By Sam Bonsey, Communications Coordinator, Sanford School Department
Sanford is hosting the Maine Marching Band Finals this year on Saturday, Oct. 28. It follows five regular shows in the Maine Band Directors Association circuit, which Sanford participates in.
“I’m really looking forward to the final show here in Sanford,” said Quang Lam, a SHS junior in the band. “Usually, the last show is the best, not only for us but for all of the other schools as well, but having it here will be great.”
Lam has been playing trumpet since 5th grade and has competed with the band since he entered high school. For Lam, practice makes perfect. He typically likes to practice on his own in addition to rehearsing with the band.
The band started well before the school year started. The students did two weeks of band camp in August. Hailey Francoeur, the director of bands for Sanford High School in her third year, said it’s similar to preseason for fall sports. Students show up, learn the shows, and practice their drill spots. Francoeur said this year, students have an app on their phones that gives them their blocking and shows them where to go.
“So if I’m a student, I can watch my spot and then hit play, and then I can see where I’m going, and it tells me exactly what to do,” Francoeur said. “It’s really cool.”
The competitions, Francoeur said, aren’t necessarily ranked in terms of first, second, or third for schools. Bands receive five-star ratings in multiple categories. Five stars earn you a gold medal.
“So multiple bands could walk away with gold medals, multiple could walk away with silvers or bronze,” she said.
Take last year’s state finals in Biddeford, for instance, when Sanford’s band received five-star ratings in Overall Music Effect, Ensemble Music, Performance Music, Overall Visual Effect, Ensemble Visual, Percussion, Color Guard, and Drum Major.
Sanford’s season began on Saturday, Sept. 16, at Marshwood High School. Their next competition is at South Portland on Oct. 14. They compete at Biddeford the following week before hosting the finals.
Francoeur said each competition during the regular season is beneficial for the students to work on improving their ratings.
“Every weekend is professional development for them,” she said. “When we go to a show, we get readings, and going forward, we work on those readings to get that higher rating the next weekend.”
Francoeur has seen the program grow exponentially since she started. During her first year, she had fewer than 30 students. Now, she has more than 70; she attributes that growth to the positive atmosphere she’s been able to establish.
“I think the culture here is great,” Francoeur said. “This is my passion, and it’s what I love to do because I think it fosters a really good bond between the kids, but also that competitive drive, while still being supportive.”
Quang Lam agreed with that sentiment. “I’ve made a lot of positive connections here,” he said.