Arts & Entertainment

South Plainfield Marching Band Triumphs at Woodbridge Competition, Off To State Championships Tomorrow

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -  The South Plainfield Marching Band took Second Place out of twenty Marching Bands this past weekend at The Third Annual Barrons Classic Competition at Woodbridge High School.  The Marching Band also received awards for Best Music and Best Percussion.  With a high score of 88.04 points, the victory puts the South Plainfield Marching Band in fourth place in the entire nine-state mid-Atlantic Region.  All eyes are on the Marching Band as they prepare for their final competition in the Tournament of Bands Championships this Sunday at West Essex High School, where they will be taking to the field to perform at 2:15 pm sharp to compete for first place in the Region.

“The performance at this past competition was the best that they’ve ever done,” said Marching Band Director William Haughwout reflecting on the victory.  “It’s taken a lot of work, time and dedication.”

“I think the Marching Band did phenomenal at the Woodbridge Competition,” said Assistant Band Director of Marching Band Sean Ferguson. “Their performance was high energy and had a lot of emotion there. The kids really enjoyed it.  You could see it on their faces.”

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The Marching Band itself is smaller this year then in past years, however, Co-Drum Major Ryan Berardi said, “Even though we shrunk in size, we didn't’t shrink in power.  We did really well.”

“That’s probably the best performance I have had in all three years,” said Senior Stephanie Waters.  “That was such a good show and I was so proud of everybody.  I really wasn't’t expecting 88.  I’m so proud of us!”

Aside from taking home the Second Place Trophy on Saturday, the Marching Band was awarded Best Music and Best Percussion.  The Best Percussion Award was particularly significant.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, almost half of the drumline was unable to attend the band’s six day intensive camp in August, where students spent twelve hour days learning the critical formations of the performance.

“I was so happy to see the drumline win the best percussion award because they deserved it and they earned it,” said Volunteer Percussion Instructor Scott Carey, who affectionately refers to himself as ‘Drum Dad.’  “The drumline overcame a lot of adversity this year and I am extremely proud of them.  They made a commitment and they kept it.  They did a tremendous job learning the music on their own and then brought it back to the band so I’m extremely proud of them.” 

This year, the Marching Band has entered the Tournament of Bands (TOB), a nonprofit educational organization that provides competitive arenas for hundreds of marching bands from September through November each year.  The TOB divides Marching Bands into four categories depending on the size of the band in order to ensure fairness. South Plainfield is currently in fourth place in the Region with 88.04 points and is the number one seed in their Category of 2A, which includes forty-two Marching Bands across nine states.

   “They did really well this weekend and next week is our championship,” said Band Parent Mike Sesta.  “They’ll be going up against a handful of bands, but more importantly, they’re going up against the score.  If they get first place or fourth place, the score is what counts in that group.  The kids are really psyched about it so hopefully they get a good score.”

“The way the scoring works is it’s broken down into two sections, a visual portion and then a music portion.  Then they have their own sub-categories,” explained Ferguson.  “They get scored based on how effective the show is, how clean it is and the level of content verses the achievement of the content.  They’ve been scoring really well in all of those.”

The South Plainfield Marching Band is comprised of approximately fifty students in the band portion and seventeen students in the Color Guard.  Their strength comes from their dedication to performing their best and to each other.

“The thing I love most about the Marching Band is the kids and their ability to still be themselves and be part of something so awesome,” said Band Parent and Board of Education member Kimberly Anesh.  “Even though they all wear the same uniform you can see the individuality of the students.”

“In four years, we’ve come a long way,”  added Stephanie Waters reflecting nostalgically on her high school Marching Band experience.  “I started out being a shy Freshman.  I didn’t like being in band, but over time you just meet these awesome people and you become like a family.  I love everything about Marching Band.  I love the people.  I love performing. I’m going to miss all of it.”

“I’m a Freshman so this is my first year,” said Freshman Jessenia Moreno, “Marching Band has been an amazing experience.  I’m glad I joined.  I’m sad that all the seniors are leaving because they’re part of the family and it tears my heart to see them walk away.”

The time that the students devote to perfecting their show is physically and emotionally demanding as students practice several evenings a week for hours on end, perform at every football game and spend long days of the weekends at competitions hours away.

“Most of these kids have A.M. Band Class so they have to be at school at 7:10am every day,” said Band Parent Trinette Dungee.  “On a Fridays before football games, they stay at school the whole day.  They don’t go home because they practice after school, eat there and then they suit up and march over to the field for the football games or get ready to travel to the away games.  Then the next day, they’re up early practicing, getting ready for a competition where they might not perform until late in the day.  For them to do that with the amount of energy they bring out to the field, it’s very impressive. I don’t think a lot of people realize how physical marching band is.”

“It’s amazing how much time they put into a seven minute show,” added Mr. Haughwout.  “We’ve been working since August for just this seven minutes and each time we make it better.”

Competitions also foster good sportsmanship and a bond that will last for years to come.

“I am always amazed by the support all the bands give to each other,” added Anesh.  “All the schools cheer for each other during performances and it's not uncommon for one school to help out another with a broken instrument or piece of equipment.”

“I’m in Track too and there you don’t cheer for the other schools,” said Senior Stephanie Waters.  “Here, you see all of these different schools and different shows.  I love that you can cheer for the other schools and encourage everyone to be the best they can.”

“As happy as I was to see the drumline win an award, it makes me even happier to see the friendships that develop over the season and the years,”  added Carey.  “They will have memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.  I played in the drumline in the mid-eighties.  We develop a special bond.  I had SPHS drummers from the 70s, 80s and 2003 help me and the kids this year.  It’s very cool to see us all giving back and bringing up the next generation of musicians.”

With months of hard work under their belts, the Marching Band is ready for Sunday’s championship challenge.

“We’re going into the State Championships this weekend as the number one seed,” added Persad.  “We started off at the bottom of the barrel the beginning of the season and then the kids worked so hard and improved every week.  Their scores have shown it and now, as a result, we’re going number one.  So hopefully, we’ll keep that going and win.”

“Hopefully, at this competition, we’ll bring back first place because it would be such an honor to end the season with first place and make the year really great,” added Jessenia Moreno. “I hope all the Seniors enjoy their last competition of marching band. I love them all.”

“This is the final push,”  added Ferguson.  “This final week is all they have pretty much with each other for this show.  After that there’s no more competitions so this is it for them.  They’ve been putting in all the work and I’m very excited for them.”

“I have no doubt that we could get first place,” added Stephanie Waters.  “We’re only one point behind the top band and I have no doubt that together we can do it.”

“The Marching Band has come so far and they’ve worked so hard,” added Haughwout with admiration.  “It shows true passion, perseverance and grit to put all that work into such a little time on the field.  I believe in them.”

The South Plainfield Marching Band’s final performance in competition will be Sunday October 22nd at exactly 2:15pm at West Essex High School located at 65 West Greenbrook Road, North Caldwell, NJ 07006.  Tickets can be purchased at the competition for $10 for adults and $8 for students.

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