By the time the buses rolled back into Blue Springs High School about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, the students in the Golden Regiment Marching Band probably were a bit bleary eyed.
About 24 hours earlier in Indianapolis, though, they could understandably have been misty eyed.
The Golden Regiment's performance Saturday night earned them a third-place finish at the Bands of America Grand Nationals, held at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Last year, the band placed ninth at Grand Nationals, and its previous trip in 2015 it placed 10th, becoming the first Missouri school to advance to the finals.
“It's hard to wrap your head around that, because you don't know if it's ever going to happen once in your lifetime,” said Tim Allshouse, Blue Springs band director, about making the finals in three straight trips.
Allshouse has compared making the semis to the finals is bit like the Olympics in that, when every band there is great, it's a matter of simply putting on one's best possible performance and hoping it's good enough for that judges at that time.
The Golden Regiment's mostly original show is called “From a Different Angle,” arranged in part from symphonic band song by contemporary composer John Mackey called “Asphalt Cocktail.” It also included the familiar Louis Armstrong tune “What a Wonderful World,” sung in this case by senior Sam Aubuchon, though it was played in a minor key instead of a major key and was layered with the theme from the movie “Inception.”
The whole show – the pink tarps, the formations – is set on angles.
“We tried to keep it vague enough so people can make their own story and look at things from different angles,” Allshouse said.
From 108 marching bands at Grand Nationals, 37 made the semifinals and then the top 12 played in Saturday evening's finals. The third-place finished ranked only behind a pair of Indianapolis-area schools, Avon and three-time national champion Carmel.
Senior drum major Tyler Dye said he could sense the Golden Regiment's finals performance was its best one yet.
“When we got off the field, all of us felt amazing,” Dye said. “A lot of tears of happiness. We were astounded, stunned.”
“Magical,” added Lisa Evans, assistant director. “To see the kids come off the field, you could see it in their eyes.”
Allshouse credited Evans for what they called the band's costuming. They wore purple and magenta-colored dry-fit shirts underneath old band jackets with the sleeves removed. The pants were new, but the hats were simply repainted old hats.
So, what might appear from the stands to be a bright, new uniform was “like duct tape on a spaceship,” Allshouse said jokingly.
Given that the Golden Regiment's show is original, it's open to constant tweaking from Allshouse and Co. – or even an overhaul, like when they rewrote the opening back in the spring.
“You just have to be adaptable and ready to make changes,” Dye said, almost nonchalantly.
“That's what's so fun, that the kids expect it,” Evans said. Whereas several years ago such changes might cause some anxiety, now “It's like 'Rewrite Tuesday,'” she said.
Perhaps even more rewarding than the third-place finish, Allshouse said, was that Bands of America presented Blue Springs with the Espirit de Corps Award, given to the group “that most exhibits pride, spirit, enthusiasm, friendliness, camaraderie and unity of purpose.”
“We were humbled by the award,” Allshouse said. “People must've noticed something about our kids.”
Two weeks earlier in St. Louis, the Golden Regiment finished second out of 74 bands at the BOA Super Regionals. Blue Springs South's Jaguar Pride, which was making its final performance of the season, finished 12th and Grain Valley 13th from the 14 finalists.
“They did a good job,” Allshouse said of the Jaguar Pride. “It was nice to be able to share that with our sister school.”