Grand Nationals Primer

Hopefully, the following information will help you enjoy the BOA Grand Nationals experience.  This page is intended to be generic.  Current information can be obtained from the Booster Board or your student (they usually know what's going on).

If this is your first time at the Grand Nats, you're in for a treat.  The Marching Band has been very successful in their performances there and supporting them is important and a lot of fun.  From the start of Band Camp in July, through all of the practices, performances, sweat, and tears, it all comes down to their performances this weekend.  This is their goal.  This is what they work for.  If you doubt this, watch this.

What is the Bands of America Grand Nationals?

The BOA Grand National Championships is the largest and most prestigious national marching band event available to high school marching bands.  It is a three-day, preliminary / semifinals / finals competition held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Approximately 90 bands from across the country participate each year and it is attended by an estimated 50,000 spectators and participants.  Participation in the competition is on a first come, first served basis up to the maximum number of bands established by BOA. There are no qualifying contests and all high school bands are eligible to participate.

In addition to the competing band performances, Grand Nationals also includes an Expo, exhibition performances by college bands, Student Leadership Workshop, and other special events.

Where's the Band?

The Mason Marching Band will be staying at a hotel close to the Indianapolis Convention Center (ICC) in downtown Indianapolis.  The Band will meet, dress, and rehearse in rooms in the ICC, which is between the hotel and Lucas Oil Stadium.  Access to the stadium from the ICC is on street or via underground tunnel. 

During the event the band members will have occasional free time when they can watch performances of other bands, buy some souvenirs, tour downtown, grab a bite to eat, or even take a nap.  This is the best time to connect with your son or daughter.  Although the Convention Center is open to you, the Band is pretty busy and generally unavailable there (because, for them, it's work) -- it's not a good place to connect.  If you want to connect, ask your son or daughter to text or call you to set up a connection time and location.

Keep in mind that "connect" does not mean spending time with your child or taking him or her out to lunch -- that won't happen.  But you may have the chance to chat for a few minutes to deliver souvenirs (or a few dollars for them to buy their own) or to see how things are going.

Each band member will receive a Tour Book from Music Travel Consultants listing the schedule for the weekend as well as information on what and how to pack and hotel room assignments.

Performances

For scoring purposes, bands are classified by school enrollment, grades 10-12 only, in Classes A (smallest) through AAAA (largest).  Mason is in Class AAAA.

Preliminaries:  Half of the participating bands perform in one of the two separate preliminary contests held on Thursday and Friday.  Each preliminary contest is balanced with like numbers of bands from each class. Mason usually performs on Thursday.

After the preliminary performance, the band will have a group photo and individual photos taken.  You will receive information on how to purchase these photos.

Semifinals:  Approximately thirty-five bands will advance to semifinals - the top 11 scoring bands from each day of the two prelims, regardless of class (22 bands) - plus - the next 8 highest scoring bands from the preliminary round (both days combined), regardless of class - plus - the 2 highest scoring bands from each class from each day of prelims, should they not already be among the first 30 bands selected on the basis of either criteria above.  Bands advancing to semifinals and their performance times will be announced late Friday evening (usually around 10:00 pm).  Mason's performance time will come through the Mason Band communication network.  Semifinal performances will begin on Saturday morning around 8:00 am or earlier (in 2013 the first band performed at 6:45 am) and last until late Saturday afternoon. 

Semifinals awards are given in each class for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance, and Outstanding General Effect.

Finals:  The top 12 scoring bands from semifinals, regardless of class, advance to Saturday evening's finals.  Bands selected for finals will be announced around 5:00 pm Saturday at the Stadium and on the BOA Twitter feed.  Class Champions (from semifinals) who are not selected for finals competition will perform in exhibition before the 12 bands selected for finals.  Performance times will be determined during a meeting of the directors of the bands involved in the finals which is held immediately after the selections are announced.  It really doesn't matter when Mason performs because you will want to watch the entire finals competition.  The preliminary program begins at 7:00 pm and the band performances begin at 8:00 pm.  The awards program begins around 11:30 pm and may last until midnight or later.

Finals awards are given for each place (1st through 12th), Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance, and Outstanding General Effect.

Tickets

You will need a separate ticket for each session - prelims (one-day and two-day tickets are available), semifinals, and finals - that you plan to attend. You are permitted to leave the stadium during a session and return during that same session -- just make sure to get your hand stamped when you exit the stadium.

Preliminary and semifinal sessions are general admission (children 10 and under are admitted free for general admission). The Mason contingent (and there are many who attend) usually sit together to create a loud, boisterous cheering section.  Seats for finals are all reserved.  After semifinal performances are completed and the bands selected for finals are announced, the stadium is cleared and people generally rush to purchase tickets for finals.  It's not uncommon for certain price points to sell out quickly.  If you want to sit with someone during finals, you will need to buy tickets at the same time.

You can purchase tickets before the event or at the stadium the day you go.  If you purchase tickets for finals before the event, you run the risk of being stuck with tickets if the Band is not selected for finals (tickets are non-refundable).  Many people do this -- you will see them outside the stadium after the finals selection trying to sell their tickets. 

The ticket office is on the northeast and southeast corners of the stadium.

Click here for more ticket information. 

Parking

See the Spectator Guide linked below for parking information.  There is plenty of parking near the stadium, but it's best to get there early before the lots fill up.  Surface lots are generally around $10.  Parking garages are more expensive. 

Souvenirs

Obviously, you'll want your son or daughter to have souvenirs to remember their time at this event.  Luckily, there will be many people (over 100 booths) at the event to accommodate your desire.  If you pick something up for them, you may have time to connect with them during their free time.  Your student should be able to give you a good idea what they want before the event.  You can browse the merchandise here.

Where to Eat?

Concession stands inside the stadium will be operating and prices will be what you would expect for an NFL game.  There are also many restaurants in the area of the stadium.  The food court at Circle Centre Mall is popular with the kids.  Click here for Indy's restaurant guide.

The Band Boosters usually organize a parent lunch or dinner outing at a local restaurant during the event.  Band members also will receive money to purchase food during the event.

Where to Stay?

Some people stay at area hotels and others do Saturday as a one-day event.  Hotels in downtown will be pricey -- rates will drop as you get further outside of downtown.  You need to reserve your rooms as early as possible -- some people reserve for the following year when the event is over.  Future event dates are here.

Pictures and Videos

Video and audio recording is prohibited.  You will have the opportunity to purchase a DVD of the performance during the event at booths on the concourse.

If you can't make it to Indy, you can watch the performances online by subscribing to the Music for All Video.  Click here for more information.  The BOA Live Blog (linked below) is a great thing, even if you are at the stadium.  Other social media channels are listed here.

Any still camera may be used. Family, friends, and fans may take still photos of BOA events for personal use only. The images may not be sold or otherwise distributed, without the written permission of Music for All.  Any still camera (making film or digital still pictures) is allowed and may be used from the spectator seating area of any venue.  Tripods or other similar equipment that may obstruct the view or path of travel of others in seating areas are also not allowed.