flagcorpsFirst, they earned their 10th Division 1 rating in a row at the Iowa High School Marching Band Association’s State Festival.

Then the members of the Benton Community High School Band loaded up their instruments into the school buses and trailers on Saturday, for the long trip to Muscatine for an 8 p.m. performance in the annual Muskie Invitational.

The long day and long drive, along with the long months of practice, were all worth it for the Benton Band, which came home from Muscatine with the top honor of that show for the thrid straight year: Overall Grand Champions of all classes.

Earlier on Saturday, as they warmed up and tuned their instruments before performing at Kingston Stadium, the band heard their leader remind them that if they earned a Division 1 rating, it would make 10 years in a row — something few bands have been able to accomplish.

They did.

With their performance entitled “Joie de Vivre,” the band earned the top rating possible as they played and marched to a routine that included two very different songs about joy: Bethoven’s Ninth Symphony, called “Ode to Joy,” written in 1824; and “Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a Bullfrog)” by Three Dog Night, from 1970.

“I knew I wanted to build a show around Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy.’  I love it because it is so powerful,” says Dr. Brad Williamson, the Benton band director. “From there I was listening to some music one day in my free time and heard Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World.’  From there we began looking for songs about Joy, Life, and the World.  At first the band was hesitant because they were not sure about a classical show.  Once they heard the arrangements from our great arranger, Ted Reicher, they really started falling in love with the idea.”

So, on Saturday, they played those songs in Cedar Rapids, and played them well enough to earn a strong Division 1 rating.

Then they traveled to Muscatine.1

“We received first place in Class 3A at Muscatine,” says Williamson, who is in his second year at Benton. “We also received honors for Best Guard, Best Drum Majors, and Best Winds in Class 3A.  And then we were named Grand Champions.”

“The band has seen nice growth over the last 10 years,” Williamson ads.  “Our band has been Class 3A and Grand Champions of the Muskie Marching Invitational the past three seasons.  This year, we also won in Class 3A at the Mt. Pleasant Marching Invitational.  The band has also won awards for Best Color Guard, Best Drum Majors, and Best Winds.”

See more photos of the Benton band’s performance in Cedar Rapids HERE.