Shorter Season Calls for Celebrations During Mini Trips

Shorter Season Calls for Celebrations During Mini Trips

Shortened training periods and potentially limited performance opportunities have band directors far and wide searching for alternatives to larger trips with their marching groups. Many groups look for educational adventures within competitive landscapes with an end-of-season celebration wrapped into one package. Larger, regional drawing contests can serve that very purpose. Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) has been hosting the granddaddy of marching contests since the early 60’s. The Contest of Champions, aptly named, boasts groups from several surrounding states and offers a prelims and finals, one day experience. Last year, 28 bands competed in prelims.


Bands line up for the awards ceremony at a Contest of Champions event years ago. It’s tradition that each group play a small portion of their show prior to leaving the field.
Bands line up for the awards ceremony at a Contest of Champions event years ago. It’s tradition that each group play a small portion of their show prior to leaving the field.

Kip Crowder, director of bands at Barren County High School (KY) has taken his band across the starting line. “I chose COC because MTSU is my Alma Mater and I worked the contest as a member of the Band of Blue for four years. It is the closest thing to a Bands of America style contest in our area and it employs nationally recognized judges each year. It is one of the oldest running contests in the US and their customer relations are outstanding.”


Finalists line up in ranks to fill the field for retreat at MTSU. Each band plays a snippet of their show prior to exiting the field.
Finalists line up in ranks to fill the field for retreat at MTSU. Each band plays a snippet of their show prior to exiting the field.

The longevity of the contest and the traditions upheld by the organizers affords an amazing atmosphere for the performers. “As cliché as it may sound, seeing the banner and entering the gates where it says, ‘Through these gates pass the best bands in the world,’ is always special,” said Troy Stovall, Director of Bands at Barren County High School (KY). “It’s a tradition that dates back as long as I can remember. The pass in review at the end of the finals night is always special as well. The spectacle of lining the bands up, hearing them play a snippet of their show, having the culminating ceremony on the field, it all makes for a wonderful end to your season.”

Located in Murfreesboro, TN, the site is within six hours drive from all surrounding states. Combined with a day trip to either Nashville or Chattanooga, TN, the additional sights make this larger competition a great season-ending celebration.


A color guard member performs during a fall contest. Barren County is under the direction of Kip Crowder.
A color guard member performs during a fall contest. Barren County is under the direction of Kip Crowder.

Nashville grew from a foundation built on music. Known as the Music City, Nashville celebrates year-round. From indoor and outdoor sporting events, live music all the time, festivals, special events, and so much more, Music City has something to offer whenever you visit.
Nashville’s calendar of events is always full. With more than 180 live music venues, there are incredible concerts happening every day and night of the year. Art exhibits, cultural events, family fun, football, hockey, baseball, and festivals of every kind offer exciting things to do for any visitor.

Have any foodies in your group? Nashville’s dining scene is exploding thanks to a combination of chef-driven restaurants and classic dining spots offering up Hot Chicken, barbecue, and Meat & Three fare.


Muhlenberg County HS performs at the MTSU Contest of Champions prelims. The group is under the direction of Troy Stovall.
Muhlenberg County HS performs at the MTSU Contest of Champions prelims. The group is under the direction of Troy Stovall.

Chattanooga offers breathtaking views of the heartland with an arts scene second to none. Take in one of the nation’s largest collections of American art at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Or don’t miss the new Sculpture Fields at Montague Park. This free attraction is awe-inspiring from the size and scope of the sculptures.


Drum majors wait for their turn to leave the stadium. Groups pass in review as they leave the field so that fans can cheer them and their accomplishments.
Drum majors wait for their turn to leave the stadium. Groups pass in review as they leave the field so that fans can cheer them and their accomplishments.

See seven states from Rock City’s highest point in Walker County. Duck tours, ghost tours, and riverboat excursions are great for groups. Of course, your visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing a real Chattanooga Choo Choo at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Stovall said, “They [MTSU] have wonderful facilities, great adjudicator panels, and great people who facilitate the contest. It is consistently attended by some of the most outstanding bands in the Kentucky and Tennessee area, not to mention sometimes other states, some as far away as New York. We like to compare ourselves to the best and see where we stand. It allows our students to have an opportunity to grow by seeing and experiencing that level of competition.”


Trophy presentations at the COC haven’t changed much since the inception of the contest in 1962.
Trophy presentations at the COC haven’t changed much since the inception of the contest in 1962.

“It is an all-day event. But, if someone were to stay in the area an extra day, Opry Mills and all of the Nashville attractions would be an excellent draw,” Crowder said.

For further information on this program, please contact Jennifer Stembridge or click on here on Contest of Champions.

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