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Riverview hosts state band semi finals Nov. 20

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The entire Riverview High School band stands at attention for photographs after its performance, with director, John Davis, in front at far left.
The entire Riverview High School band stands at attention for photographs after its performance, with director, John Davis, in front at far left.

By PENNY FLETCHER

RIVERVIEW — All I could think of when I entered the massive band competition being held Nov. 20 at the Riverview High School stadium was the 1957 Broadway hit from The Music Man, “76 Trombones.”

The reason for that is easy to explain. The first thing I saw as I walked through the gates and stepped onto the practice field from the parking area was a perfectly aligned row of trombones lying on the ground. That’s one instrument that far too heavy to carry around between performances.

 

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Riverview High School Band Director John Davis also writes the music and drills for his team’s performances.
Once I found my way to the check-in table run by the Florida Marching Band Coalition that sponsors the annual event, I was escorted courtesy of the Riverview High School Booster Club to an area where I could see (and hear) everything I needed to despite the apparent chaos of being in a group of more than 8,000 people, many holding (and playing) instruments.

Twenty three bands from all over both South Florida coasts participated in the competition which is the marching band coalition’s way of promoting arts and music in Florida schools.

The coalition, which is based in Apopka, began holding state-wide competitions in 2000 to help keep interest in music alive as budget cuts were eliminating arts and music programs in many schools.

According to the organization’s Web site, music – especially bands– is hit especially hard in budget cuts because music gets swallowed up by remedial and supplemental academic course budgets.

This is not the case however, at Riverview, where band is a major force.

Unlike many schools, Riverview does not have to pay a chorographer or musician to write its competition routine, because its band director, John Davis can do it all.

“We are really fortunate to have him,” said Principal Bob Heilman.

Davis composed the entire routine, called Interstellar Suite; including both writing the music and putting together the drills. 

Davis, who came to Florida from Pennsylvania, taught music, chorus and band at several Florida schools before landing the job four years ago after returning to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. In 2005 to earn his Master’s Degree.  

“I wanted this job at Riverview because here I get to just do band. I can concentrate on it, without having to teach other classes along with it,” Davis said.

In his spare time Davis plays trombone and piano and sings with the (professional) Richard Zielinski Choir.

Davis says he is proud of his band.

Now that he’s been at Riverview four years, it is the first time there are players who have been with him all through their time in high school.

“I have 21 seniors,” he said. “And we have done really well. We won every special award at the Chamberlain semi-finals. Music, Marching, Color Guard and General Effects.”

 

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The Riverview High School Band’s Color Guard strikes a pose.
This is the first time Riverview High School has been host to the regional semi-finals.

“I was worried at where we were going to put all the buses,” said Heliman. But the day of the competition, which began shortly after 7 a.m. and ended after 3 p.m., the many buses were directed to the east parking lot, and U-hauls, trucks and covered trailers carrying instruments and props were sent to the southwest parking area and everything appeared to go off without a hitch.

One band after another performed and Davis said Riverview gave its best performance of the year.

It did not, however, place in the top five that performed that night at Tropicana Field in the next step of competition.

“We finished 13th, which is an improvement over last year’s 16th place and we got our highest score of the season today,” said Riverview High School’s Band Booster President, Tammy Adams after the judging. “We’re just so grateful for all the individuals and businesses that helped us financially and with their time to allow us to compete.”

Adams got involved because of her son, Jason, a senior, who has played trumpet all four years at Riverview.

“We (the Booster Club) have had car washes and sold coupon books, lots of activities to go toward costs. Each student has band fees and uniforms and transportation costs and we try and make that easier on them,” she added.

One car wash held at the Riverview Burger King on U.S. 301 in October brought in more than $1,000 which was the highest amount raised by any one event.

Many weeks were spent preparing to host the competition too, with Event Coordinator Debbie Johns and her committees making signs, gathering water coolers and cups to keep everyone participating hydrated, and readying the field and stadium.

“We all worked hard and we’re having a great time,” Johns said when she paused for a photograph at the event.

Davis said he plans to continue at Riverview and enter the competition again next year.

Heilman said they might even try to host a regional event again.

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