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Marching band invitationals big fundraising opportunity

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The marching band invitationals in the county are steeped in tradition.

Kevin Schuessler remembers taking his Pendleton High School marching band to Center Grove’s Cavalcade of Champions years before he became the school’s band director.

Greenwood Community High School’s band invitational has hosted 15 to 20 bands from across the state for more than 30 years.

This year, three local high schools are hosting their own invitationals this fall. Another high school is hosting a semistate competition for the Indiana State School Music Association.

Well-run invitationals are huge fundraisers for band departments, making up 10 to 15 percent of their budgets. Plus, they are educational, acting as a preseason for marching bands before ISSMA competition officially begins, band directors said.

The public can attend a competition and see a dozen or more bands perform.

“It is how we prepare for the back half of the marching season,” said John Morse, Greenwood band director.

Invitational organizers bring in judges to score the bands, and often they are the same judges that will score bands at state music association contests, Morse said.

“It all started as an opportunity for judges to view (the show) before going into ISSMA contest,” Schuessler said. “There was no preseason.”

Center Grove’s Cavalcade of Champions will be Oct. 11.

A few dozen bands will present their shows to an audience of hundreds. Judges tell them what they can do better before competition.

Expenses include hiring judges and stocking a hospitality room for band directors. Income comes from ticket sales, corporate sponsors and concession sales.

The earnings pay for travel expenses or help lower fees band members have to pay to participate.

The fundraising aspect is part of what inspired Whiteland educators to stage an invitational two years ago, band director Pete Sampson said.

“Marching band invitationals are known to be one of the best fundraisers across the state,” he said.

Whiteland didn’t have an invitational last year but will host one Oct. 25.

Franklin Community High School’s location and facilities are part of the reason the school has been chosen to host the Class D Indiana State School Music Association semistate for the past seven years, band director Tim Kosch said.

Franklin’s band will host the competition Nov. 1.

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