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    Band shines in national field

    Tarpon Springs High's band takes first place for midsize schools and third place overall at a national championship.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000


    Capping off a year of accolades, the Tarpon Springs High School marching band quick-stepped to its best finish ever in a national competition during the weekend.

    The band won first place among schools of its size at the Bands of America national championship in Indianapolis on Saturday. It also finished third in the overall competition, beating out about 85 of the top bands in the country.

    "It was the performance of a lifetime," said Marta Mulawa, 16, the band president and a clarinet player.

    The 100-member band also won the music performance, visual performance and outstanding general effect categories in its division, which encompassed midsize schools.

    In recent years, the band had earned fourth- and 10th-place finishes at the national competition. Band directors and parents predicted the band had the potential for a big finish this year, especially after it won a regional competition in Atlanta last month.

    Principal John Nicely attended the competition in Indianapolis and watched the students perform a show called The American Century: 1900-2000, which featured music from Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Michael Jackson.

    The band performed extremely well, Nicely said, and placed third behind two worthy competitors. The first- and second-place finishers previously won national championships and are considered powerhouses, he said.

    "It's almost like being the University of South Florida and coming in third behind the University of Florida and Florida State," he said.

    As happy as he was of the students' performance, he was equally pleased by their behavior. The students were named among the best in the country, yet they showed no signs of ego or excessive pride, he said.

    "The kids were so humble," he said. "I was so proud."

    He credited band director Kevin Ford and associate director Robert Barfield with building a strong program. He said the students also were influenced by the school's new Leadership and Music Conservatory, a rigorous curriculum that combines music and academics designed to boost leadership skills, higher-level thinking and self-confidence.

    Barfield said the students clearly have benefited from the conservatory.

    "It's been a really successful year, both from a competitive perspective and a life-learning perspective," he said.

    The band will perform the show for the last time Friday night during halftime at the school's home football game and immediately after the game.

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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