Even in its ninth year running, Sousa’s March Mania didn’t fail to excite march enthusiasts and the Marine Band alike – the 2022 competition was marked by surprises from start to finish.
Over the course of four weeks in March, it took 350,000 votes pouring in from six continents before Wildcat March was named the champion. Counting the schools that signed up to receive incentive materials from the Marine Band, over 213,000 students in more than 1,500 U.S. classrooms in all 50 states participated this year. This was by far the biggest March Mania yet!
The Marine Band introduced Librarians Gunnery Sgt. Charles Paul and Staff Sgt. Tilden Olsen as official spokespeople for March Mania for the 2022 competition. Their regular update videos throughout the competition took the competition coverage to the next level, offering insight about march matchups and a healthy dose of playful banter.
Kathryn Boldt commented on the March Mania Updates: “Middle schoolers in Ontario, NY are loving this series! Thanks for making marching music delightful and fun!”
The librarians covered a number of stories week to week, including the complete elimination of Sousa marches from the bracket after the Enlisted Eight round, as well as the unbelievable rookie performance of Wildcat March, a presumed underdog – or cat – from the beginning.
This, in addition to a website refresh, enhanced the overall experience for participating march fanatics and offered a new way to keep up with the progress of competing marches.
Also new, the results of the championship match remained secret until the all votes were tallied, meaning no one truly knew which march would be the winner until it was announced during the first-ever livestream champion reveal.
Elise Curran thought the Marine Band may have been up to some funny business. She commented: “Oh, livestream is on April Fool’s day, so.... we’ll find out it's all been a joke and Liberty Bell or some Williams or Ives has actually won!”
As surprising as that would have been, the true outcome still came as a shock to many who had supported marches which normally make a strong showing. In a “Cinderella story,” Wildcat March had already taken out Superman March and Imperial March by John Williams – heavy contenders on the bracket – to make it to the final match against another regular strong performer, Julius Fucik’s Entry of the Gladiators.
In the end, it was Wildcat March that rang out through John Philip Sousa Band Hall as “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band announced the 2022 March Mania Champion. The piece’s composer, Clarinetist Staff Sgt. Parker Gaims, was also present, playing along in the ensemble, and momentarily recognized for the march’s success.
“I was pretty surprised to see the march I composed move through the bracket and eventually win,” Gaims said. “Wildcat March was up against well-known marches by composers I revere, so it was odd to be ‘beating’ them every round.”
Gaims wrote Wildcat March in 2015 to celebrate of the grand opening of the Ryan Center for the Arts at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He dedicated it to the Symphonic Wind Ensemble at his alma mater, as well as Director of Bands Dr. Mallory Thompson.
“I told some family and friends about March Mania, but I personally never posted publicly to try to influence the voting,” Gaims said. “Dr. Thompson drove much of the enthusiasm at the university and the alumni community. Her excitement about March Mania made me even more excited!”
Was this year’s outcome improbable? Yes. Impossible? No. It’s all a part of the mania.
“I have appreciated all the online comments from teachers saying that students in their classes have been enthusiastic about Wildcat March,” Gaims said. “More than anything, though, it is wonderful to hear that so many educators around the country are utilizing March Mania in their classrooms!”
Thank you to all the participants in year’s March Mania, and to all the educators who have shared photos, personal stories, and notes about how the program has impacted the students in their classrooms. Thank you, too, for the valuable feedback on how to continually refine the program and the new and creative ways you have found to share the music of the Marine Band with young students.
We look forward to 2023, when the program marches on to its 10th anniversary.