The Northside Christian School Royal Ambassador marching band represented Pinellas County with another State Championship.
This is the fourth consecutive state title for the little band from St. Petersburg and the 8th state title for the band since 2006.
Nathan Farrell, who has been the band director since 2001, cites hardworking students and a unique show design formula as the secret to continued success. “Our staff has been together a long time. These are some of the most creative thinkers and skilled teachers in the marching band world. We always keep the home crowd in mind as we design. How can we get the audience involved and singing along?”
This year that creative process sent the students on a road trip. “Over the River and Down 95” tells the story of the band trying to get from New York City all the way down to Florida to visit Grandma. The show begins with the NYC skyline and morphs into salsa dancing flamingos – along the way using unusual tools like vocal solos and ensembles, raging guitar licks, tuba quartets, and even a banjo solo.
“Finding the right voice for grandma was an interesting journey” says Farrell. “She moves the story along with phone calls. At first we used the voice of assistant director Cory Simpson. He did a great job…but one day one of the students answered his phone on speaker and we heard his grandma say “hey sweetie!” – we knew we had found our voice talent!” That voice belongs to Audrey Conner long time St Petersburg resident who has had two children and 6 grandchildren in the band dating back to the 1980s.
The band has traditions that stretch back to the 1970’s. One of these includes circling up after every performance and singing “Seek Ye First” (a Christian song based on Matthew 6:33). Northside’s band is truly a dynasty and its director, Mr. Nathan Farrell, was inducted into the Florida Marching Band Hall of Fame last year. Farrell has been leading Northside’s band since 1997.
FMBC (Florida Marching Band Championships) hosts the statewide regional competitions that lead to state semi and final rounds. FMBC was founded and is still run by Cathy Kersten – now a Pinellas County resident.