Representatives from KJR 95.7 FM radio station in Seattle and The Rock Wood Fired Pizza presented the Puyallup High School Band with a grand prize trophy and oversized check worth $10,500 in a surprise announcement February 5 during a live radio broadcast.
The 115 Puyallup High band students who gathered in the school auditorium erupted in loud cheers, waved their instruments in the air, jumped up and down, and hugged one another after the radio station counted down the top 10 high school finalists.
While students knew they had won the top prize and began cheering when the second place winner was announced, the celebration continued as one of the contest judges, Vicci Martinez of NBC’s The Voice, officially announced Puyallup High School as the first place winner.
The 60-piece wind ensemble, under the direction of Eric Ryan, then performed its winning band performance for the live radio broadcast and several school staff members in the audience, including Principal Jason Smith, Assistant Principal Eric Fredericks, and district Superintendent Tim Yeomans.
A team of three judges selected the Vikings as the first place winner for its recording of “Karn Evil 9” by the classic rock trio Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.
In addition to Martinez, celebrity judges this year included Stilian Kirov, assistant conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and Alan White, from progressive rock band Yes and John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
Martinez commented after the school’s live performance that she thought Puyallup High School’s band performance “was great,” while White gave special praise to the song arrangement.
Stilian added, “I wish I went there (Puyallup High) when I was a kid. I think they are extremely talented, very musical, very professional, which is completely admirable.”
Luciana Bosio, executive producer for the Bob Rivers Show, was on hand at Puyallup High to present the grand prize trophy. Joseph Roberts, art director for The Rock Wood Fired Pizza restaurant, also came to the school and presented the oversized check.
Both Rogers and Emerald Ridge high schools also participated in this year’s Battle of the Bands contest. The Rogers High School band, under the direction of Bruce Leonardy, placed seventh and won $1,000 for its recording of 25 and 6 to 4 by Chicago.
The three Puyallup School District schools were among 20 high school bands that submitted recordings and videos from Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.
Puyallup High also won the Battle of the Bands in 2010 and 2011 and was a runner-up last year along with Rogers High School.
This is the second time that Puyallup High senior Hannah Mascho, who plays flute, has been part of the winning band.
“I’m so happy we won,” said Mascho. “We put a lot of hours into this, but it’s worth it. Woo-hoo, Go Viks!”
Ryan gave special thanks to all students, staff, and community members who voted for Puyallup High School.
“It’s really exciting to win again, but for me it’s special to see so many people participate and help us out,” said Ryan.
The contest, open from January 1-18, invited people to vote online for their favorite high school band performance. Schools that received the most votes moved into the top 10 finalist positions.
Once the community voting period ended, the judges listened and voted on the audio recordings of the top 10 schools. A separate award also was given for best video.
Ryan said he will meet with band students to discuss ideas for how to spend the money.
In the past, the school used the money to purchase tuners and metronomes for students to check out during the school year. It has also been used to pay for music professionals to come to Puyallup High and work on specific instruments with students in band sectionals, as well as to help with costs associated with the school’s band trip and performance last year at Disneyland.
The Rock Wood Fired Pizza started the School of The Rock - Battle of the Bands in 2007 as a way to give back to local community school music programs.
This is the first year the contest was expanded to include other states outside of Washington. High schools within 50 miles of The Rock Wood Fired Pizza locations were eligible to compete.
“To get first place is really an honor,” said junior Connor Anderson.