LAKEWOOD RANCH - Lakewood Ranch High's marching band finally decided its future lies, beyond the yellow brick road.

For a decade, band director Ron Lambert continued a competitive tradition with the Lakewood Ranch Mustang Marching Band -- straight superiors at assessments and competitions, third place in their class in the 2019 state championships.

So last year when COVID meant no competitions, it was a gut punch. Then, Ron Lambert announced late last school year that he was leaving Lakewood Ranch.

“I would say it shocked us because it was so sudden," says co-drum major Lana DiBiase.

“As a group, collectively we decided, you know, we wanna go back to the way things were before 2020," says co-drum major Ben Rosasco.

And who would they get to replace Lambert?

“We were so worried that our new director, he or she wasn’t gonna be competitive or want the same things, they might turn us into a pep band," worried Lana.

“It felt like we were coming back from nothing and having to rebuild," says co-drum major Maya Lander.

Over the summer, it was announced that John Schindler – formerly of Bayshore and Manatee High – would take over. After a few months, what are the students’ opinions of him?

“I think we love him," Lana tells me.

“When he came in, he said that he wanted to fit to us," Ben says.

Schindler told me he hopes this is the last stop for him because he’s really wanted to take over and build a highly competitive program.

“His passion to want to compete, we were thankful for that and putting in the hard work that we want to put it," Maya says.

So the countdown back to competing was on.

“Our band captain had a countdown, this many days until first competition, this many days until states. We were always looking at it," Ben says.

The halftime show that was left for Schindler by Lambert puts a new spin on a classic story. The show is called 'Follow Your Yellow Brick Road.' The Emerald City of the Wizard of Oz is the backdrop, and the theme of Somewhere Over the Rainbow can be heard throughout all movements.

It’s not a show about the movie; it’s a show about finding the path to your Emerald City.

And for a high school band after 2020, it’s a coming of age sendoff.

“COVID made us have to figure some stuff out and things were such a mess last year. Following your Yellow Brick Road to making this season enjoyable and living out your senior year, then your future in whatever happens next," says Maya.

That Yellow Brick Road leads to the State Championships November 21st.

“It’s just really good to be back," Ben says.

Enjoy the story, but as you do, you may wonder -- when I talk about a coming-of-age sendoff, who's the guy with the cape? Two years ago, we made a blooper reel of Lakewood Ranch's band since the content of the story was sadder. During the shoot, one of the tuba players walked in front of the camera and did the Macerana uninterrupted.

He asked if he could do it one more time. So, without further ado, the 2021 version of the Macerana.