CLARK, NJ—The Arthur L. Johnson Marching Band came to a full understanding of their field show, “Apollo 13,” last weekend when some surprising twists forced the band to overcome a challenge just like the crew of the Apollo 13 space mission.  

The weekend was hectic with back-to-back competitions on Saturday and Sunday. The band played to their full potential and channeled all of its emotion into the show.  The final scores show the students’ dedication and hard work.

The Tournament of Bands NJ State Championship took place in Toms River on Saturday, Oct. 18. After a successful practice in the morning, the band and staff members went inside to get ready to go. That evening, the band won fourth place in their class with a score of 89.75 in the NJ State Championship.

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Sunday was the more crucial day because the band’s placement at Chapter Championships would determine the performance placement in the Atlantic Coast Championships. The band’s morning practice went as smoothly as Saturday’s had. Once the bus arrived that evening, everyone was quickly ushered on and the ALJ Marching Band left for Chapter 10 Championships in record time.

The band pulled into the parking lot of Chapters a while later, sped through warm-ups, and made it to their performance, ready to put on a great show.

The band members channelled all of their emotions into their performance, especially into the second movement. This movement tells the part of the story of the Apollo 13 mission when the shuttle is surely lost in space and will never get back home.

The band’s performance that night was phenomenal.  At the end of the day, the band had a score of 91.00. Breaking a score of 90 and making it into the top ten bands in a marching band’s first season in Open Class is almost unheard of.

"The Marching Band members have been working so hard this season and I am glad that they are experiencing great success,” said Band Director Rachel Bollaro.  “We knew that being promoted into the high competition level, Open Class, would be a challenge for such a young band, but the students have all really risen to the occasion."  Bollaro feels that Johnson’s band has soared to great heights this season, and is proud of their accomplishments so far.

Brass player Zahra Lokhandwala stated, “I think we’re doing great. Granted, we have a band director who knows our goals and tries to help us get there. Being in A-class for just three years and then being promoted to Open, where we’re beating bands that have been in Open for over 20 years, is just mind-blowing, and such a great accomplishment.”

The ALJ marching band’s final competition, the Atlantic Coast Championships, will take place this Sunday, Oct. 26, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Nearly 30 Bands representing the nine states in the Tournament of Bands will compete for the coveted title of Atlantic Coast Champion.  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.