SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The South Plainfield High School (S.P.H.S.) Marching Band placed fourth out of twenty-two marching bands in the Atlantic Coast Championships (A.C.C.) Division 2-A on Nov. 2 in Harrisburg, P.A. East Coast marching bands traveled from as far away as Virginia and upstate New York for the final Tournament of Bands (T.O.B.) competition of the season.
“The students felt really good about the outcome of the competition,” said Director of Bands William Haughwout. “They felt that it was their best show yet. I was hoping that they would, and they felt that.”
“The performance was awesome,” said Sean Fergusen, Assistant Band Director. “I looked at the band’s first few performances of the show and I’m just almost amazed at how far they’ve come.”
“Overall, the guard was able to show how much they have improved and how far they’ve come since band camp when they couldn’t even do drop spins, they couldn’t do any of the basics,” said Emily Niemeyer, Color Guard Instructor. “They all came into this fresh, and they just performed an awesome show.”
On the morning of Nov. 2, the S.P.H.S. Marching Band had their final practice of the season on the field beside the high school, where they had traced the steps of their nine-minute show countless times before. The students were determined their final performance of the season would be a success.
“I’m really proud of them for the way that they approached the season and pushed until the very end,” Haughwout said.
Parents prepared food for the students as they had done every week before a performance, giving them the sustenance needed for long days and nights of competitions. As is the tradition before the final competition each year, seniors gave speeches recounting memories and peers who made am impact on their lives over the years.
“It was an emotional weekend as all the seniors were saying good bye,” Haughwout said. “It was bitter-sweet. The seniors are an amazing group. They all have their very individual personalities, and they’re a lot of fun to be around. They were really receptive of all the ideas that we were trying to go with for the show. The senior class this year is a really special group and I’m going to miss them a lot.”
“There’s a lot of seniors in the band this year, which really makes an impact of how well our band’s doing with all the experience and all the commitment and the student leadership team is mostly seniors," said Niemeyer. "That’s such a big part of this band, especially more than I’ve seen in other bands. They really help run the whole program,”
“It’s really sad to see the seniors go,” said Genesis Bosse, Junior Color Guard. “With two seniors specifically, Abby and Jenna, we started this together, and it’s going to be weird next year not having them there. It’s really sad, but it’s great to see them move on. I can’t wait to see where they go in life and what college they go to and how much they accomplish. I’m so proud of them.”
“One of the biggest things about the marching band is the family that you get to grow,” said Joseph Anesh, quad drums. “One of the coolest things about being a senior going from the bottom to the top, you really get to see how much you’ve personally grown over the years and how you’re in the position of your mentors of before. It’s really nice to see that you’re in charge of the new direction of the band and where it’s going to go from now on and to pass that information down.”
“I think my favorite thing about being in marching band is the togetherness that it brings, since freshman year, I wasn’t in marching band and I heard all of my friends who were in marching band talking about it, and I decided to join and then I started getting closer with them,” said Color Guard member Jenna Elmasry, senior. “I feel like if I hadn’t then I wouldn’t have been able to develop my relationship with them and I would probably be in a different place right now.”
“If you don’t put your heart and soul into something that you spend your time on, it’s not worth doing and so if you don’t do that with anything in your life, then you won’t have success out of college out of work at a job,” said Senior Sebastian Rohrer, saxophone. “A lot of people underestimate marching band to be honest. Marching band taught me how to have a good work ethic.”
"The seniors are an awesome group,” said Fergusen. “They really led the band this year, and they really were an integral part to our success. They really stepped it up this year, and they made such a huge difference with how the band moved forward in competitions and rehearsals.”
After a three-hour bus ride to Harrisburg on school busses, the marching band warmed up and prepared for their final field show of Another Brick in the Wall. Soon, the time had come for them to make their way to the gate and onto the field. The autumn sun cast its piercing rays across the field as the show began, and they proceeded to perform the best they ever have for a performance they would never forget.
“It was a great feeling after the last competition,” said Junior Sebastian Annamanthado, trumpeter. “It had a really good closing effect to it. We didn’t regret anything. There’s nothing we wanted to go back and change.”
After the show, the excitement was palpable.
“The color guard was all very excited because they caught every single on of their tosses in the show, which has actually never happened before,” Niemeyer said. “So they came a really far way, and they all came off the field very proud of themselves and I’m proud of them.
“You know how people say you have that moment, I think this was that moment for me,” said Bosse. “It was such a great performance. Even if I messed up it didn’t even matter because I was having so much fun. The whole marching band coming together as a family I’m so proud of all of us and how much we’ve accomplished this year.”
“It was a fantastic day,” said Sophomore Joel Arias, guitar. “We went out there and performed with everything we had. Pit did everything beautifully and I greatly enjoyed the season, greatly enjoyed the show. It was very fun. It was a good experience being the section leader and I just enjoyed it.”
“The experience was amazing,” said Sophomore Anisha Goel, clarinet. “When I walked out onto the field, I was kind of nervous in the beginning, but as soon as we played that first note, I knew this is a really good show and I heard the crowd just cheer so much. It was so much fun.”
