Again, marching bands qualify for state finals


There’s just something about those high school marching bands in Dubois County.

Over the weekend, the Jasper Marching Wildcats, Southridge Marching Raider Band and Forest Park Marching Rangers all took perhaps the biggest step of their long seasons. They all qualified for the Indiana State School Music Association’s marching band state finals.

Jasper will be one of 10 bands performing in Open Class B at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday. The group will take the field at 11:30 a.m.

Forest Park and Southridge will both compete in Open Class D. The Marching Raider Band will begin their final routine of the year at 6:55 p.m., and the Marching Rangers will play at 5:40 p.m.

Musical excellence has become the norm for each of these local bands.

The Marching Wildcats have now qualified for the finals in each of the past 30 seasons. Forest Park — the reigning Open Class D champion — hasn’t missed the ISSMA finale since 2003. Southridge just barely missed the chance to go to state last season, ending a two-year streak that spanned 2016 and ‘17.

Last month, the Northeast Dubois Marching Jeeps made their fourth consecutive appearance in the ISSMA Scholastic Class Finals.

So, why are our bands so consistently good? When asked that question, local band directors said largely the same thing.

“The No. 1 reason is just the community,” said Forest Park Director Eric Obermeyer.

Whether you’re talking about the dedicated leaders and supporters who anchor the programs, or the long list of community music events, clearly, something is working.

“It’s just in the air is all I can say,” Obermeyer said. “It’s really hard to explain, but it just kind of leads you toward success. You just feel it.”

Added Jasper Director Chad Gayso: “So many people in the community were in the programs. Whether it was Southridge, or Forest Park, or Jasper or Dubois. I meet people all the time that were in band when they were in high school, and I think they just loved it then, and they keep supporting it.”

This has created an intergenerational mix of fans that continue to invest in and support the still-thriving activity.

All three bands fought near-freezing temperatures and bone-chilling winds in their semistate contests last weekend. The gusts were so problematic, in fact, that parents and band helpers were actually permitted to hold props in place on performance fields.

“That’s never happened,” said Lannie Butler, director of the Southridge Marching Raider Band. “I’ve never seen that happen ever. And we’ve [had] some crazy weather over the years.”

That won’t be an issue this weekend, when the groups travel north to downtown Indianapolis to perform indoors at Lucas Oil. Local shows are typically designed from the beginning with a state finals performance at that stadium in mind.

“When you design a show, if you want to be competitive that we’re trying to, you certainly do,” Butler explained. “That’s a big part of it. When you look at your color scheme — everything. What it looks like on the hash marks there. Just little things you pay attention to.”

Practices this week will be all about fine-tuning for Jasper, Southridge and Forest Park. Because success is such a big tradition for all the county marching bands, most of the kids know what to expect this weekend.

And when it’s over, you can bet they’ll be back again.

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