Chopticon band wins national competition


The Chopticon High School marching band performed at the USBands National Championship on Nov. 10 in Annapolis. (Reid Silverman/The Enterprise )
November 29, 2012

The Chopticon High School marching band will head to Hawaii next month on a high note, after winning a national championship this month.

The Chopticon band earned the chance to perform in Hawaii at a Pearl Harbor ceremony after a judge in a performance last school year observed their talent on the field and their interactions off the field, said Todd Burroughs, band director.

The band has had a string of achievements, including four consecutive Maryland state championships.

That high-caliber performance is continuing this school year. On Nov. 10, Chopticon won a USBands National Championship at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where the 49 Chopticon students played and marched their way to the first-place finish for Group 2A.

“As we were watching, we knew it was their best performance of the year,” Burroughs said. “Everything clicked.”

The band played and marched perfectly in step, he said, and the judges recognized that.

The performance, titled “The Elements,” has four movements: earth, air, wind and fire. Chopticon hired Mark Lortz, Stevenson University’s band director, to write the music, and Bobby Jones of Westminster created the field routine.

Great Mills and Leonardtown high school bands also performed well during the national championships. Leonardtown, which competed in the same group as Chopticon, finished sixth under the direction of Stephen Lane. Great Mills, which competed in the Group 3 Open class, finished 11th under band director Robert Mattera. All three schools had their highest scores ever.

The Chopticon band marched in Leonardtown’s Veterans Day parade the day after the competition in Annapolis. When the students returned to school that Monday, they were acknowledged by their principal and peers.

In Hawaii, eight bands — one from each state whose name was on a ship moored at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack that led the United States to enter World War II — were invited to the ceremony.

The USS Maryland did not sink when two armor-piercing bombs dropped by Japanese pilots hit the ship on Dec. 7, 1941. The bombs detonated below deck, killing four people. The ship survived with comparatively light damage from the attack, in part because it was beside the USS Oklahoma, which took much of the fire in the area and was hit and sunk by torpedoes.

About 50 members of the Chopticon band and color guard will spend four nights and five days in Hawaii, where they will participate in the ceremony, tour Pearl Harbor and attend a luau.

It will cost about $1,500 per student for the flight, hotel and some meals, Victoria Nelson, who is heading up the fundraising efforts, said.

The total price tag for flights, hotels and other expenses is $113,600, Burroughs said. The students and band boosters had fundraising events in the past seven months and raised enough money for the students. But it will cost about $10,000 to ship the band’s equipment and uniforms. Burroughs had thought those costs would be covered, but recently learned the band needs to come up with that money, as well. “We’re in the final push to raise that,” he said.

To raise the rest of the money, teachers are organizing a special “dress-down day” Dec. 7. For a $5 donation, students and staff members can wear a Hawaiian shirt or patriotic colors. Burroughs said that the details were being worked out but that he hopes for a buy-in at all county schools.

Nelson, who has spearheaded the fundraising, is determined to see it through. She said that the students in the band, including her son Nick, a sophomore in the drum line, deserve the honor, not just because of their skill during performances but because of their character on and off the field.

She hopes businesses in the community also will also offer “dress-down” day on Dec. 7 in return for a small donation.

“The kids would just feel the support” if Hawaiian shirts were worn throughout the county that day, she said.

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