Arts & Entertainment

Hillsborough HS Raiders Marching Band Struts Off with First Place in State Competition

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From left, Yannice Crawford, Guard co-captain; Stephen Mondoro, drum major; Emily Obenauer, drum major; Colin Beyers, drum major and Benedikt Macaro, Guard co-captain, with first-place trophy. Credits: Joseph Gerbino
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Stephen Mondoro performs solo. Credits: David DeFreese
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Guard co-captain Benedikt Macaro Credits: Frank Mondoro
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Front Ensemble Credits: David DeFreese
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Low Brass Credits: Frank Mondoro
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Band on the Blocks during the performance of "Inspiration" Friday night at Rutgers University. Credits: Frank Mondoro
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HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The Hillsborough High School Marching Band continued its dominance in the prestigious statewide competition sponsored by US Bands, winning first place at the annual event Friday night at Rutgers University in Piscataway.

It is the third 1st-place finish for the Raiders in the past four years; last year, the band finished second.

HTHSMB competed against three other schools in the Group 5 category, West Orange High School, Elizabeth High School and Passaic High School.

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“We had a great bunch of kids that have a great work ethic and take pride in what they do; that coupled with a really great show concept that the entire staff put together, it was just the full package this year,” said Julie Haran, now in her 18th year as director of the Raiders’ band.

“All we strive for, the goal every time go out to perform is to improve their personal best,” she added. “Last night, when we came off the field, everybody agreed it was an incredibly positive representation of what the Raider band is all about.”

The band consists of 104 musicians and color guard.

The band’s show, “Imagination,” is based on the divergent activities of the left and right hemispheres of the human brain.

The left brain is more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the right brain. It’s sometimes called the digital brain. It’s better at things like reading, writing, and computations; the right brain is more visual and intuitive. It’s sometimes referred to as the analog brain. It has a more creative and less organized way of thinking according to the theory promulgated by Nobel Prize winner Roger W. Sperry more than 50 years ago.

Each high school band is judged in five categories: music, color guard technique, drum line percussion, visual effect and overall effect.

Haran said no one band was favored to win going into the competition.

“We’re all very excited, it was a good evening,” said Karen Johnson, president of the Hillsborough Band Parent Association.

 “It’s becoming more and more difficult to compete, it’s become more show driven, you’re not just being judged on the music,” Johnson explained, “it’s more the overall breadth of it.”

Showmanship and props are a critical element of the overall performance, according to Johnson.

The musicians and color guard take care of the performance, with the band parents taking responsibility for the instruments, props, and other equipment vital to their success.

The parents work behind the scenes, loading a truck and transporting the instruments and equipment to competitions and other performances. They’re also busy with things like fund raisers to help pay travel expenses, purchase props and equipment and uniform maintenance, according to Johnson, whose three sons all performed in the marching band.

They’ve since graduated and gone on to college, but she continues to work with the parents’ organization.

“It’s hard to let go once you’re involved in it,” she said.

Haran estimates the band put in several hundred hours of practice beginning in August, with three days of “mini” band camp at the high school before loading up buses and a truck for a five-day, intensive band camp in Honesdale, Pa. They continue to practice during the school year and perform at all home football games.

 “Imagination” was previewed for an audience of family, friends and supporters when the band returned from Pennsylvania.

Here’s a link to a video showing the band and color guard performing “Imagination” on Oct. 14:

The Raiders marching band travels to College Park, Md. next week for a regional marching band competition hosted at the University of Maryland.

Haran emphasized the long-term success of the marching band is ensured by a talented support staff; at the top of that list is Nick Clipperton, associate director, described by Haran as “an equal partner.”

“These are all great people that work with our kids,” she said.

The Music staff includes Tom Coates,, iji Coates, Matt Piszko, Thomas Ploskonka, Matt Frohnhoefer and Jack Kaplan; Colorguard instructor, Gema Cuffari; Drill Design/instructor, Jim Cardaneo; Visual coordinator: Peter Ciurczak and Drum Majors Emily Obenauer, Colin Beyers  and Stephen Mondoro 

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