OLD ORCHARD BEACH – For Liz Torrey, Saturday’s finals were “intense.”

Her fellow Westbrook High School senior Ben Touchette agreed.

“It was very emotional,” he said. “We left absolutely everything on the field.”

The two drum majors had just led the school’s marching band through a three-piece set of “Minimally Speaking,” “Somewhere in Time” and “Clocks,” which Torrey said were difficult pieces for marching bands to tackle because they include several soft stretches, requiring the band to show a lot of restraint.

And, there was the added element of it being the last performance for the two seniors.

“That made it bittersweet, ” Torrey said.

That was true for dozens of other senior members of the 10 marching bands performing at the Maine Band Directors Association’s Marching Band Finals on Saturday at Old Orchard Beach High School.

The finals were the culmination of seven weeks of performances by the bands, said Peter Bonaccorsi, the chief judge for Saturday’s event.

Overseeing the performances were eight judges, four focusing on marching and four on the music. All of them kept up a running commentary on their area of expertise during each band’s time on the field, pointing out highs and lows into audio recorders that would then be turned over to each school’s band. The judges also gave the bands a score, from one star to five.

The scoring explains why the finals aren’t considered a competition, Bonaccorsi said — all of the bands could receive five stars, or all could get one star. The MBDA does not delineate a specific ranking of the bands after the finals.

Jim Galvin of Beverly, Mass., said he draws on his percussion experience and his education at the Berklee College of Music in judging the percussion sections in the performances.

Galvin said he looks for a range of factors, such as “balance — are they too loud? Are they clear? Do they play with the same technique? Do they complement the brass and winds?”

And Galvin said he doesn’t just listen — watching the percussion sections helps him form his opinion and his score.

“It’s a whole audio-visual experience,” he said.

As for the recorded commentary, he said, that helps the bands get more out of the performance than just a score.

“We try to approach it as if we are an extension of the teaching,” Galvin said.

Bonaccorsi said bands don’t necessarily get extra points for difficult pieces, so Lawrence High School’s second piece — “Nessun Dorma” and “Music of the Night” — was judged on the same basis as its third, a medley of “After the Love is Gone,” “Forget You” and “Bad Romance.”

Bonaccorsi said the main focus is on improving a score from one week to the next.

Then why not tank it the first week to show an improvement from that low starting point?

“That’s a deep philosophical question in the judging community,” he said. 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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