MATAWAN, NJ – Stands turned blue in support of the Arthur L. Johnson High School marching band at the Tournament of Bands competition held Saturday, Sept. 27 at Matawan High School. Saturday’s competition was the first of the season.

Having been promoted to Open Class due to their success last season, the band was confronted with higher-level competitors, but remained calm, cool and collected. They worked hard and put their best effort into their performance.

“I think overall we did well. There are still a lot of things we can improve on, but overall, being in my fifth year of marching band, this was probably the best performance we’ve ever done,” stated piccolo player Tori Gillette.

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“The woodwinds were very strong, the drum dynamics were great, the guard was mostly together, and the weapons did really well,” said Sabah El Garhy, a junior in ALJ’s color guard. Although noting some improvements could be made in the third song, El Garhy added, “Overall, there was good harmony in the band and the show was really good.”

This season’s show is entitled “Apollo 13.” The band played “200,000 Miles – A Takeoff to Disaster,” “We Lost the Moon” and “Reentry of Odyssey.”  Each of the songs tells a different part of the story of the thirteenth Apollo mission.

In 1970, as the Apollo 13 crew was headed toward the moon, an oxygen tank exploded, causing other systems to fail. From the malfunction comes the infamous phrase “Houston, we have a problem.” The outlook for the astronauts was terrible and it was unlikely the crew would survive. Against all odds, the crew found a way to slingshot around the moon and the Apollo 13 crew returned to Earth unharmed.  The musical selection reflects the drama of the events.

“The performance was great overall!” said former colorguard member Tatiana Szewczuk. “I really liked the sound of the music and the visuals! Apollo 13 is a really energetic show that gets the crowd going! I hope to see more improvement, and I’m looking forward to seeing it at its full potential!”

The band’s final placing on Saturday was second out of three bands, and their final score was 80.3.  The Arthur L. Johnson marching band’s next competition is Sunday, Oct. 5 at Madison High School in Madison, New Jersey.  The competition begins at 12:55 p.m. and the ALJ band is scheduled to perform at 4:00 p.m.

For further information on Tournament of Bands, competitions, and other marching band news, visit

Editor's Note:  Sam Hayden is an Arthur J. Johnson High School student and a member of the TAP team at ALJ.