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Photo Essay: In step

Pain and glory at the OBA 6A State Marching Band Championship



High school football begins in Oklahoma each summer with eager preparations in the relentless sun. Collectively we imagine goliath players in the baking heat, but for many students, summer brings the sweaty and sometimes grueling drills of marching band practice. The preparations are the foundation for dozens of halftime shows and the glory of competitive marching band tournaments, culminating in the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association State Championships in the fall.

You might be conjuring the pejorative words band geek and smiling to yourself at the memory of braces, feathered plumes and adolescents playing your school song, but such nostalgia pales in comparison to the heat of competition during these intricate and challenging contests.

On a sunny day at the beginning of November, busses, trailers and semi-trucks arrive in Owasso for the OBA 6A State Marching Band Championship. Band boosters set up tents and snacks while students suit up and file off to designated warmup areas. Then, in the frenetic anxiety of shining horns and fluttering flags, bands take to the field for extravagant displays of musical theater featuring massive props, dancing and groups of teenagers dedicated to wowing the swelling crowds and attentive judges in the semifinal.

By the time evening rolls around, only a select few prepare for the final in the rapidly cooling darkness. Students stretch and focus as band directors deliver critiques and pep talks. Stadium lights bounce off the shine of sequins and silver keys, and the largest high schools in the state perform for the prize. The teenage pride of Oklahoma steps out for its best show of the year. 

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