The Ironwood High School marching band earned the honor to compete in the 2011 State Marching Championships, held Nov. 11 in Phoenix.

The band, known as The Nighthawk Vanguard, was the only band from Tucson selected for the competition.    

Bands from Vanguard’s division are comprised of 65-95 players, and the Vanguard boasted a crew of 85 members. Of the 35 bands in the division, the top 10 were selected to compete.

These 10 teams fell into two tiers: a top five tier, and a bottom five tier. Vanguard occupied the latter, meaning they placed anywhere between sixth and 10th place in competition.

“But that doesn’t matter so much,” said Mark Hodge, the Vanguard band director. “It’s really just an honor to be selected for this event. We are the only band representing Tucson.”

Hodge said he was proud of the Vanguard because it usually takes a staff of eight to 10 people to assist a band of this size. The Vanguard has a staff of four.

The band’s program this year consists of mostly jazz compositions from 1970s jazz-rock fusion artist Bill Chase.

The Vanguard mostly prefers to play jazz repertoire.

“We like playing songs that the audience can relate to, but we aren’t going to be playing pop songs you hear on the radio. It’s important to challenge the kids,” Hodge said.

This seemed to be the case when talking with senior and drum major Matthew Jordan Singer, who said leading the band was his most important commitment. This musician, who has been studying since the young age of 7, now splits his time between the trumpet, his primary instrument, and leading the band.

When asked about what his favorite memory of the band is, however, he could not choose one.

“The combination of all the performances has been really amazing. Looking back on the evolution of the band, and now seeing that it has become superior is my favorite aspect,” he said.

The Vanguard also seems to attract many types of students, like senior Jerriko Dunn, who was intrigued by the band so much that she decided to pick up the tuba without any previous musical experience before her senior year.

“The band always seemed so involved, and even though I was involved, I wanted to get more involved,” said Dunn.

However, Dunn was surprised at just how time consuming band has been.

 “It is a huge commitment,” she said. “There are competitions every Saturday, Tuesday night rehearsals, and Friday night games. I’ve had to readjust many of my other priorities around the band schedule.”

The Vanguard has been active this year. They recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they played in front of the Washington Monument, looking out toward the White House.

Hodge said this experience prepared his band for competition.

The Vanguard had a busy day Saturday. After the band competed at 1:15 p.m. at Glendale Community College in Phoenix, they were shuttled back to Tucson, where they performed at the University of Arizona Band Day. This day of music concluded when the UA’s band, The Pride of Arizona, performed their entire routine for all the bands present.

Despite the long day, Hodge said his expectations for the weekend were few.

“My expectations are that the kids go out, play the music, and have a good time while they do it. Sometimes kids get pushed so hard, but I believe in the intrinsic value of doing something well while having fun doing it,” he said.

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