BRADENTON - During our Band of the Week series, we’ve shown how Suncoast bands have had to rebuild after 2020. But what do you do when you’re the defending 3-in-a-row state champion Braden River – when half the band wasn’t even there during any of those wins?

The Marching Band of Pirates needed a "rebirth."

2019 was the third consecutive time the Braden River Marching Band of Pirates won a state championship. Since then, two classes graduated into the sunset, and now only the juniors and seniors remember what it was like to even compete.

Sophomore Grace Helton says no competitions of any kind were held in 2020, so she didn’t knew what it felt like.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people that was their favorite part, and that’s what made marching band’s fun and where their work started to pay off," Grace says.

The band just participated in its first competition in two years. Now she knows the feeling.

“You’re on the field, the lights are on, everything’s about to happen, and it’s like so much potential, we could be amazing, we could put our hearts on the field," Grace says excitedly.

The attitude from band director Cliff Dawson is simple: play and march to the high level Braden River is supposed to perform, and let the awards fall where they may.

“You’re proud of what you’ve done and how far you've come from there," says Grace.

It’s what’s visualized in their current show, Renewal. A show about being lost, but then finding a sense of direction, gathering these disparate pieces and stitching them together to form a bigger picture, represented by flowers on the field.

At the end of the day, it’s what a marching band is supposed to be -- not a bunch of different students playing, but one family, one unit

There’s no better example of this than junior and co-drum major Allison Sicard. She moved to the Suncoast in 8th grade; she knew no one.

Then her middle school band attended middle school night at a Braden River game and played with the Braden River marching band.

“That’s when I was hooked. I instantly fell in love. Like I did not want to leave," says Allison, “We definitely are a family. We spend so much time together that we kind of have to be.”

At the end of the day, maybe they do win competitions, or maybe they're rebuilding this year. Either way, it’s all window dressing around what this unit represents.

“Band is all about family and making friends and meeting people you can rely on and depend on. Less about the competition and we need to win first place, more about building a family and community in the band," Allison tells me.

“Which says a lot because you guys win first place a lot," I reply.

Allison laughs.

As an online bonus video, the Braden River Band showed wonderful hospitality to SNN. At the end of my first visit there, Dawson asked the band to thank me for being there. What followed was something that stayed with me. Best wishes in your marching season, Pirates.