Top marching bands to compete at Tournament of Champions

Twenty-three of the best high school marching bands from five states will compete for honors during the annual Tournament of Champions on Saturday, Oct. 18, at Western Carolina University’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

WCU’s award-winning Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is hosting the invitational tournament, now in its 14th year, and will perform twice during the day. Preliminaries for the competition begin at 9:15 a.m. and continue through the morning and afternoon to select three class champions to be announced during award ceremonies at 4:30 p.m. Those champions, along with the next seven highest-scoring bands, will advance to the finals competition beginning at 7 p.m. Awards will be presented at 9:45 p.m.

The young musicians will be competing for the prestigious Chancellor’s Award, a large glass traveling trophy that is presented to the grand champion band. The highest-scoring band from a North Carolina high school will receive the Roll of Honour. Placement trophies will be awarded in several categories based on band size.

The Tournament of Champions will feature performances by the Pride of the Mountains at 4:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The WCU band will showcase its new halftime production “Street Beatz,” to be performed at the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

The WCU band won the Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest and most coveted award for college and university marching bands, in 2009 and performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade in 2011. In April 2013, Macy’s Parade officials surprised the band with an invitation to participate in the 2014 holiday event. The Pride of the Mountains is one of only 10 marching bands from across the nation selected for the parade.

“Street Beatz” was designed by David Starnes, band director, and associate directors Matt Henley and Jon Henson. The production reflects the vibrancy of life in “The Big Apple” and offers a musical travelogue through the city.

The winners of the Tournament of Champions competition will be chosen by a panel of nationally known band adjudicators. The judges include John Phillips, adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada; Glenn Fugett, director of bands at Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas.; Nola Jones, coordinator of visual and performing arts at Metropolitan Nashville (Tennessee) Public Schools; Michael Gaines, a performance designer based in San Francisco, California; Scott Beck of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a teacher and specialist in color guard activity; Stanley R. Schoonover of Washington, D.C., educational consultant and music instructional specialist for the Fairfax County (Virginia) School System; Michael Gray of Charleston, South Carolina, a band judge, designer and clinician; Robert W. Smith, brass arranger for the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps in Madison, Wisconsin; and Ralph Hardimon of Denver, Colorado, a teacher, composer and clinician.

North Carolina high schools with marching bands in the competition and the towns where they are located are Wakefield, Raleigh; Cleveland, Clayton; Northwest Cabarrus, Concord; North Lincoln, Lincolnton; Owen, Black Mountain; Tuscola, Waynesville; North Buncombe, Weaverville; Marvin Ridge, Waxhaw; Chase, Forest City; Brevard; Green Hope, Cary; and East Lincoln, Denver.

South Carolina highs school bands are White Knoll, Lexington; Nation Ford, Fort Mill; and Summerville.

Participating from Georgia will be North Cobb, Kennesaw; Mill Creek, Hoschton; and Hillgrove, Powder Springs.

Tennessee’s high school bands taking part in the event are Science Hill, Johnson City; Dobyns-Bennett, Kingsport; Hardin Valley, Knoxville; and Seymour.

Virginia will be sending the band from Bassett High School.

Tickets to the invitational are $10 for the preliminary competition and $8 for the finals if purchased in advance or at the gate before 4 p.m. Tickets purchased after 4 p.m. are $10. The group rate (15 or more persons paid by one check) is $8 per person for preliminaries and $8 per person for finals. Group tickets must be reserved ahead of time. Children under the age of 12 will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

To reserve advance tickets for groups, call 828-227-2999 or email For more information on the tournament, visit

The marching bands from Owen High School, pictured here in a previous Tournament of Champions competition at Western Carolina University, is among the bands scheduled to be in Cullowhee on Oct. 18 for this year’s event, the 14th annual.

The marching band from Owen High School, pictured here in a previous Tournament of Champions competition at Western Carolina University, is among the bands scheduled to be in Cullowhee on Oct. 18 for this year’s event, the 14th annual.