Bradenton -- For the record, the Florida Bandmasters Association District 11 marching band festival is not a competition.
Well, not technically anyway.
Instead of competing against each other, more than 1,000 high school students from 13 marching bands from Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties gathered at Manatee High School on Saturday to get evaluated by two music judges, as well as judges in marching, percussion, general effect/visual and auxiliary.
“Each band is evaluated against state standards,” said Luis Alvarez, director of the DeSoto High School Blazing Blue Band. “This shows them where they can grow. They can see their strengths and weaknesses.”
But that doesn’t stop the teams from competing against themselves.
Adam Garrett, a senior marimba player with Sarasota High School’s Mighty Sailor Band, said he still gets an rush when he hits the field.
“I don’t get too nervous, but when I am playing, I am focused on only that,” said Adam, 17, who was confident that the band’s “007” theme would get a high rating. “It has everything -- action, a love story and people will know the songs from James Bond.”
The bands have been rehearsing their routines since the start of the school year. So each student at Hawkins Stadium went into the evaluation hoping for the highest rating: superior.
For the Palmetto High School Marching Tigers, their performance last year was a bit more conservative than the one they put on Saturday night, according to director Shawn Macy.
“We did a strict show,” he said. “I think we did real well. Last year we got an overall ‘excellent’; this year I feel we did better.”
This year they went a bit more edgy with an upbeat “Cities of the World” theme in which various cities were represented by song, such as Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
“I think this was our best show,” said senior Kevin Kovacevic, a tuba player. “You want to do your best and get a good overall score.”
Adam and Kevin, both seniors, said it was important to them to do well so they could leave high school on a high note.
And it’s not just the seniors who feel that way.
“If you’re a senior, you want to end it good. If you’re a freshman, you want to start good,” said freshman Brooke Flynn, 15, a flute player at Manatee High School.
The competitive atmosphere is something Macy says pushes the students.
“It pushes the kids to practice,” he said.