Despite what the name Home Show implies, this is not a dreary snoozefest of furniture, landscaping and interior decor! Rather, it is one of many furiously contested, high precision, winter guard and indoor percussion competitions organized by NESBA (the New England Scholastic Band Association). This particular show is known as the Home Show because it is hosted “at home” by the Mansfield High School Music Department.
The Mansfield Home Show gets rolling around noontime with the arrival of the first busloads of student competitors and rumbling trucks loaded with musical instruments, show equipment, floors, backdrops, and props. Before long, the tantalizing aroma of pizza and other foods starts to fill the air as the kitchen gears up to feed hundreds of ravenous competitors and spectators. And if hot food isn’t enough, a mouth-watering spread of baked goods is laid out on tables that span the back of the cafeteria, and everywhere is the buzz of excitement as competing units set up and practice in classrooms and hallways, each striving to put the perfect finishing touch on performances that have been in the making from as long ago as May of last year!
As 1:00 rolls around, the stands in the gym start to fill with spectators eager to see and hear the shows that each competing group has prepared for this year’s NESBA season. And then it begins! The doors fly open and the first competing group takes the floor to excited applause from the stands. The familiar “Are the judges ready?” and “Is the Ensemble Ready?” echos through the gym, and then BAM! Music! Flags and banners flying! Spinning sabres and heavy rifles hurled skyward and caught on the return to earth with seeming ease! And everywhere, student performers in brilliant costumes running to and fro in a tightly knit choreography that takes the breath away! The color guards perform first, followed soon after by the Percussion and Marching units who wheel out a staggering array of instruments and equipment, performing all types of music from Classical to Jazz to Popular songs, and dazzling the crowd with Marching routines that appear more like precision dancing with drums than what the uninitiated might think of as marching! Each group performs its four-minute routine to cheers and applause and then, just as quickly as it arrived, in a whirlwind of activity, packs up and is off the floor in just seconds as the next competing group enters the arena. This is the exciting fast-paced world of Winter Color Guard and Percussion competition and when the students take the floor to perform, there is a level of skill, confidence, and professionalism that often makes it easy to forget that these performers are just high school students!
As groups flow onto and off of the floor, there’s a hustle and bustle about the gym with NESBA judges chattering reactions, critiques, and advice for each competing unit into digital recorders that are taken along with scoring results by student runners to the official’s table. Pit crew and staff for each competing unit rush up into the stands to cheer on their group’s performance, then rush back out to the floor to help break down and move the unit out of the gym. Meanwhile throughout the day, Mansfield Band Parent volunteers canvass the crowd offering chances to buy into a 50/50 raffle that almost always exceeds expectations at the end of the night!
As the day rolls on, some spectators may grow weary of sitting after succumbing to the condition known as “bleacher butt,” and head out of the gym for a refreshing walk around the area and perhaps a snack or even a full meal from the cafeteria. Out in the cafeteria and hallways, first-time percussion show attendees may be surprised by how many kids are toting drumsticks, tapping out rhythms on tabletops, benches, and floors, excitedly discussing techniques and rhythms, and even engaging in some friendly impromptu one-on-one rhythm contests. Heading back to the gym, it’s important to know that the doors are closed during each unit’s performance, so if you are there to see a particular group, you’ll want to pay attention to the published schedule and the current time so you don’t end up “locked out” and only hearing your group’s performance from out in the hallway! On your way back into the gym, stop by the Mansfield Band Parents’ sales table and consider purchasing one of the inexpensive “tush cush” pads that makes sitting on the hard bleachers a little more bearable.
Moving on into the evening, the higher graded groups perform, finishing up with World Class units who always perform shows that “wow” the audience both musically and theatrically! By that time, the stands are packed and before long the competition is over, but the show goes on! The DJ puts on some thumping dance music and students pour out onto the floor by the hundreds, dancing and cavorting in a massive display of organized chaos. When suddenly, breaking through the dance music comes the steady drumming of Gary Glitter’s Rock ‘N Roll Part 2, and in an instant the floor is clear as the students all know that this signals the start of the awards ceremony.
As the music plays, the team captains from each unit are led out onto the floor by NESBA officials and line up facing the audience. At this point, the 50/50 raffle is drawn and any door prizes or other raffles are drawn. Without further ado, the results of judging are announced for each class of performance, and winning unit captains salute and step forward to accept awards on behalf of their groups. For many groups, performers and staff hold their breath as they wait to find out how they scored, sometimes looking for steady week-over-week improvement, or perhaps uncertain of how they scored against rival groups in their class. And there’s always the possibility of a surprise or upset victory or an astronomically high score that may briefly send the crowd into pandemonium!
And then it’s over, and parents meet students on the floor, congratulate and photograph, and for most, head out to their cars for the ride home. Mansfield Band Parents, staff, and students stay on long enough to put equipment away, assist with cleanup of the gymnasium and cafeteria as well as the classrooms used by visiting groups.
Why is the Home Show so important?
In addition to giving the local Mansfield audience an opportunity to catch these incredible performances right here at home, the Home Show also stands as the single most important fundraising event of the year for the Band Parents organization, usually raising thousands of dollars to continue the important work of promoting and supporting music in Mansfield schools, including the Award-winning Mansfield Color Guard and recent two-time world champion Percussion ensemble groups that perform at the Mansfield Home Show and at other schools throughout the competitive season.
What other schools will be competing at the Mansfield home Show?
The Mansfield Home Show enjoys a great reputation within the NESBA community and as a result attracts some of the biggest names and most accomplished and awarded groups. This year the Home Show will feature groups from Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. For a complete list of groups registered for the Mansfield Home Show as well as up-to-date performance schedule, please see the NESBA website.