At 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov.11, the 230-member Rockford High School (RHS) marching band waited in hopeful anticipation in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium as the announcer began naming the bands advancing to the semifinals competition. After a full day of travel and rehearsal the day before, the band had marched on to the Indianapolis field at 10:56 p.m. the prior evening to perform on the national stage for the first time. Their 2011 program entitled “Reactivity” carried the subtitle, “What moves you?” They were about to learn if their performance had moved the judges and earned them a place among the top bands in the country.
As the seconds ticked by and the list of semifinalists grew—named in random order—the announcer interjected that 33 bands had made the semifinals cut. The countdown continued with only one other Michigan band named to the roster: Jenison. Then, at 9:35:28 the announcer named the RHS marching band as the 33rd and last semifinalist in the Grand National Championship competition. Drum majors, John DeGuise, Jacob Hewitt, Ross Knoop and Christian Bomer were on the field to receive congratulations on behalf of their fellow band members.
Within seconds, phones began ringing back home in Rockford as band members informed parents and loved ones that they’d be performing for a second time the next day.
Rockford took the field at 8:45 a.m. in semifinals competition on Saturday, Nov. 12. Their semifinals performance earned them the highest placement (22nd) of any band from Michigan in the national competition.