Monday, October 22, 2007

My National Championship

My first direct exposure to a national championship was when I was in high school in Canton, Michigan and was a member of the Plymouth-Canton Marching Band (PCMB). This band has a long history of being one of the best bands in the country, and was by far the best competing team at the school. In 1990 and 1991 it won nationals. In 1999 we won Nationals and the finals performance in 1999 is regarded as one of the most outstanding performances ever for the marching band community and for PCMB.

When I was in it in 1997, 1998, and 1999 it was always a dream of everyone in the band to win nationals again. The band was unique in that it did not have a culture of winning just to win. It had the culture and philosophy of just doing your best and doing better than the time before and enjoying winning if winning was the result. I personally feel that this philosophy on winning is much better than the philosophy of winning just to win, because the people who work really hard just to win, and don't win, receive an enormous emotional let down. But those who do their very best while keeping in mind that they can't control how other competitors do will be happy with how they did even if they didn't win, and will be ecstatic if they do win. But both philosophies on winning have their place and each may be more suited for a particular type of championship or individual; and competition obviously enhances performance and stretches the limits previously known.

A state championship came all three years I was in the band, as has happened pretty much every year, and in 1997 our band placed 5th at Nationals. The Grand National Championships were held in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana by Bands of America and has about 190 bands in Preliminaries, 30 bands in Semi-Finals, and about 10 bands in Finals. Semi-Finals produced a National Class Champion for each of the classes based upon school size: A, AA, and AAA for the largest schools. Typically about 80,000 people watch finals and there is always lots of adrenaline and electricity at Nationals. In 1998 the band placed 2nd at Nationals and got the award for best music in Finals, and everyone was very pleased with 2nd place.

In 1999 our band of 220 people had a great show, based on George Orwell's 1984, had a fantastic staff that was well seasoned and everyone mixed well together. A few years ago I calculated that for this show the band dedicated in the neighborhood of 400 hours to organized rehearsal and to competitions, and many more hours of individual practice. As Nationals approached we all knew that we were good, but continued to practice hard in Indianapolis to perfect the few segments that needed work. Semi-finals yielded a National Class Championship and all 3 awards for the AAA class: best music, best visual, and best general effect.

Our finals performance could not have been better and I think the finals performance was the only time we got the drill right for the final song of the show, because it got rewritten and we had to learn all new drill a week before nationals for that section; and the whole band got hooked together with tube things and in Finals I think pretty much everyone got hooked together, which didn't happen very often. At one point the spectators were standing and were louder than the band was while playing one of the loudest parts of the show.

We became the Grand National Champion with a score significantly higher than the 2nd place band with a slight difference in score between all the other placements, and we got the awards for best visual and best general effect in finals. It was so exciting standing on the 50 yard line in the RCA Dome for the Finals awards ceremony knowing that our performance was better than anything we had ever done, and that we were going become National Champions. I can still vividly picture the excitement of the momment and the electricity that was in the air during the performance and the awards. After the awards ceremony we got to perform again on the field, except it was just for the parents.

Here are two videos of the 1999 Finals performace, which has since become known as one of the greatest performences ever from Plymouth and is a legendary classic favorite in the marching band community. One video has close-ups with multiple camera angles and the other video is just a high camera angle that gets pretty much the entire football field. In the beginning of the video clip before the performance starts you can hear some random girl from another school call out my name. She responed to a message board post I made and I think I was the only person from Plymouth that she knew of by name. I had not ever expected anyone to call out my name before a show, but video is permanent.

1999 Plymouth-Canton Finals Multi-Cam

1999 Plymouth-Canton Finals High-Cam

Winning a National Championship was fantastic and it truly means a lot. The memories of getting ready for nationals are probably more prominent than the strong memories of the actual event and the experience and life lessons gained from winning a National Championship are extraordinary. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you did something well and that you did it the best that you possibly could do it, and that you exerted all the effort you possibly could to attain that level, and that you did it better than anyone else in the country that year, even if only for the culminating day of the championship. But knowing that you did your best and that you have no regrets about your preparation is the most important thing.

Winning a national championship is something that I had not ever considered before my time with Plymouth, but I am certainly glad that it happened. Winning this championship has caused me to think over the years about various aspects of championships and champions, which is the catalyst for this blog and other small projects I'm working on.

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