MADISON, NJ - On a cold, damp and rainy Sunday, many people stayed inside and watched football, but the bang of drums at Madison High School could be heard for miles. October 7th marked the third year in a row where the Madison Marching Dodgers hosted the Tournament of the Bands.

A total of 11 schools from New York and New Jersey performed on the football field in front of hundreds of parents, friends and judges for 15 minutes each. At the conclusion of the event, awards were given to schools.

The schools that participated included Roselle Park, Governor Livingston, Madison, Raritan, Arthur l. Johnson, Tottenville High School, Randolph, Union City, Lodi and Memorial High School.  Madison was competing for a chance to get to the Atlantic Coast Championships, where they took second place in the “2-A” Class for the previous two years.

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Marching Band Director Russell Batsch said he was quite pleased with his school’s performance. Batsch, who has been at the school for five years, said he really helped put the program on the map.

Before he joined the school, they did not have a marching program and this is only their third year competing. They performed an original concept titled “2012 Prophecy,” which dealt with the Mayan belief that the world will end this year, and it concluded with a song about hope.  

“The kids are rising to the challenge quite nicely,” Batsch said. “This show really pushes the limits of what the kids are capable of.”

One of his pupils is junior Jay O, who is the drum major. O, who actually plays the clarinet, said it’s a common misconception that drum majors have to play the drums. Because he has been playing various instruments and performing since a young age, he never really feels any pressure, he said.

“It seems like a big job, but it’s such an encompassing environment and we’re all one big family,” he said.

O stressed it isn’t about the awards or accolades, but the performance and putting on a great show for the fans that matters. He also did not want to forget thanking the amazing staff and parents who are dedicated to making sure everything goes smoothly.  

Tottenville High School of Staten Island, which is the only public school in New York City that has a completive marching band, drove an hour to compete and Marching Band Director David LaMorte said it was well worth the long drive. Each year, they participate in several tournaments and last year Madison invited them and they really enjoyed it, LaMorte said. It’s a very welcoming community and they hope to return in the future as well, he added.

“We couldn’t do it without all the great parents we have,” he said. “I always feel that they do their best, but they can always do better.”