Saturday event to feature 23 high school bands

Music, theatrical performances and plenty of food is what folks can expect Saturday at the 16th annual Crystal Coast Band Classic.

The annual competition, sponsored by the Havelock Ram Band, is bringing in 23 area high school marching bands this year to put on their halftime shows, and will feature an exhibition by the Old Dominion University band at 10:15 p.m.

“Number one, they are going to see what good things kids are doing,” said Jorge Benitez, director of the Havelock High School band program. “We always hear about what bad things kids are doing. So they are going to see some unbelievable shows, some very theatrical performances. A lot of the shows are really high level. They are going to hear good music and they are going to see great bands and be able to eat great food and just be around a lot of people that are excited about their final performance.”

Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. on the football field with the Havelock High School Navy Junior ROTC presenting the colors. Pender High School kicks off the competition at 10:10 a.m.

Benitez said many of the area’s best bands are participating again this year, including West Carteret, Smithfield-Selma, Raleigh Sanderson, Holly Springs, New Bern and West Craven. A full listing of the bands and performance times can be found at

Admission is $8 for adults, which includes a souvenir program. Children 8 and under are admitted for $5. Proceeds go to support the Havelock High music program.

The event will feature more than 2,500 high school musicians, with a crowd estimated at more than 2,000 people.

Every band will compete in preliminaries that wrap up around 5:15 p.m., with an awards ceremony set for 6 p.m. The top eight bands then advance to the finals that run from 8 to 10 p.m. when the competition’s grand champion will be determined. Judges grade the bands on such items as musical effect, group performance, percussion, color guard and drum majors.

As the host, Havelock High will not be competing but is scheduled for an exhibition performance at 5:28 p.m. on Saturday. The show is called “Race Across Time.”

“We are inside a clock throughout the show and there is a student who is racing,” said Benitez. “She is on a balance beam. She is moving slowly but her goal is to get to the clock by the end of the show. When she gets to the clock, she goes through the clock at the very end.”

Benitez said an entire team of Havelock band students, parents and volunteers must coordinate a lot of moving parts in organizing the event.

“They are dealing with a lot of people with a lot of different needs and being able to get along as a team. This is a different kind of teamwork other than music,” said Benitez. “To make this happen, every one of the marching band students has to do two jobs, two shifts, which are four-hour shifts.”

Those interested in helping can call the school at 444-5117.

Not only do the students perform, but they also learn lessons from watching other bands, Benitez said.

“On the music education side, it’s an amazing experience to have 23 bands come and play their show and for the bands to see what the other bands are doing in the area and see what they are doing well and to see what kinds of things we need to do to improve also,” he said.