Reaching for the Stars

Band finishes in third at Grand Nationals


photo via @TheHebronBand on twitter

The band used star imagery throughout their show to align with the title “Among the Stars.” This is the final set of the opener, and the last set of the closer was a star as well.

Band placed third at the Bands of America Grand National Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 16. 

They were also invited to march in the 2021 Rose Bowl Parade and won the Outstanding Music Performance caption, an award that is particularly important to the organization. 

“Winning the music caption back was just everything we could’ve hoped for,” senior band officer Obosa Aimuyo said. “Hebron is really known for its music, so when we heard [we won], we were like, ‘yes, that’s what we needed.’ I honestly think the music is what generates the feeling of our show — it’s what garners the emotion from the crowd.”

Head director Andy Sealy said the band’s shows have the hardest music and the most simultaneous marching and playing. This year was no different — the show “Among the Stars” featured arrangements of “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman and “The Impossible Dream,” made popular by Frank Sinatra. 

“Our musical book is harder than everybody else’s,” Sealy said. “Doesn’t mean it gets rewarded more, but it gets greater exposure to error and greater exposure to challenges. When it’s great, it’s great, but when it’s not: ‘uh oh.’ We do take a lot of musical risk and physical risk different than most bands because we still march and play a lot rather than do a combination of dance work and choreography work.”

This was the band’s second appearance at Grand Nationals — the first being in 2015 when they placed third and took the music caption as well. 

“I think we definitely continued the tradition of excellence,” Sealy said. “It was different in that it was a different program, a different band. This band has different strengths, weaknesses, assets and liabilities than the 2015 band. I would definitely say that this group was better in terms of musical content and physical content overall; however, there were different days, different judges, different shows and a different design. All of those variables are interacting constantly, but I do think that the group definitely upheld our expectation and the expectation that our students from 2015 would’ve had.”

Grand Nationals is the only contest band has attended that includes a semifinals performance as well as preliminaries and finals. It is also the only out-of-state marching contest it has attended. 

“This trip was basically non-stop,” Aimuyo said. “It was our longest band competition ever, and there was never really a moment to pause and breathe. Honestly, it was a lot like our show in that sense. First of all, it’s like a 20-hour bus ride, then go to your room and wake up in the morning and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Then three performances and then a ‘45 minute rehearsal’ that turned into an almost three-hour rehearsal.” 

Sealy said he was excited and very pleased with the band’s final performance.

“In finals, we had exactly what we needed,” Sealy said. “We had the best run of the season. We had an emotional outpouring from the students in their personal performance and we had stronger physical execution of drill both from an individual standpoint and an overall form standpoint. It was all much stronger in finals. All of the performances got progressively better over the trip, which is exactly what they needed to do, and we had our best performance at the most opportune moment.”

According to Aimuyo, this sentiment was also expressed in how the students felt after their last run of the show. 

“No one said they had a bad run because we put it all out there and we threw down,” Aimuyo said. “It was so cool. When we played that last note, I was like, ‘This is it. I’m a senior, this is the last note I play, the last time I’ll be wearing this uniform.’ We walked out, and I looked at [senior] Ekdev [Rajkitkul] and just said, ‘We did it.’ Even though we didn’t win, that was our best performance and it came together at the right moment. No one could stop smiling. So many people were crying. It was something I’ll never forget.” 

Sophomore mellophone Andie San Luis said she thinks the feeling of walking off the field after finals will motivate the band next year.  

“Just getting to experience that makes you want to work hard again,” San Luis said. “You want to be able to feel like that at the end of every season, no matter what show it is and whether it’s a Grand Nats year or just a San Antonio year. You want to put in enough to where you can feel really accomplished at the end of the season and be like, ‘heck yeah, we did that.’”