MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford , New Jersey was the setting for the big showdown. Forty bands in four classifications vied for the 2012 USBANDS National Championship on Saturday. The RamBand of Cheshire High School placed fourth out of 24 units representing eight states.
The stadium despite being huge and made for football was a great venue. In spite of the size it seemed intimate since you were close to the field and restricted to the press box side. Fans, once again mostly moms, dads, brothers and sisters , came and went as the bands played. Like the normal band show it was a controlled mob with an occasional hoot and holler , or cowbell clang, from the fans.
The stadiums grey seats melded with a grey November sky. Around the inner stadium midsection ran banner ads and in each end zone sat two JumboTron screens. It was on these high definition monitors where you could count the freckles on a trumpet players nose or see close up the perfect makeup on a color guard or the forced smiles and overall looks of consternation. More importantly you could see the marching formations taking place, the perfect lines, the unity of the flag wavers, and the overall attention to a thousand details that the hundreds of hours of practice produced.
Presentations spanned the spectrum from traditional Sousa type music, to pop, to classics (Beatles) to original. One band had a rock, paper, scissors theme replete with Andy Warhol like computer generated panels and another destroyed the Berlin war. A few bands used tape recorded tracks. The RamBand delivered in the avant garde/ original style.
The Cheshire contingent came in three Peter Pan buses, two held the band and chaperons and on the third were the fans and a few roadies. We got there in plenty of time and returned to Cheshire around 11PM.
It was a long day for the band. Starting at 6:45 AM the shaking of the cobwebs began and the practicing on the field began, In the press box the good cop/ bad cop routine was in effect. As the band played a piece Steve Lyons critiqued, mostly in a positive manner, a mispositioned body here or a knee deflection there. His comments are direct and without malice. At his side was the Napoleonic presence of the bands top dog John Kuhner.
Kuhner (rhymes with Booner) is a to-the-point kind of guy. He does not live in a mambypamby land. His comments are more along the lines of that was terrible, where are the baritones? Where are the horns?
On the next take it is often a that was better followed by a lets do it again. It is this perfectionist kind of mindset that defines Kuhner and RamBand . I heard at many of the shows people in the crowd asking when does Cheshire perform?
Regardless, the results are in New England Championship last week, 4th in the Nationals this year for the RamBand. This did not happen by accident , it was a recipe formulated by Kuhner that contained great coaches (paid and unpaid) , 77 band members and dozens of volunteers , most of which were parents. In summary, a great job by all!