Oakleaf, Orange Park and Fleming Island bands bring home state awards

By Lee Wardlaw lee@claytodayonline.com
Posted 11/30/22

The date: Saturday, Nov. 19.

The setting: Broward County Stadium at Lauderhill.

The event: The Florida Marching Band Championships State Finals.

The result: the finish for the Oakleaf High …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Oakleaf, Orange Park and Fleming Island bands bring home state awards


The date: Saturday, Nov. 19.

The setting: Broward County Stadium at Lauderhill.

The event: The Florida Marching Band Championships State Finals.

The result: the finish for the Oakleaf High Knights.

After a historic night in South Florida two weeks ago, the Oakleaf High School Golden Regiment’s 2022 season finally came to a halt. However, it wasn’t without a Class 4A silver-medal winning performance for the hardworking 115 boys and girls of the Knights band.

The big finish didn’t come without hardship during the final hours of the season or in any given in between then, though.

Here’s how it went down: after two performances in the preliminary and retreat rounds, the band was announced as one of five state finalists, along with West Broward, Oviedo, University High and Fleming Island.

Make that two for Clay County’s school bands. After final scores and rankings were announced for each classification, Oakleaf discovered it was the runner-up status, second only to West Broward High by a mere fraction of a point – .45, to be exact.

Not only that, but the band’s highlight performance graded out as the No. 3 highest overall score, regardless of classification, among all Florida schools.

A No. 2 finish in 4A and No. 3 finish in the state were recorded despite an intense 28-hour stretch of traveling and performing.

The Regiment met on campus at 1:45 a.m. and didn’t return to the school until 4:30 a.m. the next day. That included a 625-mile bus round trip to and from the Fort Lauderdale metropolitan, the loading and unloading of equipment and an hours-long wait between performances.

But this didn’t phase fifth-year band director Chad Robbins.

“We’re out there when the football team isn’t and all of the other groups are done (practicing during the regular season.) That (the state championship) was a super long day, and they still went out and delivered. I know they’re very passionate about what they do. They’re a resilient bunch,” he said.

Fleming Island was third in Class 4A, while Orange Park picked up a silver medal performance in Class 2A.

Robbins said the Knights’ finish was a statement of what has been accomplished, and perhaps a sign of more great things to come.

“It’s absolutely a statement because we’ve worked hard to build the band culture,” Robbins said.

But that’s not all.

With a big performance from three schools in the state finals, he believes the unique and underappreciated form of musical competition is headed in the right direction within Clay County lines and commitment to school band programs should be a priority moving forward.

“We had the third-highest overall score, but Orange Park was right in the mix as well, along with Fleming Island. To have three medalists from one county in one year is incredible, and I think it deserves attention and support. It’s something that should not be (overlooked), and people need to be asking ‘how can I help.’ You want to keep that culture alive and continue it for our students. I believe that we have three great band programs, and hopefully, people will respond to that, including the school support team, the administration, the community, and so on. Not every county in Florida or anywhere has this much going for it in terms of music and performance,” he said.

Following the dominant performance, the Knights’ band consisting of both a dedicated mindset and strong leadership had many emotions circling: elation, excitement, and more.

“Our students were beyond excited,” he said.

This was especially apparent among seniors, who were around for the beginning stages of the transition from the previous leadership to that of the era of Robbins and co-director Chris Gugel over five years ago.

“Our seniors were crying tears of joy. They were elated. They were proud. And I think that the long hours of the long season can sometimes become fatiguing, but in the end, it was worth it for these kids,” he said.

Robbins said that when the seniors arrived as freshmen in 2018, the program was not anywhere close to its current state which is highly comparable to silver, but he and Gugel kept pushing them, and the group responded with vengeance.

“We kept pushing them to build a legacy when they got here as freshmen, and we set some pretty lofty expectations. They came in while we were on the ground floor of rebuilding a program that we wanted to turn into a state powerhouse. So they were on board with that process, and it took everyone’s hard work to make that happen,” Robbins said.

The director said that the seniors demonstrated to younger students their positions on the field and helped them perform their roles effectively and confidently.

But that’s not all, with the Oakleaf Golden Regiment operating more like a family unit with the underclassmen under the seniors’ wing, he said.

“(The seniors) kept the newer members in line. They were mentors and almost like big brothers and big sisters to those kids. They were the heart of our organization, and they’re a huge reason for why we were successful,” Robbins said.

The hard work was a culmination of a long season beginning with grueling summer practice, which includes ‘fall band camp’ a fully-involved two-week, 10-day process consisting of eight hours of daily practice in the hot, smoldering Sunshine State sun preceding the induction academic calendar’s fall semester.

Several instruments, marching positions, and other elements factor into play, with percussion, color guard, and more all being cogs of a successful band ‘machine.’

Day-long practices in the Clay County heat dissipate when the first whistle for football season is blown, but after kickoff, it’s really ‘all gas, no brakes’ for Oakleaf.

This season, that meant marching for 10 games on the football field, win or loss. That, along with seven Saturday competitions and their drive towards the state championship, is why the group struggled through sweltering practices in the summer sun before the onset of the 2022 academic year.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here