By MEGAN HUSSEY
As the year draws to a close, many Hernando schools are singing the praises of their band programs--all of whom played, marched and sang their way to an impressive collection of awards and honors in a myriad of competitions.
At Weeki Wachee High School, the Sound of the Hornets band won first place in division 2A, second place overall, and best color guard at the Panther Pride Invitational Marching Band Festival.
"We were absolutely shocked with the results of our first competition at Lecanto High School," said Jared Benyola, director of bands at Weeki Wachee High School. "Not just about our placement and trophies, but because we had a great show and broke our personal record of the highest score at our first show."
Stephen Lucash, freshman band student at Weeki Wachee High School, agrees.
"Winning a competition is a feeling like no other, a feeling of accomplishment," he said. "Being in band isn't just about making friends and playing music. It creates a family. Joining band is the greatest decision I've ever made."
The band also scored straight superior ratings at the District 5 Florida Bandmasters Association Marching Music Performance Assessment, and seventh place in division 2A at the Florida Marching Band Championships Semi-Finals in Daytona.
"The students work extremely hard for long hours at a time. We start in May and have weekly rehearsals through the summer until band camp, two weeks of nine hour days to learn our show. The time commitment alone shows the dedication of these wonderful, hard working young adults," said Benyola. "The band program undertook a great responsibility with raising funds to put on the show that we did, let alone get the band to championships in Daytona. It's a testament to hard work by the students, but also our amazing team of dedicated band parents and sponsors."
Weeki Wachee High School Principal Troy LaBarbara expressed great pride in the accomplishments of his school band.
"The Weeki Wachee High School marching band does a great job of making sporting events fun. Our band is an integral part of our school culture. I can't imagine our school without music," he said. "These students are models for the rest of the student body as they are dedicated to their craft, hardworking, and display an enthusiasm for learning like no other. They truly set the stage for a positive school climate. I am sincerely impressed with what they can do."
The Springstead Marching Eagle Brigade, based at Springstead High School in Spring Hill, claimed first in their class at the East Lake Classic band competition and festival in Tarpon Springs, winning all categories. The brigade also placed fourth in the state in the 2A division in Daytona Beach. Percussion placed third in this same competition.
"On Nov. 23, we went to the new Smyrna Beach Sports Complex to compete against the top 19 Florida bands in the state in the AA class (determined by size), top five moving on to the Finals round," said Richard Dasher, band director at Springstead High School. "We finished fourth there, so we moved on to Daytona Stadium and finished in fourth place. Springstead has been going to the state championships for the last 15 years and have made finals in 11 of those years."
And, according to Dasher, the brigade's technical proficiency is more than matched by its theatrical creativity.
"The Springstead Eagle Brigade had a fantastic year in 2019 with our show based on the music of 'West Side Story'. To bring out the theme of the conflict between gangs, we had our woodwinds in blue uniforms and the brass in red (the school colors are red, white and blue) with the percussion in neutral black and white," he said. "The music included 'Maria', 'Mambo', 'I Have a Love', 'Cool' and 'Somewhere'."
Hernando High School in Brooksville scored some 'crowning' achievements this year with its Royale Regiment Band. Band students Emily Beck, Dana Faunce, Roy Liu, Edward Maura, Arien Sullivan, and Misa Viveiros were selected to perform at the University of South Florida as part of the Festival of Winds Honor Band on Sunday, Dec. 8.
"Only some of the very best students in the state are selected to perform at this event," read the school's website at https://www.hernandoschools.org/Domain/31.
And Royale Regiment Band students Jennah Karagines, Orion Lombardi, and Jacob VanCleave were selected to perform at Florida State University as part of the Tri-State Honor Band Festival and Conducting Conference Dec. 8.
"Only the best juniors and seniors from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida are invited to attend this prestigious event," read the school website.
Royale Regiment Band student Misa Viveiros earned special recognition this year, as she auditioned and has been selected to participate in the 2020 Florida All-State Orchestra.
"Misa is one of the top three freshmen and sophomore trumpet players in the state of Florida," read the school website. "She will be attending the Florida Music Educators All-State Clinic and Professional Development Conference in Tampa, at the Tampa Convention Center and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, January 11, 2020."
In Brooksville, the Central Sound Marching Band at Central High School garnered fourth place overall in Class 1A and Best Percussion in its Class at the 16th Annual East Lake Classic. And the band also earned a superior rating at the District 5 Florida Bandmasters Association Marching Music Performance Assessment.
"The band, chorus and jazz band have done such a good job," said Central High School band director Steven Schildbach, who also cited a successful school holiday concert and a performance at The Breakfast Station in Brooksville among recent achievements.
Schildbach, a Central High graduate, is pleased to return to the school in the role of band director.
"It's very special to be back here," he said. "My band teacher at Central had a big impact on my desire to do band. Now I want to provide the same inspiration for these students."