SAN ANTONIO — A pair of local high school marching bands recently earned top accolades at an annual music competition.

Navarro High School’s Panther Band earned first place while Marion High School’s Bulldog Band took second place, both in the 4A category at the 81st Annual Battle of the Bands Festival on April 25 at Alamo Stadium in San Antonio.

This is the fourth year Navarro High School has brought home the first-place title.

“I think that our senior class wanted ‘the win’ a little more than usual. With three previous wins, they wanted a full set for their high school career,” Panther Band Director Patrick Todd said. “Student leadership plays a big role in accomplishing something like this.”

While last year the group did the “Time Warp” from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” this year they opted for something different.

“We played a medley of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ with a mash-up of ‘Baby Shark’ toward the end,” Todd said. “‘Poker Face’ is one of our favorite songs to play in the stands and ‘Baby Shark’ was for some reason really popular this year. I have a 2-year-old, so I still get to hear the melody on a daily basis.”

For Bulldog Band Director Clint Bingham, the win means a lot, he said.

“I’m super proud of my students. I pushed them really hard and have set very high expectations since I’ve been here,” Bingham said. “This is my third year at Marion and the kids have overwhelmingly stepped up to the plate on numerous occasions. We do nothing but continue to improve. I’m just overall super proud of them. It feels good to bring this to the community to make Marion and Marion ISD proud.”

It was the classic rock tune, “Born to be Wild,” the Bulldog band performed during the San Antonio band festival that helped earn the group a top spot.

“You get to choose your top three and you submit them to the band festival and about a month or so later they send out an email with the song you’ve been chosen to play,” Bingham said. “‘Born to be Wild’ was my first choice and it worked because we actually played it three years ago on the marching field. They didn’t have to learn anything new, we just were refining it.”

To compete in the battle, the schools have to put in a request before receiving an invite. Bingham said he wanted to give his students another opportunity to perform before the school year ends and to prepare for the fall.

While Todd added that it’s a change of pace from the students’ UIL concerts and sight reading season.

“We can go outside to practice marching a little but, it’s refreshing for the students after sitting in chairs for a few months straight,” Todd said.

The Marion band also earned a Margaret and Robert Tobin Future of Music grant during the festival. It will go toward buying materials for the Bulldog Band. A total of 10 Celebration of Music grants and Tobin Future of Music grants were awarded to various San Antonio area schools.

This year’s Battle of the Bands featured more than 5,000 students from 36 different area high schools competing in the 4A, 5A and 6A categories. Each band was judged on music, performance, marching and the crowd’s response. At the end of the competition, every musician goes down to the Alamo Stadium field to perform as a group.

Valerie Bustamante is a staff writer for the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail her at valerie.bustamante@seguingazette.com .

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