That is the vision of the National Collegiate Marching Band Championships & Festival, which will debut in Columbia, SC December 1-3, 2017. The event is the brainchild of Bob Lane, a South Carolina Mighty Sound of the Southeast alumnus, and his team down in Columbia, who have partnered with the city and the Special Olympics, among others, to present the festival. While details are few at this point, we do know the dates, the location (Spirit Communications Park, the newly opened home of the minor league Columbia Fireflies), and the format: champions will be crowned for those who choose to compete in show band and two corps style categories (under and over 200 winds), and opportunities will exist for bands who wish to perform in exhibition. Bands have the opportunity now to apply to participate, and I can't wait to see who ends up coming to the inaugural event.
For those keeping score at home, I'm based in Greensboro, NC, about three hours north of Columbia. News of the event hit me with simultaneous excitement and pre-emptive FOMO (fear of missing out). After all, I know that that particular time frame is usually spoken for for me with an annual conference I attend, and having such an event be simultaneously within reach and unaccessible might drive me crazy. At it turns out, there is indeed overlap, but the conference will be in Atlanta in 2017, making catching at least some of the action in Columbia not just possible but actually rather convenient.
While I look forward to the event, I look just as forward to seeing how it catches on in the college band community. The chosen weekend may present a challenge for some bands: It is conference championships for all of the FBS leagues and the SWAC; FCS and Division II and III are already in the midst of playoffs, possibly causing some hesitance to commit from bands who expect their teams to be competitive in the upcoming season. With the location, participation may skew southeasterly; even bands who may participate in the SEC and ACC championships could be slated for Friday or Sunday and travel to/from Atlanta or Charlotte (hopefully) with ease. The amount of assistance available for band travel - or the value they place in the newly minted championship - may be a determining factor for those traveling from further. After all, an FBS band with conference championship aspirations will be adding this travel to a conference championship and a bowl game in December/early January; even more if they're playoff bound. A playoff program in either of the other divisions may be juggling it with even more expansive travel. Still, the allure of an event that truly brings together bands across divisions, styles, and institution types may make this too sweet a deal to pass up. There's already been some buzz from bands about dream matchups. Imagine the possibility:
What a time to be alive.