Marching to another championship
North wins fifth straight band title, West runner-up again
Perkins Stadium on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's campus is home to a college football team that hasn't lost a game since October 2008.
But another team holds a winning streak on that field that goes back further than the two-time defending Division III national champion Warhawks. That distinction goes to the Waukesha North High School marching band. Like the UW-Whitewater football team, the Northstars marching band is just as unstoppable against state competition and is making a name for itself on the national level.
On Saturday, North won its fifth straight Wisconsin State Music Association championship in the AAAA large-school division before almost 9,000 spectators.
"We felt that we would compete well and we did," said North's second-year head band director Greg Redner, who graduated from UW-Whitewater in 2008 with a music education degree. "We're just happy that we had the best show of the year at the right time."
North finished with 91.40 points, edging their crosstown rivals, Waukesha West, which accumulated 90.55. Oak Creek was third, followed by Chippewa Falls and Sussex Hamilton.
The Northstars, who won the percussion category, finished atop the visual presentation standings as well with 36.55 points, while West led all schools with 37.65 points in the music performance standings.
West not discouraged
The last time North did not win the state competition at Perkins Stadium was in 2006 when West squeaked past them. That title marked West's seventh championship in a 10-year span from 1997 to 2006.
Despite falling just short of taking home the title, West's band director Dan Duffy said this was the team's best performance of the season.
"The students and staff couldn't be more excited about the performance they gave, the audience's reaction to it and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment that we get when we put forth a great product like that," said Duffy, who has been at the helm, along with Matt Mueller, since 2001. "Our students are very pleased with the outcome and the work and the efforts they've put in."
New champ in town
Since 2007, though, North has replaced West as state royalty.
"It's a long process and a long road," said Redner, a 2004 graduate of Waukesha North. "There's a lot of dedication and hard work from our staff and students."
Redner said the team's success didn't happen overnight.
"We don't think about (individual championships)," Redner said. "We talk about continuing to improve.
"We work hard before kids even reach the high school level to reach them when they are in middle school, so I think that's a huge part. We're trying to get out in the community and that helps build interest."
Is it a rivalry?
The Wolverines, meanwhile, have been runner-up to North in each of the last five years. Nonetheless, Duffy said the students at West are not hanging their heads over their showing.
"We had a blast and a great performance," Duffy said. "It's always fun to perform in that venue."
But with both teams being so evenly matched, has a rivalry developed between North and West?
"I don't know if I would call it a rivalry or just a continued quest for excellent performances for all schools," Duffy said. "It's neat to see the level of performance rising in the last five to 10 years."
Redner added regarding the two schools always being at the top of the standings: "It's fantastic that two music programs in one city are at this level. It's a testament to the amount of support each program gets from parents and its staff and how dedicated the students are.
"Kids at our school have friends from West and they went to middle school with a lot of them and it's nice to see them do well and they're a quality level of competition."
North will be one of 90 schools to compete in the Bands of America Grand National Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 11. This will be another moment in which the Northstars can show off their talent on a national stage. The team participated in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City last year.
But Redner said the environment next month will be just as exhilarating, as Lucas Oil Stadium is the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts and is the site of this year's Super Bowl in February.
"You can't ask for a better performance and a better venue than Whitewater. And coming up, Indianapolis will be a new experience in a dome and it will be unique."
While North is in the midst of a dominating stretch, Redner said his team will maintain the same mind-set.
"We're going to reflect on state and what we accomplished, but then we're going to get ready for Indianapolis.
"The excitement level, though, is there and we'll be ready to go."
1. Waukesha North 91.40 points
2. Waukesha West 90.55
3. Oak Creek 88.35
4. Chippewa Falls 81.90
5. Sussex Hamilton 77.40
Domination: Waukesha North and Waukesha West have dominated the WSMA State Marching Band Championships, as they have combined to win 12 state titles over the last 15 years. North has won the last five, while West won seven over a 10-year span that ended in 2006.
Up Next: North will participate in the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis on Nov. 11.
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