All 140 of the Millennium High School’s marching band members huddled on the field at Mesa Community College on Nov. 10, anxiously waiting to hear what they didn’t expect to hear this season.
“The Grand Champion for class 3A and 4A with a score of 86.938,” the public address announcer boomed, “Millennium High School!”
It was the first Grand Championship in Millennium High School history. Band director Brent Godbehere equated it to winning the Super Bowl.
But it was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Godbehere came to terms with this last year, just after the Millennium High School Marching Band took second place at the 2018 Arizona Marching Band Association State Championship. They had many talented seniors who would be graduating, thus leaving a void in the program. It was the kind of void Godbehere expected to take a year or two to rebuild from.
And there he was in August, readying for his fifth year as Millennium’s band director. There were lots of new faces and lots to learn. Making a run at the Arizona Marching Band Association Grand Championship in November wasn’t even on his radar it felt so unlikely.
“I thought, ‘Well, we’ll kind of see how we do,’” Godbehere remembers thinking at the start of the regular season. “If it’s successful, that’s great, and if not, we’re going to try to be as successful as possible.’”
The Tigers’ band quickly trashed any plans of a rebuilding, non-competitive season. They were young, but they were hungry, too.
They craved knowledge. They wanted to get better. And, most importantly, they arrived at practice every day with a positive mindset, hoping to learn something new.
“They continuously showed up for practices and they were very responsive to all the instruction we’ve given them,” he said.
In September, a month into their season, Godbehere realized he underestimated how equipped his team was at a run at the postseason state championship.
“The beginning of September, we really started to notice the band was kind of changing, transforming and getting the sounds we wanted and the kids were starting to reach the level we were looking for. It was a very pleasant surprise for us.”
The momentum kept rolling into November when Millennium was one of 12 teams competing for the grand championship. These were a dozen of the best schools in the 3A and 4A conferences, bands “very comparable to our program,” Godbehere said.
The coaching staff upped the ante of practices leading up to the big show. Practices became more detail-oriented, and Godbehere teetered with trying to keep his students engaged while also advancing their workload.
And the Tigers aced the test.
“When they announced us as first-place, you could see so many tears from the kids, tears of joy,” he said. “They were just ecstatic those results came out in their favor.
“I said, ‘Hey, this is what it’s got to feel like to win the Super Bowl.’ They were the celebrities of that evening. There was so much energy, and it was super exciting.”
The AZMBA Grand Championship was scored by a panel of 14 judges. Some judges will listen to just the music, others will watch for the visual performance, the rest roam around on the field, often going face-to-face with the band during their performance.
“I’ll tell the kids is they’ve done it so many times at practice. They perform their show so many times, that what I try to get them to think about is, hey, this is just another run for you. You guys know exactly what you need to do.”
And when the Tigers took the field, the nerves had washed over them. They took the field with confidence, Godbehere said. They were easy-going, laid-back, smiling from ear-to-ear, and “ready to play the greatest show of the season.”
They did, and they cemented themselves as the best band in Millennium history.