The Ferndale High School Marching Band won its 10th Michigan Competing Band Association state championship Nov. 6. It was the band’s first championship since 2016.

The Ferndale High School Marching Band won its 10th Michigan Competing Band Association state championship Nov. 6. It was the band’s first championship since 2016.

Photo provided by Dania Bazzi

Ferndale High marching band wins 10th state title

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 22, 2021


FERNDALE — Two years ago at Ford Field, the Ferndale High School Marching Band won second place at the Michigan Competing Band Association State Championships.

While proud of the finish, the Golden Eagle Marching Band had high hopes to win its 10th state championship.

That dream came true Nov. 6, when the band took home the flight IV division MCBA championship.

The marching band’s attempt for a title last year was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though disappointed, band director Elon Jamison said that decision was for the best, as nobody knew how the coronavirus was going to affect the season.

Heading into the 2021 school year, Jamison wasn’t sure what to expect.

“We didn’t know how it would go,” he said. “We didn’t know if it would shut down again. We didn’t know if kids would come out. There was a lot of fear and trepidation for the whole thing.”

The Golden Eagles found themselves, like many school bands and activities, with fewer numbers in the aftermath of the COVID shutdowns. The band also had less time to prepare over the course of the season, Jamison said, as the school district emphasized time to transition back to school.

What Jamison found this year was that the students who did participate in the band were very committed.

“They wanted to do the activity (and) to be really good at it,” he said. “They were committed to activity, committed to each other, committed to the organization, and they worked their tails off every day. … The kids that were there had a truly amazing experience. One of the best seasons we’ve had, if not the best season we’ve ever had.”

Senior Drum Major Bebe Butters was one of those committed students. She recalled the excitement of the band the day of the championship, even though the band members had to be at the school at 5 a.m. to get ready.

“The day before, we went to a soccer dome to practice what that listening environment would be, since it’s so different to perform inside of an indoor stadium than it is to perform outdoors on a football field like we normally do,” she said.

Butters said the band was both nervous and excited to get back to playing after not being able to in 2020. She said that winning a state title would be the culmination of the hard work everyone had put in all season, but she wanted to keep the expectations low for the MCBA championships.

“My attitude as a drum major can sometimes shake how the rest of the band might be feeling,” she said. “So if they see me, a senior drum major, or other student leaders being bummed about however we did … it rubs off on the rest of the band, so I was trying really, really hard to keep a positive mindset and be proud of whatever it was that we received.”

The message Jamison said he delivered to the band before its championship performance was one he conveyed the entire year, which was to focus on being the best band and performers they can be, and if they can do that, then they can be happy with whatever place they finish because they know they tried their best.

“There is no decisive game in this activity. … It’s not like football or soccer where there’s a way you play when the other team has the ball,” he said. “That’s not a thing in this activity. All you can control is how you perform. You have zero control over how anybody else performs. So when you look at it from that way, it’s really, really important to not focus on winning or anything like that.”

The band’s performance consisted of three pieces; “Harmonium: Pt. III, Wild Nights,” by John Adams; a mash-up of “Clair de Lune,” by Claude Debussy, and “Dusk Till Dawn,” by Zayn featuring Sia; and “Here Comes the Sun,” by The Beatles.

After every high school performed, the moment finally came for the final scores. For the first time since 2016, the Golden Eagles came in first with a total score of 87.400.

“When they knew that they had won a championship, there was a good amount of happy tears, and it was really nice to see from the kinds of kids who don’t let their emotions show at all, but then that day they did,” Jamison said. “It was kind of a cool thing ... to see some kids’ guards come down and just be that emotional about an experience they had.”

Butters remembered the disappointment from 2019 when the team came in second, because the show was really good. Standing on the field this year as the score was given with other members of the band, Butters was handed the championship trophy, which she was able to hoist with the rest of the band looking on from the stands.

“I was crying,” she said. “It was the most gratifying moment to get to have the band … in the stands and they were all watching. Just to know that the whole band was there and we were all feeling this excitement and this pride over what we’ve done, it was so (great).”