The members of the Liberty High School Lions’ Pride Marching Band came into the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championship (ACC) 2019 with a lot of pressure as the reigning champions. They emerged as history-makers — the first Maryland band ever to be named Open Class champions twice in a row in the competition’s 40-year history.
Bands are judged on a 100-point linear scale and Liberty secured their win last weekend with a score of 96.25. They also received the top award for High Brass.
On Friday, Nov. 1 at halftime of the varsity football game at Liberty, the marching band will perform their ACC-winning show for the last time. Entitled “Composition," it is a show about a band writing a show, building from a composer alone with their thoughts to a full-fledged marching band performance.
The show was designed to put each section of the band on display with no place to hide mistakes. It was a risk that judges appreciated, said Instrumental Music Director Brandi Jason.
“If they don’t pull through, that can be really detrimental to a group. But I trust my kids and they rehearse well, and they’re really go-getters.”
The win was never something that felt assured or easy, sophomore Drum Major Rebecca Queen noted. The class is open to member schools from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, New York and New Jersey.
“We were fighting the whole way to get there," she said.
Throughout the season, they have racked up many wins, due to their focus on competition.
“We are modeled after DCI, which is Drum Core International, a very high level of performance,” Jason said.
The whole group practices from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., twice a week, with more individual rehearsals for each section.
Many Fridays mean halftime performances at football games, and Saturdays are spent at competitions that start early and go late.
“We had a record this year of getting back at 3 a.m." said Nina Elsner, color guard section leader and 12th-grader.
In the midst of high stakes competition, “We really are like a family. We’re so friendly around each other and we all support each other,” Queen said. “So it’s a really nice environment to be in.”
Added Elsner: “As a senior I’ve kind of seen this band grow from a good band to a really great one that can win ACC’s. And it’s just inspiring to see how we all push each other. The veterans are helping other people, and we’re all working together as a real team.”
The process of creating a marching band show begins long before students start rehearsing at band camp in August. Jason starts coming up with concepts in December and a collaborative staff of 17 from arrangers to designers work to create something that they hope will stand out.
Jason credits some of Liberty’s competitive edge to their willingness to put in the hours to develop an original concept.
“The judges want something new, my audiences want something new, I want something new,” she said.
After a few years in the marching band circuit, one will see the same concept a few hundred times, she said.
Nothing comes together without the support of staff, as well as parent volunteers who make up the Pit and Props crew. They were also recognized this year at ACC’s.
Jason said she relies on them because," I have really grandiose ideas, but they have to make it able to roll into a field, fit into a Penske truck.”
This year that meant soundstages with working lights and a baby grand piano. Parent volunteers may arrive at a competition hours before even the student band members to begin setting up props.
The morning of the ACC was an early one for everyone.
“We got [to Liberty] at 5:45. And then we went outside and did a run-through in the rain,” said 11th-grader Patrick Underwood, horn sergeant.
On the way to competition, which was held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, they have a tradition of eating breakfast together at a diner. And then it was on to a long day of competition that resulted in a win. The final act of the day after loading up and returning to Liberty was for seniors to hand the championship flag into the display case in the instrumental wing and place a pin on it for each senior performer.
The historic win was gratifying, but on the road to getting there, it was important to Jason that that pressure stayed out of the rehearsal space.
“We have to get the good foundation," she said. “There are times when I feel like we’re behind compared to where another program might be, but I cannot bring that into any type of discussion. We just have to focus on ourselves.”
If you go
What: Lions’ Pride Marching Band performs championship-winning show “Composition”
When: Friday, Nov. 1 at halftime of the football game beginning at 7 p.m.