Lauren Perucki loves listening to the marching bands that perform on the football field at Manatee High School. And she always has a pretty good seat, for free.
“I live right across the street,” she said. “A lot of the bands are really, really talented. I listen to them all the time.”
She could have listened from her home on Saturday, but it was a special event, so she bought a ticket and took a front-row seat in the stands. Stavros, her 8-month-old Siberian husky, sat at her side.
“My dog loves the bands,” Perucki said.
The event was the annual Florida Bandmasters Association District 11 Music Performance Assessment. High school marching bands from Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee and Charlotte counties performed for judges and a crowd of several hundreds on the Manatee High Field.
The event has been held at Manatee High for decades. David Wing, the district chairman, said he thought this was the 26th straight year, but he said he could have been off by a year or two.
“It’s just a tradition,” he said. “We love it here, and Jim Bruce is a great host.”
Bruce is the director of bands at Manatee High, and his marching band, the Marching ’Canes, was one of 11 bands that took part in the assessment.
It’s usually the same 11 bands that perform every year, Wing said: the Palmetto High School Marching Band, the Bayshore High School Marching Regiment, the Hardee Senior High School Blue Star Brigade, the pride of Port Charlotte Marching Band from Port Charlotte High School, the Southeast High School Marching ‘Noles, the Booker High School Whirlwind Brigade, the Sarasota High School Mighty Sailor Band, the Venice Senior High School Marching Indians, the Lemon Bay High School Marching Mantas, the Charlotte High School Silver King Band, the North Port High School Alliance Marching Band, the Manatee High School Marching ‘Canes and the Riveriew High School Kiltie Band.
The bands came out onto the field one by one, starting at 5 p.m. and performed short shows that included music, narration, marching in formation and auxiliary elements. The bands performed at 15-minute intervals, so the shows were each about 10 minutes long, and each had a theme. Venice Senior High School’s performance was titled “Band of Animals” and featured songs by the Eagles, the Beatles, the Yardbirds and the Monkees. The Sarasota High band’s performance looked at a teenager’s quest to find his or her identity, and included pieces titled “Struggle,” “Depression” and Moodiness.”
It’s easy to think of the event as a competition, Wing said, but it really isn’t. It’s an evaluation. Each band gets a rating of superior, excellent, good, fair or pair, based on the quality of its music, marching, percussion, auxiliary elements and overall impression. The judges — two for music and one for each of the other four categories — are all band experts, and their scores were averaged for an overall rating.
It’s easy to think of the event as a competition, Wing said, but it really isn’t. It’s an evaluation. Each band gets a rating of superior, excellent, good, fair or pair, based on the quality of its music, marching, percussion, auxiliary elements and overall impression.
There were no prizes, ribbons or trophies.
“It’s a showcase,” Wing said. “Every school is different, ever school has a different approach. This is an assessment to tell them how they’re doing, what kind of year they’re having. It’s self-motivation.”
Some schools put a lot of emphasis on marching bands, and others may put resources in their concert bands or jazz bands, for example. The Florida Bandmasters Association has different assessment events through the year for those other kinds of bands.
Wing said he was impressed with the quality of the bands for 2016.
“We’re really proud of all the bands we have in our district.” he said. “Our band directors are really dedicated. The kids are in good hands.”
Florida Bandmasters Association District 11 Music Performance Assessment ratings
Bayshore High School — Good
Hardee Senior High School — Good
Port Charlotte High School — Superior
Southeast High School — Superior
Booker High School — Superior
Sarasota High School — Superior
Venice Senior High School — Superior
Lemon Bay High School — Superior
Charlotte High School — Excellent
North Port High School — Superior
Manatee High School — Superior
Riverview High School — Superior
The Palmetto High School Band performed but opted before hand not to receive a rating.