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Adversity to Adversary: Brandon “Brio”

Updated: Feb 26

(Brandon Show Choir Association)


"BRIO WHERE Y'ALL AT? WE AIN'T LEAVIN' YET!"


I'm sure the previous phrase may ring a bell to some of the readers here. The recent rise of Brandon Brio, to some, is still a fairly new occurrence. Prior to this season, Brandon had claimed the title of Grand Championship at eight out of their last 11 competitions, and last year alone they only lost to the likes of Clinton Attaché and Center Grove Sound System, the latter from which they took two of the three major captions from. That was enough to put the nation on notice and for the show choir community to consider Brandon as one of the premier southern show choir powerhouses. Yet, while this again may seem a recent occurrence to most, there are some people who knew this was going to happen. There are some who knew Brandon was THIS good since as early as 2020. Those people would be the only ones who truly needed to know: the members of Brio themselves.


For the longest time, the south was truly ran by three groups: Clinton, Homewood, and Petal. These three were widely considered the groups you had to beat consistently to be considered one of the top show choirs in the south, with occasional surges from groups like Grenada and Auburn. Prior to the 2020 competition season, Brandon had only won four Grand Championships, with their only true in-state sweep coming against a singular large group in Chesterton at the 2019 Oak Grove Magnolia Invitational. While that is still something to be proud of, it was far from the results that dominating southern powerhouses would regularly rack up in a regular season or two. It wasn’t truly until the 2020 competition season that Brandon started to change their own narrative. And oh boy, change it they did.

 

(Raider Network)

 

Brandon started out their 2020 competition season in what most would consider a normal fashion, claiming third overall to Madison Central’s famous “Western” show and their rival Grenada’s famous “Da Vinci” show at the Jackson Academy Show Choir Invitational. Their next competition (on paper) seemed to be an imminent repeat to most, as they would be going against their rival Grenada yet again at the Northeast Jones Classic, who was predicted to sweep the competition. And honestly, it still seemed that way after the preliminary results were announced, with Grenada on top yet again heading into finals.

 

It is in moments like these that truly create a group and its identity.

These moments when you are down and underestimated by everyone.

Moments when the world is against you.

Adversity.

But more importantly,

How you respond to adversity.

Brandon responded with a Grand Championship sweep.

 

This set of results was monumental for not only Brandon’s record and reputation, but also their confidence. Their momentum. Their “swagger,” as one might say. It lit the way for Brandon to catch their stride, and in doing so, Brandon ended up placing as Grand Champions at their next four competitions. That totaled to three wins that season with two of them being out-of-state and all three of them being sweeps. That season alone almost doubled their previous championship total. This was it. Brandon was starting to catch fire.


Unfortunately, as many of you can imagine, the pandemic would soon create an obstacle for Brandon, as it did with many other schools. They had to choose whether they would follow the footsteps of many other show choirs and just wait out this season, or they could compete in an unusually-structured competition environment. Here they were again, staring something in the eyes that wanted to hinder their progress.

 

More adversity.

 

            Brandon decided to buckle up and compete during the 2021 season, despite imposed regulations for their practices, preparations, and competitions. They went to two competitions that season and earned a Grand Championship and a first runner-up. While the latter wasn’t the goal for Brandon, they knew this season wasn’t going to be normal simply due to the unseen nature of the pandemic-impacted season. Nonetheless, they went through their events and came out in a comfortable spot heading into a much more normal 2022 competition season.

 

(Brandon Show Choir Association)

 

            This is where Brandon really started making a name for themselves in the region. Brandon, with their “Space Odyssey”-themed show, won their first four competitions of the season. They were topping groups like Tupelo, Auburn, Madison Central, and Jackson Academy consistently. Against Auburn at the Homewood South Central Classic, Brandon was second in prelims but stormed back to win the entire competition in finals. By the end of their season, they had raised their total win count to eleven, a much higher number than the total of four from just a couple of years ago. Brandon finished the season with a third-place showing at FAME Orlando, but it was to a fellow rising southern group in Oak Mountain and a nationally-acclaimed group in Mt. Zion. With a very successful season in the books, and essentially a clean sheet at all of their 2022 southern circuit competitions, Brandon had established themselves as one of the top groups in their region, but they weren’t close to done yet.

