The Mason Marching Band was awarded the prestigious Sudler Shield award for outstanding band programs in a special awards ceremony and concert Tuesday evening.
The international award, administered by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation, recognizes high school and youth marching bands worldwide that demonstrate excellence in musical performance, execution, choreography and show design.
“This international award is the highest honor a marching band program can receive,” said Mason band director Robert Bass.
- Mason band voted top Masonbuzz story of the year
- Mason band finishes tenth in nation at BOA
- Photos: Mason High School Marching Band
Sudler Shield Chairman W. Dale Warren, of the University of Arkansas, was special guest conductor and presenter of the award. Members of the marching band and the Mason Wind Symphony Orchestra performed.
The award was the latest accolade for the esteemed band, which finished tenth in the nation and was the top-placing Ohio band at the Bands of America Grand National finals held last fall in Indianapolis.
Ninety-two bands from across the nation competed Nov. 10-12, 2011, at Lucas Oil Field in what is considered to be the “Super Bowl” of competitions for high school marching bands.
“Everything we worked towards for four years came down to that moment,” said senior Paige Pfennig, a percussionist. “It was a perfect way to end my senior year of marching band.”
The national competition began with preliminary rounds Nov. 10-11, with the top 33 teams advancing to the semi-final competition on Nov. 12. Of the 33 semi-finalists, 12 bands earned the chance to perform in finals.
It was Mason’s first time making the cut.
“It’s the Mecca of the marching band world to get to finals,” said band booster Diane Pfennig. “Last year we were tenths of a point away from making finals. This year we really wanted to crack that top 12.”
Breaking through required months of dedication from the 260-member band, said band director Micah Ewing – and an army of parent-volunteers who built props, sewed uniforms and flags and ferried students to and from band practices.
“The kids are very hardworking and make a lot of sacrifices,” said Ewing. ” This show would not have been possible without our parents – their ingenuity and artisanship was amazing.”
School is barely out of session when band members begin the season with a weeklong mini-band camp session in June. In August, they attend a two-week band camp, followed by after-school practices four days a week, Friday night football game performances and Saturday competitions.
“It’s a tough lifestyle, but it’s really rewarding in the end,” said junior Mark O’Connor, who plays baritone.
The band’s arrangement, “A Winter Solstice,” proved to be a technically-challenging number for many members, said Ewing. It included the piece, “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
“The show was very upbeat, kind of like that feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and there’s six inches of snow on the ground and everything is bright and white and you’re happy to get the call that school is cancelled,” he said.
Before that, the band placed top in their class at the Mid-States Band Association championship and was one of two bands selected to participate in The Best of the Midwest concert at New York City’s Carnegie Hall last year.
Mason’s Wind Symphony Orchestra received the Sudler Flag of Honor in 2008. Mason is now just one of 14 bands across the world and the only Ohio band to boast the honor of having received both the Sudler Flag and Shield, according to Bass.
To be eligible for the Sudler Shield, bands must submit a DVD of a performance from the current season, a résumé or fact sheet about the program and the band director must have served as director for the past five years.