Marching Band State Competition: Bringing Home the Gold


Eva Alcarez-Monje

Lexington, KY- Lafayette’s Marching Band practices for the Bands of America competition after school on October 20, 2022.

It’s halftime during a Friday football game. School spirit is at an all-time high, with hopes of dominating the competition. Suddenly, in comes a sea of pristine show uniforms, shiny trombones, and waving flags. Always in tune, always in line, and sure to grab your attention and awe, this 200-strong army of musicians and performers is our own Lafayette Marching Band.

On October 29th, Lafayette’s band will perform at KMEA State Marching Band Championships, a Kentucky marching band competition. Since the creation of this state competition, Lafayette has always placed in the finals. They even won first place last year at State for the fourth consecutive time, further cementing themselves as one of the top-ranked marching bands in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) funds the state competition. Bands are divided by their respective school size, competing against schools with similarly-sized student bodies. Since Lafayette is the most populated high school in Kentucky, they place in the highest class. They then perform and get ranked by a panel of judges who decide if they will move to the next round. After the semi-finals on Saturday, only 30 bands, six from each class, will remain to compete in the finals. It is a highly competitive atmosphere, with only the best bands left to make it to the top.

The marching band season typically begins a week into September and runs to the last Saturday in October, the same day as State. However, students practice all year round, attending band camp in July for three weeks, and having band classes during their school routine. Even the planning for the next State show begins in December after band season ends, almost ten months before the competition. Each show is custom designed for each State competition.

Their performance this year is a nine-minute-long choreography called “Objectively Subjective” which this reporter has no doubts will be absolutely show-stopping. These students have been practicing for months, perfecting their routine, ensuring their playing is top-notch, and giving it their all day in and day out. Not only do marching band students balance their school and life routines, but they also stay after school every day to rehears from 3:45 to 6:15.

In the 2022 marching band season before State, the band attended three competitions and hosted their own, performing in an exhibition but not competing. A week before State, the band also competed at Bands of America (BOA) Super Regional, a national band competition hosted in Indianapolis, Indiana. They competed alongside bands from all over the U.S., from across nine states. They made it to the finals, ranking 10th in the preliminary round, which is the first time in Lafayette history that the band made it to the finals at the Indianapolis Super Regional competition. They took 14th place in the final round, ranking out of 84 top-notch bands. They have made Lafayette proud, making history and a name for themselves.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Bishop, one of the Marching Band directors. He has been working with the Lafayette band for eight years but has 31 years of experience under his belt from various schools across Kentucky.

“We have had a great season so far. The band keeps improving week after week,” remarked Bishop. He and his team have been working with the band to polish their routine for BOA, three days away at the time.

“It’s an opportunity to get Lafayette High School recognized on the national level, not just the local or state level.”

I wanted to see how Bishop was feeling about the competition and the band as a whole. When I asked if, on a Kentucky level, Lafayette was one of the best bands out there, he immediately replied.

“Yes, it has been consistently. I’m not just talking about the last four, five, to seven years, I’m talking for 80 years. Lafayette has had a tradition of excellence in band for 80 years.” Bishop also expressed faith and confidence in the band’s shot at State, working with optimism.

I also had the pleasure of sitting with one of the drum majors in the Lafayette marching band, William Allen. He is a senior here at Lafayette, playing in the band since freshman year. Before Lafayette, he played clarinet in elementary and middle school. He was promoted to drum major this year, a prestigious leadership position in the band.

“On top of being a leader in the band for role modeling, your main purpose is to keep time for the band,” Allen said.

To officially become a band major, you go through an audition process, where you handle real-life scenarios majors might encounter, along with learning the skills needed to be a drum major. However, the scouting process begins your freshman year, with band staff eyeing students who have the potential to lead. He and three other seniors lead the band in their movements, keeping them precise.

This State Championship will be William’s last official band competition of his high school career, with State marking the end of band season.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “It feels like a culmination of all four of my years coming up here.”

William has been to State twice before, with his sophomore band season being canceled due to COVID. But, despite the experience, State is still an experience that comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility.

”The whole season, we have been conditioning ourselves physically. It’s more the mental preparation. Last week we went to super regionals, and that kind of helped me get over the nerves,” he remarked. “The band relies on the drum majors as support, both on and off the stage. “Getting to be drum major this year has been an awesome opportunity and a wildly different experience from marching in the past.”.

Lafayette’s marching band has been a cornerstone in our school history, putting Lafayette on the map for its excellence in both band and arts and sports.

“We are here to support Lafayette and to make sure we represent Lafayette,” said Bishop. “The band deserves all the acclaim, with all the long hours, constant practices, and training to present a perfect performance that will take the audience, and hopefully the judges, breath away.”

This reporter wishes them all the best at their competition, hoping they will bring home the gold.