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or not
to BOA?
by Victor Neves

Award winning marching band drill, custom and stock shows. ~ See the show before you order. Pay for the drill after delivery.

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To BOA, or not to BOA ... That is the question.  
How important is Bands of America to your program?

        So how important is BOA? How important is it to design your show for success at BOA?  How important to your students are the opinions and decisions of the BOA judges. Most band directors have an opinion about these questions, and my answers may or may not come as a surprise. The shortest answer is, "It depends." My answer will be a little more complicated, but it all boils down the same.

         In the interest of disclosure, I have had several client bands place and win in BOA regional and super-regional competition.  One was been invited to perform at BOA finals in special exhibition in 2015.

        First, what is BOA?  "BOA" stands for "Bands of America."  It's a series of regional and super-regional competitions that culminate with a week long "National Championship" series in Indianapolis.  In 2014 around 20 bands attended each super-regional, and about 110 bands attended the championship competitions.   That means, estimating generously, that about 470 bands participated in BOA in 2014.  (Of course most of the bands at Championship week participated in a Regional, but not all, and we're estimating generously.  In fact, lets round the number up to 500.)  To sum up, it's a "National Championship" that involves a total of up to 500 bands.   The United States Department of Education reports (1) that there are about 37,000 high schools in the United States. So Bands of America is a "National Championship" that includes up to 1.3% of the schools in America.  

        It's also expensive. The entrance fees aren't much - about $650 for a Regional and $900 for Nationals, but there's also a cultural expectation that if you're competing at a BOA event, your show is going to have a lot of backdrops, props, electronic instruments, microphones on the xylophones, and a story.  The story is going to be told with costume changes, choreography, and possibly a recorded narration played over your band's field side P.A. system. Teaching and refining the show is going to require separate instructors for percussion, winds, guard, and then section level visual instructors.  Bands that march a BOA style show often spend somewhere near $1000 per student before they ever travel to a competition.  They do it so they can "compete on the BOA level."

        I don't think BOA is a bad thing, in and of itself.  I don't think that bands and band directors who put together that kind of show are  always doing a bad thing. Very often they're doing a wonderful thing that serves the most kids possible in their community. I do wonder, though, how many kids drop band in some communities because it's too expensive, or because the time demand is too high, or because they love playing music, but they don't like the non-musical effort associated with that kind of production.  And I wonder why anyone feels like that tiny club with their small group of judges deserves the amount of influence they wield.  It's a very curious phenomenon to me.

        I believe that band is about bringing musical expression and achievement to the greatest number of students possible.  I believe that bands can and should bring a community together in a celebration of music and motion.  I believe that band can provide a safe and caring environment for the most at-risk kids in a school, and can help them understand how much greatness they have, just waiting inside them.  I also believe that band is about building school spirit at ball games, and binding together groups of friends.

        So - to BOA or not to BOA?  It depends.  If your community, and school, and band families have the money to pull it off without leaving anyone out, go for it.  If what BOA brings to your band program fits in your goals as a band director and music teacher, do it.  But don't feel like you have to just because somebody else is.
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