Veteran of inaugurations and events abroad, Colony High’s marching band takes on Metallica

In recent years, the Colony High School marching band has performed at some lofty events, from presidential inaugurations to international ceremonies.

This winter, the band is trying its hand at heavy metal.

The band entered an inaugural Metallica marching band competition, called For Whom the Bell Tolls. According to the contest website: “Metallica challenges marching bands at all levels to craft the most exciting, unique, and impressive performances of Metallica’s music.”

Colony director of music Jamin Burton said a parent of a band student put the contest on his radar.

“We already did have our show designed for this year when I got that,” he said. “So we had all of our halftime stuff already set. We did a James Bond show this year. But I looked at the site and thought, at the very least, it’s free music. So we entered the contest, and we made Metallica be part of our pregame show that we do every game.”

Thirteen songs were available in the contest, from platinum hits like “Enter Sandman” to early-era classics such as “Seek and Destroy.” Entering the competition meant the band would receive sheet music from longstanding band publishing company Hal Leonard.

Colony chose to perform “Wherever I May Roam,” from the band’s 1992 self-titled album. The band students were already somewhat familiar with the music of Metallica; Burton said “Master of Puppets” was in the school’s pep band folder already.


While Metallica has long been played by pep bands, marching band performances are a bit different, with more production value and elaborate choreography.

“Metallica and pep band is kind of a happy little marriage,” Burton said. “Their music is really energetic. And it’s really well-known classic stuff now, which means I’m old. The fans love it. The football teams love it. Cheerleaders usually love it, and it’s good music. It fits.”

Burton said he first heard Metallica when he shared a room with his older brother as a kid.

“It was a forced exposure,” he said with a laugh.

There are two college divisions and three high school divisions, as well as fan-favorite categories for both college and high school. There were just over 100 high school submissions, and while Colony didn’t make the final five of the judged portion, members of the public can still vote on their favorites.

Public voting ends Dec. 31, and winners will be announced the first week of January.

The Division I collegiate winner will earn $75,000 in prizes with $40,000 in prizes going to the DII and DII winners. At the high school level, $15,000 in prizes is awarded to small (under 75 members), medium (75-124) and large (125 and over) bands. Both the fan favorites receive $10,000 in prizes.

While the Metallica contest has been a fun endeavor for this season, the Colony band has some major performances on the horizon.

The Colony band, known as Thee Northern Sound, has already performed at the Rose Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It’s also played internationally, traveling to Normandy, France, in 2019 to perform at a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

In March 2025, the band will travel to Dublin, Ireland, to play at the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Burton said the school decided to take the choir and the orchestra on the trip, which means more practice and more money to be raised.

“We have about 15 months left, so fundraising is in full swing and we’ve got parents on board, and we’re working with a travel partner to figure out airlines and hotels and get everything lined up,” he said. “That’s gonna be another full 15 months of work.”

Burton said these types of ventures — whether it be an international performance or a national competition — are great for setting goals and measuring progress.

“It’s really good — not just good for my students, but I think it’s good for Alaska,” he said. “It inspires kids to work hard. And when kids work hard, then their programs improve. And it’s just good for the community. It’s good for the kids, good for the program, good for the teachers. I’d be hard-pressed to find any negatives.”

The Colony High music department is planning to hold its annual Knight of Jazz fundraiser in the spring.

[Dozens of kids with blurry vision didn’t have eyeglasses. An Anchorage school nurse stepped in to help.]

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.