About St. Martin Independent
Mr. John Dunlap had a goal of inspiring his percussion students to greater and more difficult endeavors. He started by taking them to see Regional Competitions for WGI Percussion. They were in awe of groups like Music City Mystique, Infinity, Pulse, STRYKE, and Rhythm X. He continued to go to Dayton, Ohio for World Finals every year. After seeing these amazing groups, his students had a watch party to “virtually” attend World Finals.
St. Martin had been without any WGI activities for decades. Mr. Dunlap decided to see if he could put together a group for 2019. The students were excited, but started with nothing but the high school band equipment. Entirely self-funded, the group started in Novice class and ended up being a Regional Finalist in Scholastic Marching A. That year, his students tagged themselves in a picture having their now yearly World Finals watch party. As he sat in the auditorium in Dayton, he saw his students on the screen and decided that the next year, they would be there with him—competing.
In 2020, the group started in Scholastic Marching A with a dynamic show depicting the life of Don Kunkel, a World War II veteran. The students learned incredible, intimate lessons about the history of World War II and the soldiers who fought, and they were set to go all the way to Dayton, Ohio for finals when the pandemic shut down their dreams of making their exciting journey. At their finale show, they sang “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and then took the last look anyone would have at the inside of the gym for at least five months as schools, businesses, and communities shut down.
For the 2021 season, Mr. Dunlap decided that the previous years’ seniors could not end their career without a chance at Dayton, so he and the group decided to become Independent in order to provide an opportunity for these deserving, hard-working students. As many groups chose not to participate in the year’s season due to the pandemic, however, percussionists and instructors from all over the region chose to come join SMI and lend their talents to the newest independent group in our region.
With so many people grateful to have this opportunity to perform and so many people in need of hope and cheer, SMI chose a show that provides pure entertainment and joy for everyone in hopes of taking their minds off all of the cruddy stuff going on in the world today—“Earn Your Wings”—a story about a man overcoming spice to win the chicken wing crown of victory. While the show exposed the members to many different styles and cultures and celebrated diversity, in the end, the show demonstrated the vast and varied talents of almost fifty young performers and brought home the point that we all have a chance to become great at something in life. The World Finals were “virtual” that year, so the group did make the Finals, but the groups were not ranked, and no one went to Dayton.
In 2022, all the pieces finally came together for an in-person season that would manifest in that sought after Dayton finals run. Mr. Dunlap chose to honor the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the show “21 Steps” which opened with the voicing of the tomb’s west inscription, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” This show’s story narrated love and loss, service and sacrifice, and highlighted the fact that war affects everyone without discrimination. After a long road, years of hope, and a powerful season, finally, SMI was able to arrive in Dayton not only to participate, but to take home the bronze medal in their class.