By Ann Fowler
In a marching season that began with the loss of its beloved band director, the James Bowie High School Outdoor Performing Ensemble dedicated its season to Bruce Dinkins and honored him well — never placing lower than 3rd in finals for the four competitions it attended this year.
In its final competition, nearly 60 bands competed in the two-day Bands of America (BOA) Super Regional in San Antonio on November 4 and 5. Bowie placed fourth in preliminary competition, and was one of 14 bands to advance to finals. It was a long day for the band members. They had performed in preliminaries at 7:45 a.m., and their finals performance was at 9:00 p.m.
Band parent Carla Trautwein’s son, Carl, is a junior who plays tenor sax. She said the band members got up early on Saturday for the bus trip to San Antonio. “They had such a long day reporting to Bowie at 3:30 a.m. for a 7:45 a.m. preliminary performance,” she said. “They must have been exhausted, but it didn’t show on the field.”
In fact, Trautwein’s husband, Ken, who was on the field as part of the pit crew, said, “The finals performance was unbelievable. They definitely gave it their all with lots of energy.”
Daniel Sanchez of www.txbands.com described Bowie’s performance: “That lush, rich, huge, amazingly filling and warming, and just down right spine chilling opening statement from Bowie in Belshazzars feast — I can’t express it in words!”
Responding to Sanchez’s blog, Jeff Ziemann said, “Bowie’s opening statement is stunning. If you haven’t heard this opening statement live, you are truly missing out.
Added ‘Bandfan,’ “I agree. I’ve never heard anything like Bowie’s luscious opening in the history of high school bands. Just phenomenal, mature sounds.”
Bowie finished fourth after its preliminary performance, but when the finals results were announced, Bowie had scored nearly two points higher in its evening performance, capturing third place and the coveted award for Outstanding General Effect. A third of a point (.35) separated first and third place. L.D. Bell took first place, while The Woodlands took second.
Ken Trautwein said of Bowie’s performance, “The closeness of the scores in San Antonio as well as Atlanta shows that they can compete with any band in the country, and they are very proud of that.”
San Antonio hosts the largest of the BOA Super Regional competitions in the nation. Band parent Dianne Hume, whose son, Jacob, is a senior and battery captain in the band, told the Gazette, “BOA is beginning to call the San Antonio Super Regional a mini Grand National because of the quality of band competition here.”
Many of the Bowie parents held large paper snowflakes aloft before Bowie’s performance to match those held by the color guard in the performance. But Bowie had a wider fan base than the parents.
Said Ken Trautwein, “The main thing that struck me about the finals performance was the crowd reaction. We had our own Bowie supporters, but students and parents from other schools seemed to genuinely react to our performance, especially the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the end when the flower appears.”
One of the last pieces added to the Bowie performance in recent weeks was a flower that was formed by band members laying on the field, forming the stem and leaves, while the snowflakes of the color guard formed the flower.
Alanna Miller, a senior, playing clarinet, had mom Teri, sister Vivienne and grandmother Josie Slawik rooting for her in the audience. Said Teri, “It’s her last performance. She’s really sad.” In fact several parents mentioned how emotional the final performance was for the seniors. Miller said her daughter learned so much from Mr. Dinkins, so it was important they perform well in his memory.
It has been a long and emotional season for Bowie. Band Director Bruce Dinkins died in his sleep last June while at a band directors’ conference in Oregon. In his ten years at Bowie, Dinkins had taken the band from one that placed in the middle of the pack to one of the best marching bands in the state and in the country. Under his leadership, Bowie has taken top honors at the Smokey Mountain Music Festival, the National Adjudicators Invitational, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona National Band Championship. Dinkins’ daughter, Jordan, is a freshman in the band.
Sanchez, who attended many of this season’s marching competitions and blogged his observations, told the Gazette: “Bowie was fantastic at the Super Regional on Saturday. The warmth and power of their sound was the perfect contrast to the coldness of the winter they portrayed. I wish I could experience this show over and over again. Mr. Dinkins would be proud of this entire season!”
During the summer, the Band Director baton was passed to Kim Shuttlesworth, formerly assistant band director under Dinkins. This year’s show is called “The Promise of Winter” with music from composers Walton, Respighi and Shostakovich. Ryan George arranged the music and Jeremy Hunt designed the drill. Assistant Directors include Ryan Thomas (percussion), Stephen Howard (color guard) and Amy Suggs. The assistant color guard director is Cedric Stanley. Drum majors are Kaci French, Emma Graves, Kyle Ponder and Brent Smith.
Added Ken Trautwein, “I know that Mr. Dinkins would be very proud not only of the students but also Band Director Kim Shuttlesworth, and Assistant Directors Ryan Thomas, Stephen Howard and Amy Suggs for doing such a great job of preparing the students to reach such a high level of performance.”
Charre Smith, mother of Brent (drum major) and Barrett (baritone), told the Gazette that Dinkins’ loss hit the band members hard: “I think it was very difficult at first, but they wanted to win this year so much for him, because he gave so much to them.” The band members that knew him still share “Dinkinisms” with one another.
The hard work the students put in is evident by the results:
• BOA Arlingon Regional Champions, winning the music caption outright and sharing the general effect caption with L.D. Bell.
• Westlake Marching Festival Champions, where they took the auxiliary, marching and music captions.
• BOA Atlanta Super Regional, where they took second place and earned the music caption.
• BOA San Antonio Super Regional, 3rd place and general effect caption.
While the marching competition season itself was short for Bowie — October 1 to November 5 — a lot of preparation went into it. Said Charre Smith, “They learn their music in spring before school is out, and then they have a week of marching camp for the new kids, and drum majors and section leaders work all summer long, and they all come back in August. It’s a full summer.”
Susan Blackburn, whose daughter, Stephanie, plays instruments in the pit, said her daughter, a freshman, had to earn her way onto the field. “They’ve been a very professional, hard-working band,” she said.
Assistant Band Director Stephen Howard summed up the marching season: “The season as a whole was an extremely rewarding one. The combination of many things working extremely well together paved the way for many successes, both on and off the field. The parents, the administration, the Bowie student body and the community as a whole have really shown an extraordinary level of support for our organization. This is the backbone of who we are and we would not be where we are today without them. I think the students have proved this season to the marching band community that they are a major player in the field and should never be overlooked. I’m extremely excited about the possibilities. We are just warming up.”