ROXBURY, NJ – How good is the Roxbury High School marching band?

“The best,” would be a safe answer today, the morning after the Marching Gaels won first place for their group at the U.S. Bands New Jersey State Championships.

“It’s an amazing bunch of kids,” said George Wendt, president of the Roxbury Band Parents Association. “It was an extremely difficult program they performed and they just hit it exactly right. It’s the best they’ve done all year and they peaked at the right time, I guess.”

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The Group IV Open Class state championship, awarded after competition at the High Point Solutions Stadium in Rutgers University, is the band’s first since 2009, said Wendt, whose son, Joshua, is a trombone player and low brass section leader. That year, the Marching Gaels went on to win a national championship, he said.

The band performed its Attract/Repel show, a musical exploration of the forces of “irresistible attraction and impenetrable repulsion.” Wendt said he’s watched the students, led by band director Richard Hartsuiker, fine-tune the piece throughout the year. “It’s a show that gets refined over the course of the season,” he said. “It’s all getting refined and being perfected just for the States.”

The band was judged on musical presentation as well as musical perspective: “The way the entire ensemble plays and the quality of the individual musicians” as well as the overall visual effect: “How the show looks visually from up in the crowd,” said Wendt. The Gaels won the Best Music award and the Best Percussion Line award in their group, he said.

The Gaels toughest competition came from the Immaculata High School band of Somerville. “They are also one of the best,” said Wendt. “Some weeks they win, some weeks Roxbury wins. It’s not a rivalry, like in a sports sense, but there’s a pretty tough competition between the two.”