FARMINGTON — High school marching bands from around New Mexico braved cold winds on Wednesday as they participated in one of the last contests of the school year.
The Northwest district of the New Mexico Music Educators Association held its annual marching band festival at Farmington High School's Hutchison Stadium. Eight schools performed for the judges.
The contest is the first of four opportunities for school districts to compete for the sweepstakes trophy, said David Schwartz, Kirtland Central High School's band director and president of the association's northwest district.
Schools that earn superior rating in marching, concert and jazz bands, along with sight-reading, will earn the sweepstakes trophy.
Piedra Vista High School has won the award the last three years.
Bands from Kirtland Central, Piedra Vista, Grants, Shiprock, Bloomfield, Gallup, Aztec and Farmington high schools participated in the festival.
Rian Chiaravalloti, director of bands for Aztec High School, said Wednesday was the Aztec High marching band's final contest of the year.
"This is the first time and last time we get to march with all the bands in our district," Chiaravalloti said. "It's bittersweet. It's the end of a long run. We started in July, but we're excited to be here. It's a great field, and there are great bands here."
Aztec High is coming off its class 1A victory at the New Mexico Pageant of Bands contest in Albuquerque on Saturday.
On Wednesday, each marching band had 20 minutes to set up, perform and exit the field. Most bands performed a piece about eight to 10 minutes long.
Judges scored bands on a five-point scale -- superior, excellent, good, fair and poor. Shiprock, Kirtland, Piedra Vista, Aztec and Farmington received excellent ratings, while Grants, Bloomfield and Gallup received good ratings.
Band members cited a number of reasons for why they enjoyed the performances.
Shiprock High School sophomore Beau Mason said he feels the hard work before and after school comes together at an event like the one on Wednesday. And, Mason said, he liked studying how other trombone players performed and learned from their techniques and styles.
Samuel Naz, a sophomore from Farmington High, enjoyed the marching bands' musical pieces.
"I like hearing the different varieties of pieces and how I connect to them," Naz said.
It was the last marching band contest for Helene McNeill, and the Grants High School senior said she was happy with her band's performance this school year.
"I can honestly say this is the first year we've worked our hardest," she said. "We prepared for weeks in the summer. I would say this is the best we've been. It feels good to know I'm in the group that did it. I hope others keep up the legacy we started."