More than 700 marching musicians, dancers and flag corps members from southeast Georgia high schools are expected to gather Saturday for the second annual Southeast Bulloch Band Blast.
Not counting the host band, 10 marching bands have registered, up from six in 2014’s inaugural festival. If rain stays away, each will perform for spectators at Southeast Bulloch High School’s Fred Shaver Field. Matt Olsen, director of the Southeast Bulloch Swarm, is keeping an eye on weather reports. But he would remind the visiting bands that, with two gymnasiums available, the Band Blast will move indoors if necessary.
“If it rains, we will move it inside one of the gyms and do a stand-still performance, but everybody will at least get musical education,” Olsen said.
He and Southeast Bulloch assistant band director Joey Mitchell designed the Blast as a special festival where bands can get feedback to improve their performances before the competition season.
“We’re trying to create an environment of learning as opposed to an environment of competition,” Olsen said. “There will be trophies, but it’s not about winning and being in first place, it’s about what the judges have to say and how you can make yourself better.”
The website Georgiamarchingbandseries.com lists the event as the Southeast Bulloch Festival and Critique.
As at other festivals, judges assign ratings up to “superior.” But the Band Blast does not have first and second-place rankings, as do the competitions hosted by other schools in October.
Bands of all sizes
Nor are the bands divided into size categories. According to a chart Olsen provided, they range from the local Portal Middle High School Band, expected to bring 15 marchers, and the Treutlen High School Band, with 19, up to the Glynn Academy Marching Band, fielding 120 members, and the Wayne County Band, with 137.
Show titles are just as varied. The Jeff Davis High School Band, scheduled to open the festival at 3 p.m., offers a “World Tour.” McIntosh County Academy brings “Sounds of Motown.” Portal’s show is “Monster,” Treutlen’s “Made in Georgia,” New Hampstead’s “Fright Night,” Metter’s an “Ultimate Movie Experience,” Statesboro High’s “A Game of Love,” Washington County’s “Nothing but the Funk,” Glynn Academy’s “Beyond,” and Wayne County’s, “The Evolution of Funk.”
As host band, the Swarm will perform last, slated for 8 p.m., and will not get a public rating. But the band will receive judges’ sheets.
“The judges will hopefully tear us apart, hopefully get in there and give them the business where we know what we have to fix before the competition season,” Olsen said.
Rain has plagued band practice schedules this season. So the Southeast Bulloch Band has yet to perform its show, “Endless Summer,” in its entirety. Olsen hopes to include the closer, a Beach Boys medley, Saturday night for the first time. With the Swarm’s usual creative costuming, the horn players dress in Hawaiian shirts, the dancers as lifeguards and the percussionists as surfers.
The Band Blast also features a Drum Line Cadence Showcase and a tug-of-war. Each band chooses four boys and four girls for its tug-of-war team.
The gates will be opened at about 2 p.m., and the event with awards ceremony could last until around 9:30. Admission is $5 for adults and students; free for children younger than school age. Concessions will be available. Proceeds above event costs go the Southeast Bulloch’s band program.
Busy season ahead
The Swarm will open its competition season Oct. 3 at the Thomson Marching Invitational, and compete in at least two other events, Olsen said. One of those will be the East Georgia Marching Band Festival and Championships, hosted by Statesboro High School on Oct. 31.
Meanwhile, this promises to be an unusually busy autumn for the Portal, Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch bands. The three are uniting for the first time as the Bulloch Blues Marching Band, with nearly 200 members, performing in a series of local, regional and national events from the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade Oct. 19 through the Florida Citrus Parade in Orlando on Dec. 30.