Bellevillle East travels to the Outback Bowl

SATURDAY – Travel Day
Today we’re aboard four tour busses headed to Florida with the Belleville East Bands. Almost 150 band members along for the ride, we’re headed to Tampa for the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl.

First we’ll hit Universal Studio Theme Park for a couple days of play as well as a concert band workshop.

I’ve traveled with these kids a few times over the last few years and I’ve always been impressed with just how good this number of kids can be. I look forward to a fun trip and will post more as our trip progresses.
One among many tables of kids waiting to board.

Hoping we find our real driver soon!
Mr. T and his fleet.


SUNDAY MORNING – Universal Studios

Who knew “sleeping” on a bus could feel so little like sleep?!? After several stops overnight for restroom breaks and oh yeah.. so the driver could buy a fan to clear the window so she could see! We’re almost to our breakfast destination.. maybe if a booth is available we’ll sleep better at the Golden Corral 😉

Here’s the bus in “sleep” mode.


Today our Bellevillle East concert bands got to participate in a pretty cool workshop being offered by Universal Studios. The STARS program introduces high school musicians to the music & foley recording process.


Playing along with an old Frankenstein movie the bands were recorded by Universal sound engineers. Along with the full musical score, soloists and small groups added tracks to the music bed as well as a few band members were selected to accent the soundtrack with maniacal laughs and evil zombie groans.


The Universal STARS recording technicians will polish the soundtrack then provide a downloadable version for the students to save and share online.



After the recording sessions we finished up our visit to the Universal parks before heading to Tampa for more musical vacation fun!



TUESDAY – Competition Day



WHEW! Today was pretty action packed! ALL of Belleville East’s bands performed in competition/workshops today! We heard from the Symphonic Band • Symphonic Wind Ensemble • Wind Ensemble • Jazz Ensemble • Concert Jazz Orchestra
AND we finished with a Marching Band field show!!!


It rained and sprinkled and misted and rained some more pretty much all day… [and the bands had to walk about a block from the hotel to the concert hall in this lousy weather]. They plodded through the rain, prepared and performed with a level of excellence that we have all come to expect from these groups. Most every performance ends with a critique from each of three highly experienced judges. These guys not only critique though… they suggest alternative ways to interpret, play and hear the music. They have the students re-play sections of their music incorporating these new ideas and insights – just as if they were working with professional session musicians – the kids really seem to dig being mentored in this way, treated with such respect…. and my admiration for this group of kids and the Belleville East band program grows with each and every performance!


Maybe best of all we were able to finish this evening with a SENIORS only group shot! This is a superb group of young people that we are very fortunate to have in our program!

WEDNESDAY – Rehearsal & Parade
Imagine trying to coordinate 26 band units totaling nearly 3000 members into one monster halftime show! Luckily that was organized by the Outback Bowl folks and it was obvious they’ve done this before.

Drums. Brass. Winds. Flags. All sections set up and rehearsed separately then combined on the practice field. It is mighty cool to experience 26 drum lines up close! Twenty-six bands worth of trumpets!
DHP_1167 DHP_1194 DHP_1200 DHP_1208

The real kicker is that all 3000 kids and pit equipment and props have about 60 seconds to get in position on the field before the show… then again to get off the field after the show. After 60 seconds two football teams will be seriously wanting to use the field again!

That was this morning’s practice. Now we’re heading to The Outback Bowl parade. Again… imagine a parade where just about every other unit is a large marching band. If you enjoy marching bands…. THIS should be one heck of a show!!

DHP_1453 DHP_1498 DHP_1508 DHP_1573

Finally tonight, we get to go to Busch Gardens with our 3000 newest friends! We’ll ring in the new year with a fabulous fireworks display… then hightail it back to the hotel.. sleep.. wake.. checkout.. perform at the bowl game and enjoy our bus ride home to a very cold Bellevillle… but more on that and photos from today tomorrow.

Happy New Years!
We did it. We made it to Tampa’s OutBack Bowl. The band played with a gazillion other bands… but first you have to hike a mile or so from the bus parking lot!!!

Finally we made it to stadium and it really was pretty cool to watch the kids perform and imagine the behind the scenes coordination that it takes to pull this off!

We loaded busses and started the long 20 hour drive home AND the Belleville East Marching Lancers came away with a ton of awards from the week!


-Parade Grand Champion
-Jazz Band Grand Champion
-Second Concert Band -3rd Place
-Jazz Band Category 3 -1st Place
-Parade Category 3 -1st Place
-Field Show Category 2 -1st Place
-Jazz Band 2 -1st Place
-Concert Band Category 3 -Honorable Mention
-Outstanding Field Show
-Outstanding Soloist
-Crowd Pleaser Award

Yup. That’s a lot of hardware to bring home!!! It’s been a pretty fabulous week… We’re really fortunate that these kids are so decent when traveling (who knows what they do away from the group 😉


I’m so very happy to have the opportunity to join in on these trips and can’t wait to see where else we can go with this very large family – even if we are rather dysfunctional sometimes :)