High schools highlight Battle of the Bands

Eleven high school bands from around the country performed in the Florida Blue Battle of the Bands on Friday at the Amway Center in Orlando.

Tony Jenkins, market president of the central region of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, said the high school bands were the highlight of the night.

“These bands are so excited to be a part of the Florida Classic, and it just gives them the opportunity to say they were here and they participated in front of a huge crowd tonight,” Jenkins said.

Many of the high school bands were excited to finally be able to watch the Florida A&M Marching “100” and Bethune-Cookman University Marching Wildcats perform.

Oliver Phipps, assistant band director and percussion director of the Barron Collier High School Marching Cougars in Naples, Fla., said the band members are always talking about the Marching “100.”

“That’s all we talk about is FAMU,” Phipps said.  “Some of them have never seen them live. They’ve seen them on YouTube, but now we get to see them live.”

Phipps, a Marching “100” alumnus, said the Marching Cougars focus on discipline, similar to the discipline former Marching “100” band director William Foster taught him.

“We take a stand for what we believe and what we love,” Phipps said. “We try to show that energy to the crowd with a lot of discipline, the love of music and how to please a crowd.”

The Pride of College Park from Edgewater High School stepped outside of its normal routines for the battle. Band Director Bruce Green said his band ventured out to do something new and different.

“We are actually a core-styled band,” Green said. “We just put this together for the Florida Classic. This is not the norm of what we do. We worked on the high stepping and marches.”

Natane Dillahunt, a senior tuba player for the North Atlanta High School Marching Warriors said the experience was great.

She said it was her school’s first time participating in the Florida Blue Battle of the Bands and that they have been practicing hard since July for the event.

Other high schools have been performing in the battle of the bands for a long time, such as the Jones High School Marching Tiger Band, which has participated in this event since 1997.

Emmanuel Pope, the junior band captain for Jones, said the event is a tradition.

“Jones High School has been here for years,” Pope said. “We’re the band that everybody comes for. We have to push ourselves to be one step ahead.”  

Jenkins said both college bands must be fully engaged to make the Battle of the Bands a true event.

“Now that the Marching ‘100’ is back, the crowd and fans are back,” he said.

Marcel Lewis, a second-year music education student from Atlanta and Marching Wildcat drum major, said he felt good about B-CU’s performance.

“Even though the real competition is during the McDonalds Halftime Show, we still took the performance seriously as if it was the halftime show,” Lewis said.

The audience grew larger when it was time for the top archrivals to perform against one another.

It had been two years since the B-CU and FAMU bands performed against each another.

Shelby Chipman, Marching “100” associate director of bands, said the Marching “100” did a great job demonstrating the technical versatility the band has always had.

“I think we did a great job with our committee,” Chipman said. “We did great outlining our presentation, which was centered around heroes.”