The Desert Vista Marching Band has returned as the Division 1 champions this year, placing first at the Arizona Marching Band competition on Nov. 14. It’s a win band director Joshua Thye said was made possible by the community, the school, and of course all 163 members of the Thunder Marching Band.

“I am thankful for amazingly hard-working student members, a sacrificial and patient parent community, a like-minded and supportive administration and an extremely talented and faithful teaching staff,” said Thye. “This staff includes 14 individuals, many with families of their own, that gave away many hundreds of hours to make this band what it is.”

The Thunder Marching Band started this year perhaps with something slightly left to prove. The band had won the competition four years in a row until last year when they placed a respectable second to Sandra Day O’Connor High School.

This year, however, they were able to place first with a score of 90.19, a full 2.5 points ahead of second-place Rincon University. The Thunder also received the highest scores in the music, visual and percussion categories with their performance dubbed “To The Future,” which included renditions of the “Back to the Future” theme, the Space Mountain theme and the theme from the movie “Signs.” The production was arranged by Michael Krill and Aaron Morales with Casey Ehrler and Keith Casey acting as drill designer and choreographer, respectively.

“This year did have a different dynamic to it, as they all do, but their focus impressed me and they maintained a disciplined rehearsal etiquette right from the start,” said Thye. “I believe there is a pressure on the senior class every year as they have to bear that burden, mentally get over it and keep their focus on the things they can control.”

Despite that pressure, the band benefitted from a sense of companionship that band council president Martin Lipincott said led them to compete for more than just personal glory.

“We were all dedicated to what we were doing with the show and we wanted to make it as good as possible for each other,” said Lipincott. “People would always help each other, not even with just band stuff but with anything such as classes, or just problems in general – I feel that made us closer, which motivated us to be better for each other.”

Of course, the band also has countless hours of diligent practice and preparation to thank for their win, and playing with the Thunder is not a small commitment.

“We start rehearsals in June every year, working through the summer, and many weekends leading up to our mid-November finish line; on average, we will practice 15 hours a week outside of the school day,” Thye said.

Desert Vista’s band has placed either first or second in the statewide competition since its inception seven years ago, but Thye said the greatest accomplishment is not the shelf of titles but the immeasurable impact the band has had on the lives and future of the students that devote themselves to the band.

“This art form is not really an us-versus-them-style of competition; it is really more of a personal struggle and about the constant pursuit of bettering yourself,” he said. “All you can do on the field is attempt to perform at a higher level than you did the last time and this process takes a great deal of discipline, especially when that alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m.”

Thye added that he was profoundly humbled and honored to compete on the same field as the other bands that Saturday night. Ultimately, however, he had one group to thank the most.

“I strongly believe in the statement “the speed of the leaders determine the speed of the pack,’” Thye said. “DV Band Seniors — Class of 2016 – you have earned my respect for a lifetime.”

• Contact writer: 480-898-7914 or jgingerich@ahwatukee.com.

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