Fishers Percussion Ensemble Wins First-ever World Winter Guard International Championship
Writer: Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer: Brian Brosmer
The percussion ensemble from Fishers High School took top honors at the annual WGI (Winter Guard International) World Championship competition on April 20 in Dayton, Ohio. The competition is the penultimate of championships for indoor color guard, percussion and winds. The percussion ensemble took tops in the Percussion Concert Class beating Ayala High School from Chino Hills, California.
The percussion ensemble, led by Mr. Chad Kohler, Director of Athletic Bands and Percussion at Fishers High School, took on 30 other schools in their class from all over the country, beating them out with a special arrangement called “Geometrick.” “Geometrick” was specially arranged for the Fishers High School Percussion Ensemble by Matt Ridge, an FHS alumnus and current student in Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
Kohler asked his former student and composer to arrange the song for which he had a special inspiration.
“It occurred to me that the 2018 WGI competition was on the 20th, and it marked the 20th anniversary of my mom’s passing, so, I wanted to honor her in a special way,” Kohler says. “My mother was an avid piano player, and her favorite tune was Anitra’s Dance by Edvard Grieg, so that was the foundation of our show.”
With Anitra’s Dance as the base for the show, Kohler put even more thought into planning the show.
“My mom was a Math teacher most of her life, and she often used geometric shapes to teach,” he says. “Naming the new arrangement ‘Geometrick’ was the perfect way to honor her.”
The Fishers High School Percussion Ensemble performed the piece, which consists of four separate movements, for its first World Championship win ever. The first movement in the nearly eight-minute show was a literal or pure interpretation of the melody of Amitra’s Dance. The second movement was an electrifying and rhythmic interpretation of the song using hand drums and wood blocks.
“The third movement slowed things down a notch with a soft, ballad-like interpretation, and the fourth movement closed the show with the original melody in a fast-paced seven eight time,” Kohler says.
Although this World Championship win is a first for the 24-member ensemble, eight of whom are graduating seniors, they have won several Indiana Percussion State Championships.
“In the school’s 12-year history, our Percussion ensemble has won six state championships. That’s an amazing record,” Kohler says. “This group is the most talented and dedicated group I’ve ever had.”
When Kohler registered the Percussion Ensemble for the 2018 WGI World Competition, there was no question that they belonged in the concert class. But the students didn’t expect the win.
“Ayala has taken the win for the last four years,” Kohler says. “We practiced the piece on average six hours a week since December, so, our group expected to score well. But they were very surprised to beat the defending champs.”
The students had another unexpected reaction at the competition. “When the students heard about the inspiration behind the piece, they got very emotional,” Kohler says. “They all said they felt like they knew my mom through the piece. There were lots of tears.”
The Percussion Ensemble wasn’t Fishers’ only success story of the competition. In the Scholastic World Class in the movement category, the indoor drumline placed in the finals with their rendition of “Mask,” a theatric rendition of a tribal dance telling the story of how the new leader takes the tribe on a journey with percussion.
“It was an epic tribal show,” Kohler says.
There is a lot more in store for this incredible band program.
“We’ll plan to enter the competition again next year,” Kohler says. “The students have such amazing talent. For a program in only its 12th year in existence to win the title is phenomenal. We’ve gotten such support for the program from parents, the community and especially our administrators, Principal Jason Urban and Superintendent of the Hamilton Southeastern School District, Dr. Alan Bourff. We can’t thank everyone enough for their support.”
As Fishers High School wraps up another school year, Kohler will be looking ahead to next year and his band program of more than 400 students. Keep up with the latest happenings in the Tiger Band. Go to fishersband.org or check their Facebook page at facebook.com/fisherstigerband/.