November 14, 2014 : By Drew Menard
|Liberty University's Spirit of the Mountain Marching Band performed in the Georgia Dome as the exhibition band for the Bands of America Super Regional Championships.|
Liberty University’s Spirit of the Mountain Marching Band had the honor of performing at the Georgia Dome on Nov. 1 as an exhibition during the Bands of America (BOA) Super Regional Championships in Atlanta.
BOA is a program of Music for All, one of the largest and most influential national music education organizations.
“The BOA program is one of the very most prestigious events in the country,” said Dr. Vernon Whaley, dean of Liberty’s School of Music. “We are thrilled that Liberty University’s Spirit of the Mountain Marching Band was selected as one of only two university bands to be featured at the Southeastern Regional Bands of America contest. People from all around the country were exposed to Liberty University for the very first time.”
Most high school band competitions invite collegiate bands to perform at their events, and Liberty’s band annually participates in two to three of these high school contests. However, BOA is by far the largest and most prestigious event of this sort that Spirit of the Mountain has been invited to. While some of the regional events Liberty has participated in over the years have drawn crowds of close to 3,000, more than 15,000 spectators attended the BOA Super Regional.
The two-day competition featured the 43 best high school bands in the Southeast, with Liberty’s band performing an exhibition show on day two of the competition just before and after the final round. Before finals began, Liberty performed the “Star Spangled Banner.” After finals concluded — just before the awards presentation — Spirit of the Mountain showcased their 2014 show, “Kaleidoscope,” a celebration of light, reflection, and change. Songs included Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” “Man in the Mirror” as performed by GLEE, and “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.
During the awards ceremony Liberty University School of Music presented a plaque to each of the top three high schools. Liberty’s Drumline, part of the Marching Band, played while all of the finalists marched onto the field.
“The organizational leadership of the event invited us to present our plaque at the same time the official trophies were presented to contest winners,” Whaley said. “It was a thrill to see people enthusiastically respond to our gesture of congratulations.”
Dr. Stephen P. Kerr (’82), director of bands, said that the trip was a great opportunity to showcase Liberty and the excellence of its School of Music.
“Atlanta was really a high watermark for the band,” he said. “They sold Liberty. They sold the show. They put it all out there. The musicianship, the marching of the drill, the guard, choreography, it was excellent.”
Kerr explained that in recent years the band has grown in size and notoriety. Currently, Spirit of the Mountain has 230 members, led by a staff of 11, and is expected to reach 300 members in the next two years. Kerr said the formation of the School of Music in 2012 has generated more interest in the band — a process which is also reciprocal.
“As the Marching Band improves and grows, so does the rest of the instrumental program in the School of Music,” Kerr said.
|The Marching Band adds to the gameday experience at Liberty, regularly performing football halftime shows.|
The process of putting together a full show is no simple task. Months of planning and arranging go into preparing the show, beginning in January. Then, when students show up for band camp a week before fall classes begin, they start learning the 15,000 steps involved in creating the intricate field formations, all while masterfully playing their instruments.
As the band has grown in reputation, it has garnered more opportunities to perform at large events. In 2011, Liberty’s Marching Band performed at Walt Disney World’s Main Street Parade in Orlando, Fla. Kerr hopes to see the band included in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade one day.
In addition to the Marching Band, the School of Music offers 22 different instrumental and vocal ensembles for students to participate in.