EAST MANATEE -- Inspired by Bach and Beethoven, the Braden River High School marching band became Class 3A state champions in the Florida Marching Band Coalition competition Saturday with its program titled "Joy."
Natural rival Lakewood Ranch High School, competing in the Class 4A division, scored a third-place finish with its performance of "Under the Midnight Sky," taking cues from Van Gogh's "Starry Night," and the classic Christmas carol "Silent Night." Lakewood Ranch placed first in music in its division.
Braden River borrowed heavily from classical music, adapted for a marching band, to "create impact movements," said Kayla Lindsay, the saxophone section lead.
Braden River's three-part "Joy" program consisted of three movements: "Love," including Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," followed by "Peace" with "Gabriel's Oboe" by Ennio Morricone, and "Happiness" with "Fantasia in G" by Bach and "Ode to Joy" by Beethoven, said Band Director Kendall Carrier.
"We had a lot of mixed meter stuff that makes it harder to march to," said Nathan Evens, one of Braden River's three drum majors.
But the multiple time signatures in the program, with its increased difficulty, also impressed judges, Evens said.
When Carrier arrived at Braden River six years ago, the band was competing at the Class 1A level with 47 players.
When it moved onto Tropicana Field Saturday night, it had 112 members.
"We have grown 10 to 15 kids a year. It's been steady growth every year," Carrier said.
Strengths have been Braden River's work ethic, student leadership and strong support from band parents and the school staff, he said.
Lakewood Ranch High School's "Under the Midnight Sky" was the result of five months of rehearsal.
The program was written by Ryan George, a member of the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, and band director Ron Lambert.
The three-part program included "Van Gogh's Vision" based on "Starry Night," Silent Night," and "Twisted Twinkle," by turns eerie and exciting.
Lambert, a first-year band director, called the Class 4A competition the most hotly contested.
"Other than the normal unknown of a new band director and new Assistant Director Danielle Marine, the kids were great, and the families were great and receptive too," Lambert said.
"The program was very challenging. It took every day in the season to get it right. They peaked at the right time," Lambert said.
Among those cheering on Lakewood Ranch from the stands was the school's retired band director Bob Schaer.
Braden River and Lakewood Ranch may be rivals, but the only two Manatee County schools in the competition found themselves "cheering for each other" as well, Carrier said.
"It was really awesome," Lakewood Ranch band member Matthew Vaadi said of the competition.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1.