 

(Brandon Show Choir Association)

 

            2023 was the year Brandon became a name recognized across the country with their "Rivers of the World" show, but the year kicked off with a crucial test at the Jackson Prep Masters. Brandon came into this competition as heavy favorites, but they quickly found themselves at second place behind Jackson Academy going into finals.

 

Here it was again.

Adversity.

Down heading into finals.

Going against a group on the brink of an upset, looking to pull it off.

Brandon came back and swept finals.

 

After the comeback, Brandon Brio and Bellas placed first and second overall at the Enterprise Southland Classic, a very impressive and uncommon feat to achieve in and of itself. This also added yet another win to Brio's tally. With two GCs to start the season, Brandon turned their attention towards the next weekend. This held Brandon’s biggest challenge yet. They were to go against arguably the best group in the nation (for as long as most anyone could remember): Clinton Attaché. With this in mind, Brandon was ready. Like we’ve said before: Brandon was no stranger to adversity.


The competition, the Northeast Jones Classic, where Brandon and Clinton were facing off, was considered to be hosting the southern matchup of the year. There was tension and excitement across campus throughout the day. However, this tension was quickly met with news regarding the day’s events: due to inclement weather, a hamstrung loading/unloading process, and the competition running hours behind during the day, Northeast Jones decided to cancel finals and turn the competition into a one-and-done event. The cherry on top of it all was that Brandon learned this while waiting in their warmup room.

 

(Brandon Show Choir Association)

 

Whether this benefited or hurt any and either of the groups is up for debate (and will be for quite some time), but at the heart of it, it cannot be truly determined whether either group gained an advantage from this news. However, what it did lead to was two of the greatest single performances the south has ever seen. Brandon performed first, and debatably had their best show of the season -maybe ever- based on their score and the general eye test. Clinton saw this and stepped up their own game in light of the threat, and they ended up winning the title with a sweep while being about 10 points away from a perfect score (which is mindboggling and insane in its own right). That left Brandon in second place, but this was nothing to be ashamed of. Having come within 13.5 points of beating the best group in the nation and 23.5 from a perfect score of their own, this only solidified Brandon’s standing as one of the top groups in the nation.


Next up for Brandon was the Petal Show Choir Invitational, where they claimed the title of Grand Champion yet again, this time sweeping the nationally-acclaimed Midwest group Wheaton Warrenville South. Brandon followed up this astonishing placement with another win and sweep at Madison Central, this time against the likes of Tupelo and Jackson Academy. With five competitions down, four of them being sweeps and the other being 23.5 points away from a perfect score, Brandon looked towards its most competitive event ever: Heart of America Nashville. There, they would face the likes of Center Grove, Omaha Westside, Mitchell, Ross, and Waltham. They were going to face an absolute gauntlet. But hey, what’s adversity to a group like Brandon?


Akin to the Northeast Jones Classic, Brandon finished in second place overall, but that’s no kind of placement to scoff at when you consider the rest of the groups they beat. Only national powerhouse Center Grove could top them, and even they were only able to keep one caption away, as Brandon won Best Choreography and Best Show Design at the competition, signifying they were extremely close to claiming a title at this nationally-recognized competitive event over the previously-mentioned show choir titan. With this placement, Brandon elevated themselves from regional power to national prominence, as now every group around understood that Brandon was a legitimate threat and foe to all groups they competed against, no matter where they went.

 

(Brandon Show Choir Association)

 

This brings us to the currently ongoing 2024 competition season. As many may know, Brandon has (at this point) placed first overall at only one of their five competitions so far this season, with three others being second overall placements along with one third overall placement. While one of those was indeed an upset from the likes of Jackson Academy at the very start of the season, the other programs Brandon has lost to are the well-renowned groups of Homewood, Clinton, Grenada and Carmel. So yeah, Brandon doesn’t seem to be done facing adversity anytime soon, and I have a feeling they will be looking forward to it. They can only grow stronger from such it would seem.


Also, I feel the need to share that this season Brandon faces a different kind of situation than they ever have before, having lost one of their own members right before the start of the competition season. While the Brandon community grieves the loss of one of their own, they will keep him in their hearts and minds as they continue on this season. The entire show choir community is behind Brandon as they continue dealing with this tragic event. The Brandon Show Choir Association has dedicated the 2024 competition season to Griffin Mangum.


BOE <3

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