RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph Marching Rams have earned a reputation over the years as one of the more impressive high school bands around. This year was no different, as the band members dazzled spectators all season long at the varsity football games and in competition performances. The 2014 season was a tremendous success not only in the awards they achieved, but how they worked together and grew into something special.
Two years ago, freshman trumpeter Justin Kozma walked into his first marching band camp. Intimidated by all of the experienced upperclassmen and bewildered by the new experience, he was thrown into the mix of seasoned marchers.
It took some getting used to, but Kozma picked up the skills necessary to march in the Randolph High School Marching Band. Now Kozma confidently helps lead the entire marching band in his position as assistant drum major.
Preparation for the season starts at the end of May, when music is given out. This way, the rising freshmen can get a start on their music, as well as the rest of the band. The “show” is also selected at that time.
This year’s show was West Side Story. The band performs this theme at competitions and halftime shows of football games.
At the end of August, the hard work begins at band camp. Practice is from dawn until dusk at Camp Timber Tops in Pennsylvania and at Randolph High School. It is an intense process, consisting of memorizing music, getting to know positions and spots, and marching.
During hours of free time, band members bond through games such as Frisbee, and other activities. “It’s like a family. We start to grow during band camp, and it continues throughout the rest of the season,” says Kozma.
On Oct.11, the marching band hosted the annual “Under the Stars” band competition. Bands attending were from many schools across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
It was the first major performance of the season for the Randolph High School Marching Band, which is an annual event at RHS's John Bauer Stadium.
Next came the NJMEA competition at Wayne Hills, where the band came away with a rating of gold, the highest rating that could be achieved. Junior Matt Rosenblatt was recognized with the award for Outstanding Trumpet Soloist and the color guard received the award for Outstanding Sabre Feature.
On Nov. 1, the band competed at Metlife Stadium, as part of the US Bands Yamaha Cup Festival. The next day, at the Bloomfield Invitational, they won numerous awards, including Best Music Overall, a prestigious award that the band sought after determinedly after not receiving it last year.
Dawn Russo, the Director of Bands expressed in an email to participants, "Our trip to MetLife Stadium was one of those 'memories of a lifetime.' Even though it was a little damp, the sky stopped dropping rain for our warm-up and performance. There is absolutely nothing that compares to lining up in the tunnel, hearing the drum cadence thunder off the walls, those first steps onto the turf and looking up to the massive stands. It is an experience never to be forgotten."
Their season culminated last Friday with the playoff game against Roxbury. Though Randolph lost the game itself, the band came away with something much more meaningful than what a win would have provided.
“The friendships made are not going to end now that the season is over, but they will continue for the rest of our lives,” says Kozma.
The final moments of the season were bittersweet for many, including RHS senior and head drum major, Hannah Liu.
“It's sad that this is my last year in the marching band but I'm glad I was able to give back to this program and meet so many incredible people who have worked so hard,” says Liu. Kozma will take over her role as head drum major next year.
Throughout the season, the band has made enormous strides, Kozma expressed.
“I watched a video of our first performance at band camp and compared it to one of our recent performances. We have improved so much, and I’m so proud of everyone. It’s not like one person can lead the whole band; we work as a unit.”
“Marching Band is not just about the music and the marching, but it is mainly about the connections we make with each other and the bonds that will last forever.”
Susan Wattman, parent of a color guard participant, expressed her enthusiasm for the program in an email saying, "I have to tell you I'm here a long time and my kids have done pretty much every activity/sport out there and the Band/Color Guard is something special. It's a wonderful program and the kids put so much work and positive energy into it, it's a privilege to see. I can't say enough nice things about the kids themselves, and their kindness and support toward one another is in my opinion unparalleled. It was so wonderful to see them get to show all of their tireless efforts and long hours this season and at Met Life Stadium."
The Marching Rams were led on the field this year by Drum Major Hannah Liu, Associate Drum Major Jillian Whiting, and Assistant Drum Major Justin Kozma. The Color Guard Captain was Emily Tarnacki, and Color Guard Co-Captains were Ashley Kurian and Natalie Irula.