Sat. Oct. 25 was an exciting day for the Kearney High School Marching Band. After nine years of receiving excellent ratings (twos), the band finally received a superior (one) rating at NSBA, Nebraska State Bandmasters’ Association. The KHS Band had not received a superior rating since 2005, although it has been one of the main goals during the 28 years that the KHS Band has been attending NSBA. Additionally, in recent years, the Bandmasters’ Association has seen many changes that have affected bands throughout the state of Nebraska.
Six years ago, NSBA existed only in a festival format, and the competition format was not used. At a festival, bands are not competing for placements, but are rather given an individual rating. However at that time, one of the band directors from a school in Omaha posted that his school received ‘x’ place in the paper after performing at the NSBA Festival. This caused an uproar because there had been an informal agreement among directors that this would not happen. After this event, there was a contingency that wanted to move toward a competition format, and there was also a group that wanted to stay with the festival format. As a solution, the site in Omaha was made into a competition site, and the site in Lincoln remained a festival format. Larger schools were to participate in the Omaha competition, and smaller schools in the Lincoln festival. Kearney, with a rather large band, had since been forced to attend the competition in Omaha. Last year, due to many complaints, schools were given the opportunity to choose which site they wished to attend. Kearney wanted to participate in the Lincoln festival site, however, there were too many bands that wished to attend. In an attempt to balance the number of bands at each site, the NSBA Board, although they had already stated that schools had the choice of which site they wanted to attend, told the KHS Band that they had to attend the site in Omaha, but as a festival band. Performing alongside fantastic bands such as Papillion-LaVista South, Omaha Burke, Lincoln Southwest and Omaha Central. Kearney was disappointed to end the 2013 season receiving a two rating at NSBA. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the Lincoln festival site in 2013, an additional festival site was added in Kearney this year. Class AA bands in attendance at this new site included North Platte, Scottsbluff, Hastings, Grand Island, Columbus, Norfolk and Kearney. Thirteen other bands were in attendance.
There were several members of the band upset last year when they were informed that the band would no longer be competing, but would be participating in the festival sites, and again students were upset to hear that an additional NSBA site would be held in Kearney this year as a festival. When asked how she felt when she heard that NSBA would be held in Kearney, junior Jazy Miles stated “I was upset with it. I felt like we were stepping back from the challenge presented to us when competing in Omaha, and that we just didn’t like being told we weren’t a superior band,” and when asked how she felt about festivals she said “I like that we were competing against ourselves to get better each week, but I feel like it’s fun to compete against other schools, too.” Summarizing her thoughts on the season, Miles said “Our season was a respectable one. We worked hard the whole time, and really stepped up our game. We gave our best performance of the year at NSBA, and the difference between this year and years past is a huge one. We’re headed in the right direction, and I’m very excited for next year.”
In an interview regarding these recent events, Mr. LeFeber, KHS Band Director, said that “Festivals in general are more about celebrating the music and the accomplishments of the performers, and I feel like it’s a better atmosphere that is more conducive to keeping marching band in perspective.” Also, when he was asked whether he thought it was harder to earn a high score in Omaha than in Kearney, LeFeber said “Yes and no, I think no, it’s not any harder because the evaluation criteria is the same at both sites and that the judges are held to the same standard, but yes that the bands are placed in a more random order of performance at a festival site which makes it more fair. At the competition site the order of performance is based on the score the band received the prior year, so a preconceived notion comes along with that.” LeFeber also said “The goal of NSBA is better bands for Nebraska, and in the end I think they really do want that. I think that some of these changes have encouraged growth in the marching band at KHS, and I’m really proud of the kids for trusting the directors and staff that we have put in place to work with them to move toward the future. I think that we are starting a new era within the KHS band, and that it’s a good one.”
In the end, there is an agreement between everyone that the KHS Band is headed in the right direction. Mr. LeFeber said that he is extremely proud of the kids for the successful season, and is excited for the future of the program. Additionally, LeFeber plans to use a similar approach to the 2015 marching band season, teaching the same styles and using the same staff that was used this year.