By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The Pride of McAlester Marching Band finished its competitive fall season Saturday at the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association Marching Championships at Mustang High School. McAlester placed third overall and second in 5A.
The competition came just three days after the OSSAA Eastern Regional in Broken Arrow, where McAlester received a top rating of “I.”
The performance at Regionals kept alive the band’s hopes of its 18th State Sweepstakes title, which requires superior ratings in marching, concert performance and sight-reading.
“That’s always our ultimate goal,” McAlester band director David Steidley said of the Sweepstakes.
“The OSSAA looks at not just marching, but they also look at how the students are being taught music, if they can sight-read, and also their performance in concert and marching band.”
While OSSAA competition uses a rating system in which multiple bands can earn top marks, the OBA competition uses a points-based system with judges. Because of that, marching band Director Mark Price said, little mistakes can prove more costly at OBA competitions.
“Every single judge is different, and their opinion of what is good is different,” Price said.
“The rubric is a little more in-depth for the OBA style, because it’s a points-based system, whereas the ratings system is a little more vague.”
Steidley said the Pride of McAlester faced different environmental conditions at Regionals and the OBA Championships. Whereas the band performed in bright sunshine on Oct. 23, it played in the rain Saturday, cutting off the electronics amplifying the band’s soloists.
“All of the woodwind instruments rely on pads, and pads are not very weather-friendly,” Price said.
Of course, all 27 Class 4A and 5A bands at the Championships had to deal with these conditions. And though both Price and Steidley said they were pleased with their band’s performance, 5A-winner Coweta and overall winner Piedmont just performed a little cleaner, leading to higher scores.
“I’m really proud of these seniors,” Steidley said.
“Over the last four years, they’ve been in the top three at OBA.”
Steidley credited the band’s success this fall in part to McAlester’s color guard. Though the guard won’t compete separately until the winter, Steidley said the group provided an essential visual component to the band’s performance.
“Our marching contests that we go to, the guard is incorporated into the visual scores that we get,” Price said.
“At like OBA, how well the music and visual works together, that’s called the ‘general effect’ category, and that’s actually about 60 percent of our score.”
Having previously been in charge of the band’s visuals, Price said he’s very aware of the importance of the color guard. The OBA Championships wrapped up Price’s first season as marching band director.
“He did a super job,” Steidley of Price. “His first year as the head of the marching band, I was really proud of him.”
“The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is working on basic dance in the show,” Price said. “You know, ballet, because a lot of that is really being incorporated now in the show — stuff that I don’t even know how to pronounce.”
Steidley said the Pride of McAlester will continue to perform at McAlester football games, of which at least three remain. The band will also begin transitioning to the concert band winter season, which will include Christmas performances by the middle school, junior high and high school bands.
“We also have coming up in a couple of weeks individual students auditioning for All-District and All-State band,” Steidley said. “Seventh through 12th (grade), we have a little over 200 students that are auditioning for those.”
Concert and sight-reading competitions will take place in April. Superior ratings then would mean another State Sweepstakes for one of the best music programs in southeastern Oklahoma.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.