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South Valley Journal

Mustangs claim championship amid band teacher turnover

Dec 06, 2016 02:43PM ● By Tori La Rue

Herriman High School Band students and their director, Brandon Larsen, pose for a photo after winning the Red Rocks UMEA State Championships in St. George on Oct. 28. (Herriman High School Band)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Herriman high school’s band has welcomed a new instructor each year for the past three years, but the students didn’t let the teacher whiplash slow them down. The 2A marching band accepted their first state championship trophy on Oct. 28. 

Shawn Mangum, Herriman’s band director, left Herriman’s program in the 2014–15 school year, so Jamie Kim took over in the 2015–16 school year. Kim only stayed for one year, so Brandon Larsen, who previously taught at Fremont and Grantsville high schools, was hired to replace him this school year. 

“The switching teachers made us flexible,” said Kyle Nielson, a sophomore clarinetist. “We learned how to run with it.” 

Britain Bashore, a junior baritone player, attributed the band’s state championship win in part to the effect the directors’ styles had on individual members of the band. 

“Mangum taught me how to focus, Kim taught me how to be a better player and Larsen taught me how to be a better leader,” he said.

Being new and unsure of what Herriman’s future would hold, Larsen said his goal for the marching band season wasn’t necessarily to win. 

“Our goal this year was to be the band that other bands wanted to be musically, competition-wise and in the way we treated each other and in our band culture, and because of that, we created a winning culture as a by-product,” he said. “I tried to get them not to focus on what happened in the past but what is happening right now and in the future.”

Herriman’s marching band won every competition leading up to the state competition besides one at Timpanogos High School where they came in second place to Lehi High. When it lost, the band’s energy and confidence level plateaued, according to Peter Ovard, the band’s drum major. Ovard and other band leaders encouraged their team by telling them that they performed to their best ability even though they took second place. 

The band continued to practice for three hours a day, four days a week in preparation for the Red Rocks UMEA State Championships in St. George. Each section also practiced together every week to fine tune their show. 

When it came time to perform the show at the state championships, Bashore said he was nervous and excited. 

“I knew that we were good, but I didn’t know what the other bands would bring,” he said. 

But more nerve-racking than performing was waiting for the results, according to Nielsen.  

The judges break the bands’ scores into four categories called captions. The captions include percussion, visual, color guard and music. Music is the caption weighted the most heavily, accounting for 60 percent of the total score. The judges presented their findings for the percussion section first, awarding Herriman first place in this caption. 

“We were excited, but we didn’t want to get too excited because we didn’t know if we’d landed the music caption,” Ovard said. 

But once the judges announced that Herriman also took the Music caption, the band knew it won. 

“I was just like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ because we really did this. We really came in first place across the state,” Ovard said. 

The band returned to Herriman High School by bus on Oct. 29. Unified Fire Authority and Unified Police Department vehicles surrounded the bus at about 12600 South and Herriman Main Street, giving members an escort the rest of the way to the school with sirens blaring and lights flashing.

Larsen said he thinks this will be the first of many championships for the Mustang’s marching band and plans to stick around to watch the band’s momentum. 

Now the band can claim a championship and a teacher. 

“I’ve told the kids this, but I am here to stay,” Larsen said. “I fell in love with Herriman, and I felt like I was born to be a Mustang.”