After the last marching band performed. While scores were tallied, all the seniors from the bands marched into the stadium to Pomp and Circumstance, stopping before the stands. After T.O.B. thanked them for their dedication to their program, they announced the winners of the T.O.B. scholarship. Harrison Anesh received the highest scholarship awarded and was presented with $3,000. Anesh had written an essay about how marching band and TOB has affected his life.
“When I first heard them say ‘Harrison,’ I was like wow, that’s interesting, someone who won the scholarship has the same first name as me,” said Anesh. “Then when they said my full name and I realized it as me, I was very confused and taken aback because I wasn’t expecting to get the scholarship, but I’m really happy that I did because it’s gonna be tough paying for college and I’m very grateful that I won the scholarship.”
Drum majors and the color guard captains then marched onto the field for the award ceremony. Everyone in stadium held their breath as the announcer began with 22nd place. Each high school was called and accepted their trophy until they got to the final five. When South Plainfield was called to receive their fourth place trophy, parents and students erupted with excitement. They had received a season high score of 90.47.
“Everyone was really really happy about getting fourth place,” said Anesh. “We were unofficially ranked in 7th, so going from 7th in the Regionals to 4th in all of T.O.B., everyone was just super excited and ecstatic. We felt like we got what we deserved. Obviously, it’s not first place, but it doesn’t even matter, we all know that we did the best show that we possibly could have done and the score reflected that, and we broke 90. So it was a good moment for everyone, everyone was just really happy. It was a good way to end the season.”
The seniors have passed the baton, so to speak, to the junior class and plans for next Fall’s field show will begin in the coming months.
“We really liked what we did, and we were really happy with the outcome,” Annamanthado said. “Right now, juniors like me are thinking about the band next year and how we’re going to make it and what examples we’re going to set and ideas we have, so we’re looking forward to that, but we had a great year. We’re going to miss the seniors, but it was a great closing.”
“We did really well and it’s a good lead up for the future,” said Haughwout.
“We’ll all miss the seniors,” said Junior Joseph Feeney, clarinet. “Most of my close friends will be graduating this Spring, but the juniors have the responsibility of building on what the seniors helped create. We all have a legacy to leave, and we’re looking forward to leading the marching band next year and leaving our own legacy.”
This marching band season brought the S.P.H.S. Marching Band success, deepened friendships and incredible shared experiences.
“I just moved to South Plainfield this year, so this was my first time getting comfortable with marching band,” said Kori Caicedo, sophomore percussion. “I didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I did, but I got to create a family so quickly through music and with people that have the same passion as me. It was really good and comforting to see other kids that had the same fire that I had. It really made me feel more at home in a place that I had no idea existed.”
“Marching provides a sense of family,” said Senior Patrick Joyner, bass drum. “It’s a home away from home. After spending hours and hours with the same people, you become more than high school friends. You have lasting friendships and there’s a sense of unity. I truly love and value every single one of them because they impacted my life in ways they might not even know.”
“My experience in marching band has really helped me to grow, not only as a musician, but as a person in confidence, in work ethic,” said Senior Leisel Co, Drum Major. “It has helped me so much throughout all the areas of my life to develop my skills as a person, as in leading people, interacting with people. It has helped me grow in confidence as I have found people who have been supportive of me and I’ve just been really thankful for this whole experience that I had gotten to meet all of these people who helped impact me for the better.”
“A majority of my personality actually came from Marching Band,” said Senior April Nguyen, pit member. “Most of my friends are from marching band. It’s the foundation of my high school career. I didn’t really know anyone going into high school, so I was like, I’ll just join the marching band because I knew all of my friends were. And it kind of grew into this giant circle of family and it’s really nice. I’m sad to be graduating, but I think they’ll be ok, they’ll be alright.”
“My favorite part of marching band are the connections you make with people because I don’t know if I would know a lot of the people I know today if I didn’t do marching band freshman year,” said Senior Sara Dabul, trumpet.
“We all like doing something together and it’s hard to have that because we’re all different in our own ways,” said Senior Johnathon Mohan, soprano saxophone. “So to have us all some together and do one thing, which is music and marching, it’s nice to have us all together.”
Little compares to the relationships forged while going through competitions and spending so much time together, but those involved in marching band form memories that last forever.
“As the four years went by and more and more people left, I expected myself to feel more alone as time went on,” said Senior Xavier Brown, percussion. “But little did I know that I’d find more friends in the grades below me than the grades above me. The seniors always told me those four years are going to go by in the blink of an eye, and I was like yeah right, that’s not going to happen, and then here I am, where did the time go?”
“Marching band has given me so many amazing experiences that will last me the rest of my life, especially friendships that I will forever be grateful for,” said Senior Abigail Lapp, color guard.
“This has been a great venture for the kids and for the parents,” said Parent Tam H. Nguyen, Booster of the Musical Arts. “I hope this would be an opportunity of a lifetime for them to remember, especially for the seniors who will be going their separate ways.”
“They truly are a special band and I would not trade anything in the world to have it any other way,” said Fergusen. “This is the outcome I’ve always wanted. I just wanted the kids to have the time of their lives and have an awesome performance, and they’ve done all of that and I commend them. I’m so excited for what they can do in the future, both here and beyond.”