The 250-member band is under the direction of Kim Shuttlesworth, with assistance from Amy Suggs, Ryan Thomas and Stephen Howard.
by Ann Fowler
It was a busy week recently for the James Bowie Outdoor Performing Ensemble. On November 6 they traveled to San Antonio for the biennial 5A state marching competition. The next day they boarded a plane to Indianapolis, where they performed three more times in a two-day span at the Bands of America Grand Nationals.
This year’s show is called Stellae Errantes—The Wandering Stars. The 250-member band is under the direction of Kim Shuttlesworth, with assistance from Amy Suggs, Ryan Thomas and Stephen Howard.
At state competition, Bowie was in sixth place after its preliminary performance out of 38 competing bands. The band tied for third after finals. It is the second time in a row that Bowie tied for third, but had the tie-breaker drop it to fourth place (again, that’s out of 38 bands).
Daniel Valdez of txbands.org, blogged each performance. Many parents and band afficianados flock to this website to hear about the marching bands in competition. He described Bowie: “James Freakin’ Bowie. Brass is about as powerful and as controlled as possible. FLY DAMN YOU FLY!!!!!! Closing moves of the opener are sickness!!! Half time marching in the middle of the field can make or break a program’s score. They pulled it off well. They are achieving the drill all while sounding like they are sitting firmly in their seats. Passing brass attacks were awesome.”
Fellow blogger Daniel Sanchez wrote: “Bowie—the opening musical section knocks you over with the power!!! They played the Mars impacts during that insane drill section????? I didn’t type much more during the show because I was so enthralled and wrapped up in it. The woodwinds are so rich but OMG the brass! And they march EXTREMELY well! They have everything!”
Valdez was close in his State Finals prediction (“I am calling it right now: James Bowie will medal tonight”), but he was dead-on about Grand Nationals: “They will be top six at Grand Nationals.”
Two Texas bands were among the nearly 90 bands competing in Indiana—Bowie and San Antonio’s Ronald Reagan High School. In the preliminary competition on Friday, some said Bowie suffered from prelims jitters, but scored well enough to make it to semi-finals the following day, as did a third of the preliminary bands—including Reagan.
Daniel Sanchez wrote of their semi-final performance, “Great run, Bowie! They have such a huge, rich, deep sound that just hits you and fills you. And this drill is Fast! This show hits on every level and has musical content that tops almost anyone else here. Undoubtedly, Texas has the top two music performance scores so far today. Solid Finalist! Oh, and I forgot to mention that the guard is Stellar!”
As in state competition, bands are divided by size. After the semi-final competition, Bowie earned third place in Class AAAA—its first placement ever at Grand Nationals. The evening performance saw Bowie take its highest place ever in Grand Nationals finals: sixth place. (Bowie placed 12th in 2006, then 10th in 2009.)
Assistant band director Stephen Howard said of the band, “Bowie’s season has been nothing short of incredible. Between the overwhelming support of the community and the high level of dedication and hard work ethic of our students, we could not ask for more. This year has been a rewarding journey both on and off the field. Each time the students took the field we saw them gain strength, confidence, and unity. Each performance brought them closer together as a team and as a family. We are extremely pleased with all of the results. Being ranked consistently in the Top 4 in the State of Texas and now in the Top 6 in the U.S. is an enormous honor.”
Even those who no longer have students in the Bowie band still follow them. Crystal Fite told the Gazette, “I no longer have a musician in the Bowie Band, as my two have graduated, but I can tell you after spending six years with the band, I kept up with the last couple of weeks via txbands.com’s live blog. My youngest watched Bowie at the state finals in San Antonio this year (he currently is a member of the Bobcat Marching Band at Texas State) and was blown away. I regret I never saw Bowie live this year, but I was able to find the show on YouTube at least last night.”
Fite added, “The Bowie Band will always be some part of our lives. Both of my boys wrote their college acceptance letters on [the late band director Bruce] Dinkins and my youngest did an Eagle Project at the school of a brick sitting wall dedicated to Mr. Dinkins’ memory. My oldest was in Indy when Bowie made their first showing at Grand Nationals and earned 12th place. My youngest marched the next time when Bowie made 10th place. Now the band made it all the way to 6th place! The Bowie awesome tradition continues!”
Shawnda Hoppner’s son Kyle plays tuba in the band. She said parents paid $1250 for each band member’s Indy experience, which included some sightseeing in Indianapolis. Hoppner has a younger son who participates in Star Center Boys Gymnastics, making it impossible for her to afford the parents’ package to Indy. She watched the Bands of America webcast. She said she’s saving up for Bowie’s next Grand Nationals appearance in 2014 when her younger son will continue the marching tradition.
Hoppner says of Kyle, “My son loves marching band and band as a whole.” But she says that was not always the case. “When he was in 5th grade I had to drag him to Covington Middle School to try out instruments. He went in with a frown on his face and came out with a huge smile. I asked him what he chose and he said tuba—of course the largest non percussion instrument that you could choose.”
Added Hoppner, “Kyle is now going to the University of Nebraska Lincoln in the fall, majoring in Chemical Engineering, with a minor in Music. He wants to march, including concert and pep band. He’s even thinking about double majoring. For the past two years he has submitted an audition tape and has been accepted to the UNL Winter Festival High School Honor Band for sophomores, juniors and seniors. He just submitted his audition material this past week, and we will know around Thanksgiving if he gets in again. He also applied to audition for a band scholarship and wind ensemble placement for next fall. He will do this when he goes for the Winter Festival in January. I have a good feeling he won’t have any problem—especially coming from the great background of Bowie High School.” And, she adds, a scholarship wouldn’t hurt.
Band Director Kim Shuttlesworth told the Gazette, “This season was great. We grew a lot as a group and community. The students pushed themselves both musically and academically to acheive excellence.”
She added that it takes a community to make a great marching band. She said, “There were many hours put in by everyone to make this happen. I can’t thank the parents for all they have done. The administration and community have been so supportive- we could not so what we do without them!”
The music for this year’s show was arranged by Ryan George. The drill was written by Jeremy Hunt.