Grand champions

Newton-Conover High School's 2011 marching band show begins with students stretched across the football field, from one 20-yard line to the other.

As the first song in the show progresses, the students come together closer to midfield.
Red Devil marchers say the band has also come together this fall.

"We've gotten progressively better every time we've competed, with our music, with our feet and our morale as a group," said Asha Evans, a senior who plays trumpet and captains the brass section.

"And it's shown in our awards," said Alex Ehrnsberger, a senior drum major. "We've placed in every category."

The Newton-Conover Band's improvement reached a crescendo Saturday as the group won a grand champion trophy — the highest classification award at a competition —for the 1A, 2A and 3A classifications at the Foard Classic.

The Red Devils also garnered a superior rating — the highest level — and first place 3A trophies for overall performance, color guard, drum major, and marching and maneuvering. Newton-Conover took home first place trophies for guard and marching and maneuvering among 1A, 2A and 3A bands, as well as second-place 3A awards for general effect and music.

This year's field show is titled "Red," and it's composed of Latin tunes "Bolero," "Intensity," "Passion" and "Fire."

Band members even dance in the show, performing moves created by senior tuba-player Tevin McGill. Students describe the dance as "steps, wiggles and spins."

"Mr. Smith told me to come up with something that looked good and that everybody could do," McGill said.

"We have a rather difficult show this year," said Haskew Smith, who has directed Newton-Conover's band since 1999. "The music makes it tough."

"We knew going into Saturday that it was going to be difficult because we had been competing against two good bands each week," Smith said. "At Foard, it seemed like we were going up against four good bands."

For competition, bands are divided into classes based on the number of students.

Newton-Conover students said Franklin High School provided stiff competition in the 3A class at Foard. The schools traded first and second place for performance awards throughout the night, building suspense until the grand champion trophy was awarded to Newton-Conover and its 68 members.

"All the children went ape nuts," Smith said.

"And charged the field," said Sam Abernethy, a sophomore drum major.

The grand champion trophy is Newton-Conover's first since 2005.

"We felt like it would have been pretty sad to send off our seniors and Robbie (Gonzales), our assistant band director, without a big award," said Austin Minor, a junior who plays clarinet and captains the woodwind section.

Arianna Gonzalez, the color guard captain and one of 10 Red Devil seniors, agreed.

"It was a very nice end to senior year," she said.