Band students at Riverside Military Academy and South Hall Middle School struggle with their brackets each day — but these don’t involve 3-point shots, alley-oop passes or zone defenses. The band students are competing in “Sousa’s March Mania,” choosing between two marches each day for their brackets.
The U.S. Marine Band sponsors the program, which features 32 marches and requires a daily vote until April 6. This is the third year the band has sponsored the program.
Riverside Military Academy and South Hall Middle School students are competing in the contest.
The two schools’ band directors have ties. Riverside’s Katy Wilson and South Hall’s Kelly Brunson worked together at Riverside in 2015.
Wilson is in her sixth year at Riverside. Brunson is in her third year of band education and her first at South Hall. Both sets of their parents also were band directors.
Both schools are competing in the March Mania for the first time.
“It’s a great method to get our students interested in other literature (music),” Wilson said.
Brunson, whose husband is band director at Johnson High School, called the contest “such a cool idea.”
She said the band students “don’t go home and listen to Sousa. ... They go home and listen to pop or rap.”
Band students listen each day to competing marches and select their favorite. The two schools have different ways to reach their pick of the day.
Wilson said she split her bands — three of them — into teams based on instruments. Each group fills out its own bracket — and a competition is being held within the school. The winning team gets a dinner off-campus, she said.
At South Hall Middle, Brunson said band classes — two each from the seventh and eighth grades – listen to the marches and vote on which survives. Majority rules, she said.
Each band member picked his or her own bracket before the competition started March 7.
At the end of the day, each band director “votes” for the school bracket. If a school has a “perfect” bracket, it could be designated “March King” for a day. Neither school is perfect after the first week of competition.
Quinton Munroe, a senior trumpet player at Riverside, said if a march “doesn’t appeal to the audience, it’s not a good piece” when choosing the “winners.” Gage Fletcher, a Riverside sophomore who plays euphonium, said the marches’ “backstory” might be decisive in picking a winner.
Kyle Marshall, a baritone saxophonist who is a Riverside junior, said the marches can help students understand how to perform certain passages, such as “crescendoing.”
Band company captain Patrick Sheffield added he reacts to some marches, “Oh, I just want to do that song.”
Both directors said their students benefit from hearing the quality of professional musicians playing marches — some familiar, some not.
Wilson noted that “Entry of the Gladiators,” by Julius Fucik, is often played at circuses. It was the winner Tuesday.
Other first-round winners include “Semper Fidelis” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa.
“Some of them (students) are getting into it, especially the boys,” Brunson said, because of the brackets and the competition.
She said students listening to the marches “is just like Little League players looking up to the big leaguers” in baseball.
Brunson first heard about the competition and suggested it to Wilson. Both thought it was a good idea, but they couldn’t fit it into the schedule in 2015.
Both agreed it already has been worthwhile, and they will participate again next year.
“It’s less about the winning and more about the experience,” Wilson said.