Burnet High School’s Esprit de Corps doesn’t shy away from mixing it up with marching bands almost twice its size because the experience often pays dividends down the road.
During the Bands of America’s Austin Regional Championship on Sept. 25, the Esprit de Corps, a 4A program, marched against mostly larger division schools in the 5A and 6A classifications. The Burnet High School marching band and Highlandettes showed they’re right in step with those bands, some putting more than twice the number of students on the field than the Esprit de Corps.
The Burnet students finished second in their preliminary round of three bands with Princeton High School, which is 80 percent larger, edging them out of first by 0.3 points. The Burnet group earned Outstanding General Effect from the judges during the preliminary round. This is presented to a band based on how well its performance is designed, planned, and executed.
Burnet band director Andrew Hicks said the students knew going in this would be a challenging competition as the Bands of America contests are “the national standard for marching band performance.”
“It was a good measuring tool for us to see where we stack up against the best, and we’re looking forward to seeing the students progress as we prep for the 4A (University Interscholastic League) contests,” he added.
The top band at the Austin regional contest was Vandegrift High School followed by Claudia Taylor Johnson High School, Leander Rouse High School, Cedar Park High School, and Vista Ridge High School.
When Hicks describes the competition as challenging, it’s not an exaggeration. Claudia Taylor Johnson High School is the 6A defending state marching contest champion. Vandegrift High School finished second in state in 2015 (Class 5A) and third in 2018 (Class 6A), while Rouse High School was fourth in state in 2019 in Class 5A.
Vista Ridge High School was the 2018 state champion (6A) and finished fourth (5A) in 2015.
Cedar Park High School has three, back-to-back state championships at the 5A level: 2015, 2017, and 2019.
Of course, the Esprit de Corps is a state-recognized band as well, earning the bronze medal in the 2020 Class 4A state contest.
Under UIL rules, state contests alternate year to year with the odd-numbered classifications advancing in odd years and the even-numbered classifications in even years. However, this year, the UIL is allowing all divisions to advance to state competitions, which are in November at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
“Esprit de Corps had an amazing performance,” Hicks said of the Austin regional competition. “They accomplished a great deal of difficult material in a very short amount of time.”
The Esprit de Corps show is called “November Rain.”
One of the challenges the Burnet marching band has this year is how young its members are with a large percentage being freshmen and sophomores. Still, Hicks said despite the “wow” factor of the larger bands, the younger Esprit de Corps came away better for it.
“The younger students handled the contest great,” he said. “They were a little star-struck by the size and volume of some of the other bands, but that’s always a great experience for our students to see the ‘big dogs’ up close and personal.”
Next up for the Esprit de Corps is the Vista Ridge Marching Festival on Saturday, Oct. 2, at John Gupton Field, 200 Gupton Way in Cedar Park. The Esprit de Corps is scheduled to take the field at noon.
Admission for the event is $15 for adults, $5 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade as well as college students with valid IDs, and free for children in prekindergarten or younger. No outside food or ice chests are allowed in the stadium. Concessions will be available.
Hicks said the format is similar to UIL contests in which bands compete against those in their classification. It’s a good opportunity for the Esprit de Corps to see how it stacks up against marching bands its own size, he added.
As a 4A program, Hicks and the other Esprit de Corps directors realize they share their students with a number of other activities and programs across the campus, and even the community. Still, Hicks said they shined during the Austin regional show.
“I hope that the big takeaway for our students is that they can do anything that they are willing to work hard to achieve,” he said. “Our band and Highlandette students are involved in a plethora of scholastic and athletic activities for our school, and what they achieved on Saturday proves that students in multiple activities can be successful in everything they do.”