It was just your usual banquet for the Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment Band this past Sunday: Eating dinner with family and fellow bandmates while reflecting on yet another great year. But when Blue Springs High School band director Tim Allshouse was handing out individual awards, a Skype ringtone interrupted the presentation.
Allshouse curiously clicked the accept button on his laptop and a man appeared on a projection screen in the Courtyard by Marriott banquet hall to announce that the Blue Springs High School band program had won the highest award a marching band can receive: The Sudler Shield Award.
Ear-deafening screams and cheers followed.
The Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment was the 2013 recipient of the Sudler Shield Award, an international award from the John Phillip Sousa Foundation that recognizes high school, youth and international marching bands of world class excellence. Blue Springs High School is the first school in Missouri to receive the honor.
“We (Golden Regiment) are very humbled and in a state of shock right now,” said Allshouse. “Never in our wildest imagination did we think we’d be selected as one of the recipients.”
The Shield Award was created in the 1980s by the Sousa Foundation to acknowledge marching bands across the globe that exhibit excellence in musical performance, marching execution and show design, says Dr. W. Dale Warren, Chairman of The Sudler Shield Award Committee and member of the John Phillip Sousa Foundation Board of Directors.
“But we don’t award a flash in the pan marching band or one who has just performed exceptionally well one year,” Warren said. “The band has to be good over a period.”
Warren said the Shield Award is based on a marching band’s legacy where it has to demonstrate growth and development over a number of years, plus the program’s director has to be at the school or organization a minimum of six years as well. He also said the United States is generally represented the most because so many good marching bands are in the country.
“They look for consistency year after year as well as the overall product,” said Allshouse. “Precision, marching, musicianship, entertainment factor, national event participation and other awards over a five to six year period.”
And with Allshouse being part of the Blue Springs High School band program since 1996, along with Golden Regiment participating in the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Parade, 2005 and 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parades as well as performing in past Rose Bowl parades, it was obvious why it would be considered for the Sudler Shield Award.
Any marching band can be nominated, said Warren. A band either submits a letter or email explaining why they would like to be considered for the award, along with a DVD of them performing and a portfolio detailing their legacy of the past three years. A 15-member Sudler Shield jury that is comprised of both university band directors and former Sudler Shield Award winners evaluate the band’s performances on the DVD. However, the catch is that jury members receive unmarked DVDs with no background information on the band they are about to evaluate, said Warren.
But how Golden Regiment became a nominee is a slightly different story.
Being a judicator himself, Warren nominated GR on his own discretion; something that is allowed by the Sudler Shield jury.
“Their show was spectacular,” he said about GR’s original show production called “I’m Not Wendy,” influenced by the “Peter Pan” story. “It may be my favorite high school marching band show ever. So clever, so well-designed. Nothing about the show was at fault. The students performed at an extremely high level of excellence.”
In response to Warren’s nomination, GR submitted their portfolio and DVD for the other judges.
“Everyone in the jury scores each band,” said Warren. “The elimination process is very much like the Olympics.”
The number of bands competing varies each year. Depending on the number of submissions and quality they exhibit, the number of winners – where any group around the world is eligible – ranges from zero to four. Instances where the Sudler Shield Award is not given out are based on too few of entries that relatively scored the same low amount of points.
“But this year we had too many good entries,” adds Warren. “The coolest part is we take the vote and tally it. Those who advance is when we pass their portfolio for evaluation.”
Warren says the 2013 winners were decided at The Midwest Clinic, a marching band conference held in Chicago in December. “Scoring was so tight from the bands.” There were four recipients of the 2013 Sudler Shield Award: Kanagawa Prefecture Shonandai High School Band of Fujisawa-Shi, Kanagawa, Japan; Calgary Stampede Showband of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; James Bowie High School Band from Austin, Texas, and the Golden Regiment.
“Blue Springs deserved it,” said Warren. “The Golden Regiment are exemplary musical ambassadors for their school, community, state, country... and now internationally!”
Although Warren contacted Allshouse about winning a week before their annual banquet, he thought it would be best to keep it secret until then.
“I think the entire State of Missouri heard the screams and cheers coming from the banquet,” recalls Allshouse. “It was an incredible moment in time where I don’t believe any of us will ever forget.”
He said the honor wouldn’t be possible without help and support of the entire Blue Springs community.
“It is really a concert of hard working and committed students, an incredibly talent and dedicated staff such as Assistant Director Clif Walker and staff member Lisa Evans, the literally hundreds of parent volunteers who work day-in and day-out to allow the directors to focus on teaching, the supportive administration and the entire Blue Springs community who always been enthusiastically supportive of our desire to go beyond the walls of Missouri.”
Golden Regiment members cite teamwork for their success.
“An important part of the Golden Regiment culture is understanding that what we can do when we come together as a group,” says Senior Brandon Walls, who is the GR Woodwind Captain and saxophone player. “It is a great life lesson about learning how to give up a little of yourself for the good of the group, and ultimately achieving more than you ever thought you could do with friends.”
“You don’t see us ever without another band kid,” says senior Grace Englehart, who plays bass clarinet, “because our strengths are only as good as our weakenesses.”
The record-breaking doesn’t stop for Golden Regiment. This Thursday, Golden Regiment’s Wind Symphony, the elite group of players, will perform at the Missouri Music Educators Association Conference for the sixth consecutive time – never done before by any high school in the state. Plus GR has been selected as one of six marching bands outside the state of California to perform at the 2015 Tournament of Roses parade.
Warren will be attending the Blue Springs High School spring concert on May 6 to present the Sudler Shield Award on behalf of the John Philip Sousa Foundation.
The Blue Springs community always considered the Golden Regiment a world class act, but now it’s official.