VBHS Band Marches To Victories By Pam Cloud
The Van Buren High School marching band has been racking up awards at several recent competitions. At three area band contests, the band has marched and played its way to the winners circle, according to Ron Smith, VBHS band director. “Those are the only three competitions we’re going to,” said Smith, who is in his eighth year as band director at Van Buren. “It was quite a run, though; we went to three contests within 10 days. That’s a lot.” At the Broken Arrow Invitational on Oct. 11, Van Buren — the only Arkansas marching band invited to perform — placed first in the Class AA division, also taking awards for Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect in its division. The band took home third-place honors overall, placing behind two Class AAA schools, Tulsa Union and Owasso, Okla., both of which have garnered national recognition. “When you go to Broken Arrow and compete against 30 bands from the southwest — Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma — and to hear them say Union, Owasso and Van Buren in the same sentence, that’s pretty good company to be hanging around with,” he said. The band traveled to Little Rock on Saturday for the Showcase of Bands and brought home 10 trophies. “There were 10 trophies available, and we won all 10 of them,” Smith said, adding that the band competed against 38 other bands at the Little Rock contest. Competing in the 5A division, Van Buren received trophies for Outstanding Percussion Line, Outstanding Color Guard, High Music Performance, High General Effect, High Marching, Class 5A Championship, the Raymond Brandon Award, presented to the “most outstanding band of the day,” Superior Band, Superior Color Guard and Superior Drum Line. Most recently, the band competed at the ASBOA Region II Marching Contest Tuesday at Northside High School. Smith said the band received unanimous Superior ratings, the highest award given at that competition. Smith said the 110 band members have been practicing long hours since the summer months to perfect the show, which includes music from the rock group Evanescence. “From the last week of July to when school started, we were rehearsing about seven hours a day,” Smith said. “When school started, it’s been three hours a day.” Smith credits the band’s success to the extreme talent and dedication of the band members. “It’s really hard for them. They can’t really have a job, and they have to keep up with their studies,” Smith explained. “There’s a lot of sacrifices they have to make to be a part of this organization, but they feel it’s worth it.” The eight-minute show includes two Evanescence songs, “Hello” and “My Immortal.” Smith said the music was custom-written for the VBHS band’s show by Aaron Guidrey, a percussionist from Las Vegas who performs with one of the Cirque du Soleil shows there. “He’s an extremely talented writer,” Smith said. “You can’t just go out and buy that (music) for marching band.” Smith said he’s been blessed with assistance from Darren Davis, band director at Broken Arrow High School, who has helped with visual design of the band’s field work. “It’s amazing to have someone of that stature take an interest in our program and want to help us out and see us be successful,” Smith said. “He’s one of the elite music educators. He’s a genius.” Smith said in the eight years he’s led the band, they’ve had success. “But this by far has been the pinnacle,” he said. “I feel like we’ve really turned a corner this year ... and are on our way to being nationally competitive, which was a goal we set out for eight years ago. “But a coach is only as good as his players,” said Smith. “We’ve got some fantastic kids who are extremely talented and dedicated to the program. “We give every bit of credit to these kids,” he added.