TARPON SPRINGS – The Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble was crowned Bands of America 2018 Division AA National Champion at the Bands of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis last week.

The TSOPE also ranked as one of the top five marching bands in the nation, according to a press release announcing the results.

“We are extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of our students for being crowned the Class 2A Grand National Champions and fifth place overall,” the Outdoor Performance Ensemble’s media coordina-tor Cathy Lawson said via email. “Congratulations Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble!!!”

According to the release, Bands of America marching band championships are the premier events for marching bands in the nation. The Grand National Championships is a three-day Bands of America event featuring 108 of the top high school marching bands in the nation, with 37 bands advancing to the semi-finals and the top 12 scoring bands advancing to the finals.

In Indy, the Outdoor Performance Ensemble performed an innovative production titled “RP1.” The produc-tion was inspired by Ernest Cline's novel “Ready Player One” and takes place in 2045, where much of humanity uses the virtual reality software OASIS to escape the desolation of the real world.

The Outdoor Performance Ensemble, which is part of the high school’s Leadership Conservatory of the Arts, was named 2018 Bands of America Orlando Regional Champion at the Bands of America Orlando Regional Marching Band Competition on October 13. The Outdoor Performance Ensemble was the Bands of America 2014 Grand National Champion and 2017 Atlanta Super Regional Champion.

In a letter to the band members following their performance in Indy, the Leadership Conservatory’s direc-tor, Kevin Ford, praised the ensemble’s commitment to be the best.

“Each student should be incredibly proud to be crowned the Bands of America 2018 AA National Champi-ons and ranked in the top 5 in the nation. What an amazing accomplishment!” Ford, who founded the conservatory in 1994 and was elected to the Bands of America Hall of Fame in March, wrote.

“However, the real victory and the thing I know each student will remember for the rest of their lives is that feeling that all the hard work and sacrifices provided them an experience with their TSLCA family that so few people ever have in their lives.”