For the first time in more than 20 years of existence, the World Association of Marching Show Bands (WAMSB) held its championship event in the United States at Palm Springs (Calif.) High School. The event, which took place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, 2017, featured bands from six countries.
“The philosophy of the organization is to promote high-quality marching band competitive events with the realization that there are cultural differences and geographic differences as you move from continent to continent,” says Brian Ingelson, director of bands at Palm Springs High School. “They’ve spent a great deal of time working on a judging system that works for groups regardless of where they’re from.”
WAMSB’s “One World” judging system allows bands to break free of the time and space limitations imposed by American football on a traditional halftime show. Bands compete in Show Band, Concert Band, and Parade Band. Although most people in the U.S. marching activity associate the term “show band” with the style at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, in WAMSB it just means they perform an entertaining show on the field.
“They work within the parameters of what they have,” Ingelson says. “The emphasis is on quality, fundamental audience appeal, and cultural understanding and representation. It brings groups from around the world together to be able to share their music.”
The parade competition, based on the European style rather than an American band review, features bands on a field performing precise maneuvers such as turns of different angles and expansions/contractions.
The weekend also featured a drumline jam—a round-robin bracket drumline battle where the drumlines added and embellished their routines more and more for each round.
“It was absolutely incredible; we didn’t know how that was going to go, but we had it during our festival street fair in downtown, and we had 4,000 to 5,000 people watching,” Ingelson says. “It was a great advantage because it’s held at night, so many used lights on the drums, and there was a lot of showmanship and appeal.”
As the official band of the city of Palm Springs, Ingelson’s group performs 80 to 100 civic, corporate, and professional entertainment gigs throughout the year as fundraisers. In the past, the ensemble competed in more local circuits but has changed its focus to save and prepare only for WAMSB trips.
The 2017 WAMSB World Band Championship winners were Rancho Verde High School from Moreno Valley, California, for Show Band; Hettstedter Spielmannszug Blau Weiss from Hettstedt, Germany, for Parade Band; Famuta Fanfarra Taubaté from São Paolo, Brazil, for Senior Concert Band; and Xili Primary School from Shenzhen, China, for Junior Concert Band.
For more information on WAMSB Championships and preliminary qualifying competitions, visit wamsb.org.