the top three (in any class) in the semifinal round of the competition.

“I’ve been involved with Bands of America for 25 years and (have) been very fortunate to have bands have success there,” Director Martin Dickey said.

“But to do it so quickly with a new school has been very gratifying. Just knowing what the students have accomplished in such a short amount of time – going from a no-name school to turning heads on a national level – is incredible for the school district, the program, the town and the state.”

The band traveled to Indianapolis on Wednesday and spent Thursday practicing at a nearby high school stadium and catching up on school work. On Friday, the students competed in the preliminary competition against 90 bands from across the country.

After the preliminary competition, Nation Ford and 33 other bands were selected to compete in the semifinals round.

Between competing and awards ceremonies, band students were given the opportunity to watch the other bands, including several that went on to score top honors in the Grand National Championship.

“These are top-flight programs,” Dickey said. “That’s the educational value. They get to see these incredible band programs. They get to understand how close they are to being there.”

It’s also a way to ensure the marching band program continues to grow and improve, he added.

“From a music education standpoint, there is nothing better out there than what the Bands of America programs offer,” Dickey said.

“To make sure our band maintains their national reputation of excellence – and make sure we’re teaching music education at the highest level in the country – it’s a great checks and balances for our program. Imagine if all your teachers went to a national exam with their classes. That’s what we’re doing.”

After the semifinals, the 12 top-scoring bands were invited to compete in the finals competition. Nation Ford did not make that cut, but Dickey said he wasn’t surprised. The majority of the bands in the finals competition – nine of the 12 – were Class 4A bands that march 300 to 400 students, mostly upperclassmen, he said. The other three bands “have a reputation of being the best,” he added.

But that doesn’t mean Nation Ford won’t make it to the finals one day, he added. On Monday, he talked to students about what they could each do to help push the band towards greater success.

“They have to participate at the highest level, whether that means looking into private lessons, look(ing) into winter guard or winter drum line,” Dickey said. “All the extra things you do that aren’t school sponsored. What can you do, where can you do it, to improve yourself as an individual, as a dancer, musician – whatever it is you do. What is your individual plan to make yourself better?” he said.

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