Marching bands from schools in DeSoto County showed up and showed well during last weekend’s Bandmasters Championships, which for DeSoto County Schools is a precursor to the state competition in the next couple of weeks.
Bandmasters is a competition annually held at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. The current Bandmasters competition has been in existence since 2002, although the University of Memphis band program and its alumni chapter in particular have been a part of competitions dating back to the Mid-South Invitational in 1963 at Whitehaven Stadium in Memphis. The university’s Band Alumni Chapter took an expanded role in organizing the event and it was moved to the Liberty Bowl 16 years ago, where it has been ever since. It is considered the Mid-South’s largest and most prestigious marching band event.
The competition has been dominated by the Munford (Tenn.) High School band program for many years, so for the Hernando High School marching band to be named this year’s Grand Champion and Class AAA champion was a major accomplishment for the organization led by director Len Killough. Munford had won the Bandmasters competition every year since 1999, prior to Saturday, when Hernando was named the overall winner.
Still, all high school marching bands still have one event they point to every year, said Hernando High School Principal Duane Case.
“For us, being able to compete against other states is a big accomplishment, but everything has to come together on state championship night,” said Case.
Hernando was not alone during the Bandmasters event Saturday, as other DeSoto County schools excelled in the competition. DeSoto Central, directed by Dennis Cox, was named honorable mention and Northpoint Christian School, led by director Kevin McKenzie, was named the Class AA champion.
Among the top eight overall finishes, after Hernando and DeSoto Central, Southaven High School was fourth and Olive Branch High School was eighth, meaning four of the top eight overall schools were from DeSoto County.
“We’ve had a good program here for a long time,” Case said about the Hernando band. “The state competition is really what they focus on from the day they start in July until now. I would say this is a good measuring stick for that.”
Only marching bands at the high school level can take part in the event, college or university programs are not eligible. Those who compete also must have had a superior or excellent rating at a field marching contest leading up to Bandmasters, either this year or last year.
Qualifying 5A schools will be in their state Mississippi Band Association/Mississippi High School Activities Association (MBA/MHSAA) state competition on Saturday, Oct. 27. The qualifying 6A schools from regional evaluations held on Oct. 13 compete in the MBA/MHSAA state finals on Nov. 3 at Germantown High School.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.