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Belle Vernon Area High School band brings home trophy

The Belle Vernon Area High School marching band was up to the challenge when asked to perform in a renowned out-of-state fall festival parade.

At its debut showing Oct. 9 at the 43rd Annual Autumn Glory Festival parade in Oakland, Md., the 125-member band took home first prize in its group.

The favorable response from the crowd and expert judges was validation that the band is a quality troupe, BVA band director Mark Surovchak said.

“It was a different experience all together,” he said. “To be that welcomed into a community by people who have no idea who you are, that’s one of the biggest things we took from it; how overwhelming their response was to the students. They did perform really well.”

The band routinely performs in local parades and festivals.

Surovchak said it was worthwhile to see how the students would respond to performing outside of their “comfort zone.”

“It was phenomenal,” he said. “There were at least 10,000 people that were on the street, about five rows deep. The students have never experienced a crowd like that in a parade.”

High School Principal Greg Zborovancik has attended the festival with his family for the about 15 years.

He suggested that Surovchak submit an application on behalf of the BVA band.

Surovchak said the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce placed the band in a category based on it having less than 70 wind and percussion instrument players.

There are 68 members of the band under that designation.

A nationally-certified panel of judges awarded the band with 94.5 points out of a possible 100, better than six other ensembles in the category.

MSN.com has rated the Autumn Glory Festival as one of the best fall festivals in the world, Surovchak said, adding that BVA’s high ranking in the event is a distinguished accomplishment.

“It just enhances their performance level that much more when they hear that response,” he said of the band. “The judges were very complimentary and pleased with how the students performed, and they gave some really nice remarks, too.

“We are so, so proud of our students. This was one of the biggest achievements in school history.”

School board member Joe Grata backed that statement.

He has several times attended the festival.

“Borrowing from baseball parlance, BVA hit a bases-loaded homerun before a mix of both Garrett County residents and the many Deep Creek Lake tourists who turn out each year for the Autumn Glory Festival,” Grata said. “This performance, like so many others, exemplified the large number of participants in BVA’s music, drama and arts programs and demonstrated the time, dedication and experience of both students and staff.”

Zborovancik said he has long wanted to see BVA students perform in the parade.

“I’ve been (at BVA) for 12 or 13 years, and winning first place in the Autumn Glory Festival I think it’s one of the biggest things for the band since I’ve been here,” he said. “I said this would be a great experience for the kids because of the number of people that are there … and it was a nice, beautiful day up there. Usually, there is snow.”

Zborovancik’s daughter, Kelsey, is part of the BVA band’s dance team.

She performed at the festival.

“That’s just like icing on the cake for her senior year,” her father said. “It was like a dream come true. We’ve been going there since she was little.

“And it gives exposure to Belle Vernon. Now people up there are probably asking where Belle Vernon is.”

Surovchak said he wants to apply again for the festival, but not every year.

“It was a really nice addition to this year’s season, but if we do it too often, the novelty wears off,” he said.

“I’m going to look into next year, because it was such a positive experience.”


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