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BOA Grand Nationals – It’s Worth the Trip!

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by Rhoda Venture
Performance Trip

Warning.  This blog may contain strong emotion, uncontrolled pride, and possibly a snapshot or two of our saxophonist son.  My family (all four grandparents included) just returned from the 2021 BOA Grand Nationals in Indianapolis.

We are exhausted, a little weepy, but definitely euphoric after watching 99 of the nation’s best high school marching bands go head-to-head.  It was a thrilling weekend of pageantry and skill that left us slack-jawed and cheering!  If you’re considering BOA Grand Nationals – it’s worth the trip!

A Little History

Our high school marching band has a reputation for presence, pride, and artistry.  When our son started as a freshman, my husband and I didn’t understand why he couldn’t play football and march.  It quickly became clear that the time and effort he invested in practice was staggering.

tips for your first band camp

Beginning with the start of summer break, the marching band practices tirelessly through the melting summer sun right through the snowflakes of October.  They practice through baseball, football, soccer, track, lacrosse, and any other season that starts and ends.  The band is on the field at 7:30 in the morning, and often still playing at 9:00 at night.

Related Reading:  Tips for Surviving (and Thriving) During Your First Band Camp


There’s no such thing as “downtime” as they fine-tune their performance and skills under their equally devoted director.

Oh- and while all of this is going on, many of the band students are holding down jobs and carrying ambitious course loads!

It’s this dedication to the program that makes our band one of the best – teaching students discipline, organization, and commitment.


While the marching band energizes crowds under the Friday night lights, plays at all the local community events, and supports school activities, they also spend many weekends on the local and regional competition fields.

Here they realize the benefits of their hard work and appreciate that others are doing the same.  Competitions like BOA Regionals or Super Regionals give them a chance to shine on a bigger stage and learn from professional adjudicators.

Photo credit to Kathleen Heuer


They boost performers’ confidence and teach them to value wins and losses.  Above all, they learn to function as one.  Individual performance is only important as it pertains to the team.

One missed step or bad note affects the success of the entire group, and students quickly learn that they don’t want to let down their peers.

Related Reading:  Band Competition Survival Guide for Parents

BOA Grand Nationals

Which leads us to the “big dance.”  After several setbacks and disappointments (like a universal pandemic), our band was able to participate in the 2021 BOA Grand Nationals for the first time since 2011.

Like most others, we were going in with a big freshman class and a lot of sophomores who had limited competition experience simply because it didn’t exist in 2020.  The kids were excited, nervous, and relying on those many months of practice to perform at their best at the biggest venue they’d ever played – Lucas Oil Stadium!

Lucas Oil Stadium BOA
photo credit to Kathleen Heuer

The community rallied behind the band with a huge send-off that filled the stands of our football stadium and set the tone for an amazing experience.

A Quick Shout Out 

It’s important to note that while we have a truly supportive administration and community, not all students are as fortunate.  And that’s where Music for All steps in.

As a non-profit advocate for music education, Music for All’s mission is “to create, provide and expand positively life-changing experiences through music for all.”

Thanks to Music for All for their commitment to music programs and students everywhere!

Photo credit to Bethany Ackerman

The Experience

Along with hundreds of others, these proud parents- hauling even prouder grandparents and siblings- loaded up and set off on the 7-hour trip to Indy!

The experience of being a spectator in that stadium watching incredibly talented performers was humbling.  I can only imagine what it was like from the students’ perspective!

Our son checked in at the end of each day with an update on the energy and excitement pulsing through the bands like the wave that moved through the audience.  It was nerve-wracking, thrilling, and just plain fun!

BOA Grand Nationals
Photo credit to Andrew Capets

Playing at Grand Nationals was an especially sweet moment for him, now a senior with a show opening and closing solo.  As he took the field with his back straight and head held high, we sobbed uncontrollably and prayed that he hit his notes (he did!)

The Thrill of Prelims

After two days of spectacular preliminary performances, 99 anxious bands sent their drum majors to the center of the field to find out if they earned a coveted spot in the semi-finals.  It was a leg-shaking, forget-to-breathe moment as each band was announced.

Photo credit to Kathleen Heuer

We watched our band across the stadium as they cheered on their competitors and hung on to the hope that our school would make the list.  It felt like time stopped as more and more bands were named and the possibility of moving on dimmed.

And then, like a slow-motion scene from a movie, our band was called, and the entire band family erupted into cheers and tears!  Such a thrill!!


The Warriors 

We realized quickly that the time for resting on our laurels was short-lived and the band got right to work polishing its performance.  A good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, and everyone returned to the stadium for the final day of competition.

Norwin at BOA
Photo credit to Andrew Capets

The excitement of the prelims was a drop in the bucket compared to the exhilaration of finals day.  Thirty-four bands held nothing back as they fought for a place in the finals.  Tense directors paced while the fiercest of warriors performed with heart, soul, and grit.

The Crowd

I scanned the crowd around me and saw family, friends, and the larger band community cheering on ALL the students at a nearly fevered pitch.  Each recognized the blood, sweat, and tears it takes for band programs to achieve such a goal.

Photo credit to Bill Sass

The people who stand behind these BOA bands are of the highest caliber and character. It was an honor to sit among them.

The Results

I am happy to share that Class AAAA Broken Arrow High School, Class AAA Dobyns-Bennett High School, and Class A Murray High School all took first place in their divisions.

And I am so very proud to share that The Norwin High School Marching Band (under the direction of Timothy Daniels) brought home the Class AA Grand National Championship.

Photo credit to Bethany Ackerman

It was their first BOA Grand National title in 37 years!  I’m getting teary just writing it!!

Related Reading:  Best Performance Tips for Music Students

And Then There Were 12

The 12 top-scoring bands and first-place winners enjoyed their moments in the sun.  And then, in true marching band style, they prepared for one final round that would go late into the night.

The skill, showmanship, and enormous talent of these final bands were on full display before a packed stadium.  Students who should have been exhausted by the long days pushed forward to give the performances of a lifetime.


THIS is why they are on the practice field early in the morning and THIS is why we still hear the drums long after their friends are out having a good time.  THIS is why their seasons are six months long instead of two, and THIS is why marching band programs grow.

THIS moment – on a national stage – is one they will never forget!

The Winner Is…

Somewhere in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Broken Arrow High School was named the 2021 BOA National Grand Champion.  It must have been a delicious moment for them, especially with an unprecedented score of 98.250!

But I was focused on a different moment – the one where my son played the final notes of the show.  He walked proudly to the mic, played with heart-wrenching beauty, and gave the camera a saucy wink farewell to his senior marching year.

BOA Grand Nationals

So, yes.  BOA Grand Nationals is worth the trip. 😉


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