Members of Grapevine High School's Mustang band got their marching -- and playing -- orders on a crisp, clear morning this week."Use your whole lung capacity," assistant director J.J. Pipitone shouted from the reviewing tower. "I want to feel all that warm air in my face."That scene was repeated all over North Texas as bands prepared for the busy University Interscholastic League marching band competition season, which starts today with regional contests. They are the first step in a process that continues with area competitions next weekend. For a lucky and talented few, the next step will be a chance to perform at the state meet in San Antonio on Nov. 5-6.This year, bands in the 3A and 5A classifications get the opportunity to go to area and state competitions.The road ends at regionals for 1A, 2A and 4A bands, which went to state competition last year. Texas has so many high school bands that the UIL switched to an every-other-year advancement schedule years ago.Grapevine band director Asa Burk said the season really kicks off in August, when bands begin learning the music and choreography even before school starts. The competition phase usually begins in September, with music festivals and football halftimes helping band members solidify their performance."You use that feedback to start refining things," Burk said.The quest for stateThe grueling UIL schedule picks up the pace throughout October, with regional and area meets.Grapevine (5A) is one of about eight bands in Region 24 that will compete today in Carrollton for a Division 1 rating, which is a ticket to the area contest. The area level has 28 bands, and when the day is done, only five or six will go to San Antonio.According to the UIL, the state is divided into 28 regions in music competition, based on geographic and population factors. The regions are grouped into seven areas for 4A and 5A schools, and five areas for 1A, 2A and 3A.In 2010-11, the most recent year that 3A and 5A bands went to state, Flower Mound Marcus was 5A state champion.Perennial powerhouse L.D. Bell was second.Haltom High School was No. 15, Keller High School was 19, and Saginaw High School was 34.Argyle was 3A state champion.The road backThough Fort Worth's Arlington Heights High School, a 4A band, can't advance this year, there's still a lot on the line."We're competing for a top rating," director David Wiebers said.Now in his third year, he came to Fort Worth from his native Georgia to help rebuild the Arlington Heights band program.The program dropped out of varsity competition to regroup, but now it's ready to reclaim a spot."We're looking to pick up a Division 1 rating, and then we would move from our nonvarsity back to varsity status," Wiebers said."When I first came in, we had about 30 kids, and I took 18 of them to contest. This year, we've built it up to 85 students."Festivals and other competitions help take up the motivational slack for nonadvancing schools during their UIL off-years, Wiebers said, such as the U.S. Band Circuit, in which Arlington Heights has been active this year."I like competitions, but it's not the end-all, be-all," Wiebers said. "A rating is just a number. It's how you did that day. We're looking to improve ourselves."For seniors like Grapevine's Emily Wideman, 17, a drum major who plays alto sax, "it's a lot about positive attitude and trying to make it fun for everybody," she said.And if it doesn't work out at regionals?"We're family," she said. "We stick together through it all."Staff writer Jessamy Brown contributed to this report.Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657Twitter: @startelegram
Many Tarrant County-area high school marching bands will compete in regional contests today.
9 a.m.-6 p.m., Collins Athletic Complex, 1500 Long Road, Denton
Bands include: Argyle, Azle, Boswell, Brewer, Byron Nelson, Central (Keller), Fossil Ridge (Keller), Keller, Lake Worth, Northwest, Saginaw, Timber Creek (Keller)
Conference 1, 2 and 3A: noon to 8 p.m., Tiger Stadium, 900 Stadium Drive, Glen Rose
Bands include: Alvarado, Castleberry, Diamond Hill-Jarvis (Fort Worth), Dunbar (Fort Worth), Kennedale
Conference 4 and 5A
1-7:30 p.m., Burleson ISD Stadium, 100 Elk Drive, Burleson
Bands include: Aledo, Burleson, Carter-Riverside (Fort Worth), Cleburne, Crowley, Eastern Hills (Fort Worth), Everman, Granbury, North Crowley, North Side (Fort Worth), O.D. Wyatt (Fort Worth), Paschal (Fort Worth), Polytechnic (Fort Worth), Southwest (Fort Worth), Trimble Tech (Fort Worth), Weatherford, Western Hills (Fort Worth)
1:30-7:30 p.m., Standridge Stadium, 1330 Valwood Parkway, Carrollton
Bands include: Carroll (Southlake), Grapevine, Hebron (Lewisville), Marcus (Lewisville), Colleyville Heritage
Several bands will compete in regionals Tuesday.
4:15-9:30 p.m., Pennington Field, 1501 Central Drive, Bedford
Bands include: Arlington, Birdville, Bell (Hurst-Euless-Bedford), Bowie (Arlington), Haltom (Birdville), Lamar (Arlington), Lake Ridge (Mansfield), Legacy (Mansfield), Mansfield, Martin (Arlington), Richland (Birdville), Sam Houston (Arlington), Seguin (Arlington), Summit (Mansfield), Timberview (Mansfield), Trinity (H-E-B)