Vandegrift band & Vision Dance are Grand National Champions

Photos by Jennifer Lin Craven

By KRISTEN HILL, Contributor

The Vandegrift Viper band and Vision Dance Company was named the Bands of America Grand National Champions last weekend in Indianapolis with its 2019 field production, “Aria Queen of the Night”. 

“Their culminating performance at the Grand National finals was one of the most outstanding displays by high school students that I have ever witnessed,” said Mike Howard, VHS director of bands. “Being named Bands of America National Champions was just icing on the cake of an already terrific season.”

Vandegrift is the youngest school to have ever won BOA Grand Nationals and with the highest score ever achieved by the program. VHS is the only school in four decades to have won the title on their first trip to the competition. 

BOA Grand National Championships is the largest and most prestigious national marching band event available to high school marching bands. The three-day, preliminary/ semifinals/ finals competition is held annually at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The event is attended by an estimated 50,000 participants and spectators. 

There were 426 students, staff and parents who set out on Nov. 13 to get to the competition in Indiana, which took three charter flights, eight charter buses, one 18-wheeler, and four box trucks. 

The 2019 BOA Grand Nationals featured 92 bands from across the United States and from that, 38 were selected as semifinalists, and 12 bands earned spots in the final round on Saturday night — which Vandegrift did. 

Class and Caption awards were presented in the semifinals round and the Vipers swept all semifinal Captions (Music, Visual, and General Effect) and was named AAAA Class Champion (AAAA is the largest BOA class). 

In the finals round on Nov. 16, Vandegrift was named first place champion, and won the General Effect Caption. Vandegrift’s finals performance score, 97.175, is the highest BOA score achieved by the program. 

“The Viper band and Vision Dance Company have worked exceptionally hard all season and have gradually raised the bar of performance level throughout the entire season,” Howard said. 

Vandegrift students began rehearsing their 2019 field production, “Aria Queen of the Night” this summer. The marching show repertoire features the music of Mozart including Aria of the Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute – Mozart; Requiem in d minor, Dies Irae – Mozart; Overture to the Marriage of Figaro – Mozart; Requiem in d minor, Lacrimosa – Mozart/Evanescence; and Vienna Nights – Mozart/Wilby. All music was arranged specifically for the VHS band by JD Shaw (winds) and Andrew Markworth (percussion). 

The BOA Grand Nationals trophy is topped by an eagle statue, and the base displays each champion school’s name and winning year. The champion high school gets to take the trophy home, where it resides until the next Grand Nationals competition. Vandegrift band volunteers, known as “Pit Vipers,” drove the large trophy home from Indiana along with all the show equipment including Aria’s trademark props – the lighted, spinning silver Novas. 

There was a special unveiling ceremony in the band hall to celebrate the arrival of the famous BOA eagle with Howard along with Joe Hobbs, percussion director, Katie VanDoren and Dustin Tharp, associate director of bands, Katie Hopkins, Vision director and choreographer, and Holly Lyons, Vision administrative coordinator.

A special medal ceremony is planned for the first week of December, where each band and Vision student will be honored with a BOA championship medal. For complete Grand Nationals contest results, visit

2019 Bands of America Grand National Championships Finalists

1st Vandegrift HS, 2nd Avon HS, IN; 3rd Hebron HS, TX; 4th Carmel HS, IN; 5th Leander HS, TX; 6th Claudia Taylor Johnson HS, TX; 7th William Mason HS, OH; 8th The Woodlands HS, TX; 9th Round Rock HS, TX, 10th Homestead HS, IN; 11th Union HS, OK; 12th Ayala HS, CA.

Six Texas bands made the trip to Grand Nationals this year in addition to Vandegrift: 

Leander HS, Round Rock HS, Hebron HS, The Woodlands HS, and Claudia Taylor Johnson HS. Leander HS was named Class AAA Class Champion and also swept captions for Class AAA.