Region’s top marching bands to compete in Tournament of Champions

Members of the Smoky Mountain High School band perform at a previous edition of the Tournament of Champions.

Members of the Smoky Mountain High School band perform at a previous edition of the Tournament of Champions.

The sounds filling the campus of Western Carolina University on Saturday, Oct. 17, will be the programs of 19 of the best high school marching bands from four states competing in the annual Tournament of Champions.

WCU’s award-winning Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is hosting the invitational tournament for the 15th year, and will perform at 4 p.m. Preliminaries for the competition begin at 10 a.m. and continue through the morning and afternoon to select three class champions to be announced during award ceremonies immediately after the WCU band’s performance. 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 10:15 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 WCU band will showcase its new halftime production, “That’s What’s Up,” which was created by David Starnes, band director, and associate directors Matt Henley and Jon Henson. The arrangement by composer Doug Thrower and drill design by Jamey Thompson explores the concept of “up” with music made famous by artists ranging from Marvin Gaye to Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay and Fall Out Boy, Starnes said. The production “illustrates mood, momentum and ascent through music and visual performance,” he said. “The real message of ‘up’ lies in the potential to be our absolute very best in all that we do.”

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 November 2014, the Pride of the Mountains led 10 other marching bands from across the nation in the internationally televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The winners of the Tournament of Champions competition will be chosen by a panel of nationally known band adjudicators. The judges and their areas of specialty include Lee Carlson (visual), Palm Springs, California; Wayne Dillon (music), Springfield, New Jersey; Stephanie Grote (drum major), Austin, Texas; Ian Lewis (colorguard) Atlanta, Georgia; Albert Lo (music), Brownsville, Texas; Tom Rarick (percussion), North Laurel, Maryland; J.D. Shaw (music) Columbia, South Carolina; Jim Sturgeon (visual), Louisville, Kentucky; Ken Turner (music), Apalachin, New York; and Dale Warren (chief judge), Fayetteville, Arkansas.

North Carolina high schools with marching bands in the competition and the towns where they are located are Croatan High School, Newport; East Lincoln High School, Denver; Enka High School, Candler; Green Hope High School, Cary; Marvin Ridge High School, Waxhaw; North Henderson High School, Hendersonville; Smoky Mountain High School, Sylva; South Caldwell High School, Hudson; and Tuscola High School, Waynesville.

South Carolina highs school bands are Boiling Springs High School, Boiling Springs; Chapin High School, Chapin; Nation Ford High School, Fort Mill; South Pointe High School, Rock Hill; Summerville High School, Summerville; and White Knoll High School, Lexington.

Participating from Georgia will be Wheeler High School, Marietta.

Tennessee’s high school bands taking part in the event are Elizabethton High School, Elizabethton; Dobyns-Bennett High School, Kingsport; and Science Hill High School, Johnson City.

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 and paid with one check at will call. 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