Located in San Antonio, Texas, the Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson High School was founded in 2008. Today they’re the reigning 2014 Bands of America San Antonio Super Regional Champion. This week their director, Jarrett Lipman, shares some of the secrets behind their rapid success.
5 Tips to Win a BOA Super Regional
Our formula at Johnson has been to pick music we like and that we believe will entertain our audiences. Our shows are built around “get-able” concepts, and we try to build in exciting and memorable moments throughout the program. As we have gotten stronger as performers, we have been able to work our way up the rankings and finally captured our first championship in 2014. Here are some things we consider when putting together our shows.
1. Be Memorable
When developing your program, try to design to your strengths and create a product that is unique and memorable. There will be over 60 bands who perform in prelims, and you have a 10 minute window (or less) to paint a picture for the judges that sticks in their mind. Programming to your strengths will help your show come across well, be it strong soloists, a powerful brass section, a technically perfect drumline, a color guard that moves well, or even something outside the box like acrobatics. Sometimes being remembered as “the band with that great color guard” or “the band who had that awesome alto saxophone soloist,” will help you stand out through what can be a very long day.
2. Be Clear
Make sure your concept is understandable in “one read.” If the audience needs a libretto to understand your show, it’s probably too complicated for the judges to understand in one performance. You spend an entire season working on your show, but the judges and audience will see it once, maybe twice.
3. Be Clean
No matter how flashy the show is, it needs to be performed at an extremely high level. Lines need to be straight, curves need to be evenly spaced, flags need to spin around together, articulations need to be detailed, and percussion/electronics balances must be worked out. Don’t give away the easy stuff – make sure your students stand tall and have great posture throughout the show! If there is choreography, the kids need to move together. Bottom line: make sure your students perform their show at the highest level possible.
4. Be Musical
Focus on shaping, expression, dynamics, and contrast. Does your program have built-in moments that showcase the full range of emotions? This is on the judging sheet, and more importantly, performing musically will cause the audience to have an emotional reaction to your show. If it’s “in the box” you may earn a golf clap, or “check it off the list,” but remember why we do this: to share an emotional and musical experience with the audience. Exaggerate the moments you can play soft, allow your woodwinds time to showcase more than just “fast technique,” and allow your brass to do more than just play loud. Sensitivity and style go a long way!
5. Be Entertaining
“GE is KEY!” General Effect is the highest scoring caption on the sheets for Bands of America, and while this doesn’t negate the importance of performing great literature at a high level, figuring out a way to capture the full range of emotions in your show makes your product that much stronger. Does the audience clap? Do they laugh? Or cry? While sophistication is wonderful, making sure the show is still entertaining and appropriate for the football half time crowd is important. Every judge and every crowd are different. If you can find a way to build in moments and effects in your show that appeal to a wide variety of audiences, this will help your case for doing well in Bands of America competition.
Jarrett Lipman is the director of bands at Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson High School in San Antonio, Texas. He is also currently on staff of both the Cadets and Crossmen drum corps. Lipman received degrees in music education and euphonium performance from Rutgers University. In 2014, he was selected the “Outstanding Young Bandmaster” by Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity.
In addition to being Champion of the 2014 BoA San Antonio Super Regional and Houston Regional, the Johnson band earned the Bronze Medal at the 2014 UIL State Marching Contest and was a BoA Grand Nationals Finalist in 2011.