East Texas bands reigned at the National Association of Military Marching Bands state competition Saturday at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.

Longview, Spring Hill and New Diana high schools each won first place in their classifications. Longview is a 6A school, Spring Hill is 4A and New Diana is 3A.

After several years of not competing at NAMMB, Longview High School’s Big Green Marching Machine returned to the competition Saturday. The decision to return was made by director Rhonda Daniel, who was hired in the summer.

As the president of NAMMB, Daniel said she felt she should have her band in the competition.

“I believe it’s good to go to an all-military contest where we can have judges with strong military backgrounds,” she said. “We have five judges. All their backgrounds are strong military and not just background in corps-style marching bands.”

Corps-marching style uses props, themes or prerecorded music. Military marching is just the music and march.

Daniel also said the Longview band always has been a military-style band. Competing at NAMMB is a tradition Daniel wanted to bring back to the band.

“We had a goal of making a first division at NAMMB, and we achieved that goal,” she said. “We knew we would be in competition with Kingwood — the other 6A band there — but our focus was to be first division because Longview has never not been first division at NAMMB.”

Daniel’s goal was achieved — all five judges rated Longview first division — and more.

“Not only did we make a first division at NAMMB; we were able to win first place in class division 6A,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how they stepped up to the challenge.”

At Spring Hill, the Blue Brigade Band captured its fourth championship in a row at NAMMB, director Michael Moody said.

Bands typically keep their routines from the University Interscholastic League regional contest, Moody said. The goal for Spring Hill was to improve on that march.

“We just keep working hard, keep trying to achieve perfection and make something better each day, not just sit there and go through the motions,” he said. “We have a goal in mind, to get better every day.”

Moody said he wanted the band to perfect its routine and music by about 25% to 30%. The students focused on more details in the marching, tuning the music better and articulation (the way the notes are played and released).

That focus on perfecting the performance earned the band first division ratings from all five judges.

“I’m just really proud of all our students rising to the occasion,” Moody said. “It was by far the best performance of the year for us. The directors, the band boosters, they all deserve a big pat of the back for all the work they’ve done to make that happen.”

The New Diana band also earned first division ratings from all judges. Director Gary Fort said the bands are judged on marching fundamentals, but mostly on how well they play music.

“We try to sound like a concert band on the field,” he said. “We want to have good tuning, good precision, balance and blend, just as if you were doing a sit-down concert.”

Fort said the band now will focus on supporting the football team in the playoffs, working on a Veterans Day program and the Christmas concert.

The band’s competition in military marching is a tradition of New Diana, Fort said.

“In Diana, it’s very important, because it’s tradition,” he said. “We’ve marched military for many years. There’s a long list of accomplishments that this band has achieved.”