Charlotte High School marching band members were excitedly celebrating a Class B victory at the 26th Annual Hastings Invitational Saturday, Oct. 7 when excitement turned to shock. The shock came with the announcement that the CHS Band had been named the Invitational’s Grand Champion.

“It was a real shock, because that wasn’t our goal,” said senior drum major Erica Pryor. “Actually most of us didn’t even know there was a Grand Champion.”

The students can be excused for not fully understanding the Scholastic Marching Band Circuit’s format. CHS Band Director Jerry Rose said he had never fully explained the Grand Champion concept to his band members. This is just the third year the Oriole marching band has competed in the Scholastic Marching Band Circuit.

“It’s a bit unusual for a Class B band to win Grand Champion,” Rose said. “That typically goes to your Class A or Class AA schools. They often have far more resources.”

To be named Grand Champion, Charlotte High School earned the top score of the invitational, recording an 85.2. In doing so, they outperformed two Class A schools — Wyoming and Caledonia high schools — and two Class AA schools — Kalamazoo Central and Zeeland high schools.

Rose said that while it’s always nice to win, Charlotte’s focus is always on meeting its own standards. He said what he really likes about the Scholastic Circuit is the opportunity to receive more feedback from the adjudication process. It allows to the band to see exactly where it can improve to continue to raise the program’s standards.

Prior to joining the Scholastic Circuit, Charlotte participated in the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA). The MSBOA festivals allowed each school to receive a grade from the judges, with the goal to score a 1. However, Rose felt more feedback and even a different scoring system could give his program a push to excel even further.

“I felt we had become stagnant as a marching band,” Rose said. “I felt the change would give us the boost we needed and think it has been a nice fit for our program.”

Pryor said she has noticed the difference as well.

“My freshman year we pushed and worked hard for festival, but when it was over, we didn’t have another opportunity to prove ourselves,” Pryor said. “Since then, I think the culture of the band has really changed.”

The band now turns its focus to its final Scholastic Circuit competition on Saturday, Oct. 21 at East Kentwood High School. Rose said the goal is to improve upon last year’s fourth place finish in Class B at the East Kentwood competition.

“I feel that the East Kentwood competition has more strenuous judging and a more advanced pool of bands,” Rose said. “We’re not going to focus on any of the other schools. We set our own standards and will use all of the feedback we received in Hastings to improve.”

The CHS marching band takes the field at East Kentwood High School at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21.