Mohonasen Marching Band wins best in class at state contest (with photo gallery)

Despite a change in directors this year, the Mohonasen school band keeps marching to victory.

Despite a change in directors this year, the Mohonasen school band keeps marching to victory.

The Mohonasen Marching Band added to its impressive collection of trophies with a first-place finish in its division at the New York State Field Band Conference Championships held Oct. 31 at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome.

“We’re elated,” said first-year director Daniel Jones. “We’re really very, very proud. Kids really worked hard all year. I’m the new director. They’re getting used to me. I’m getting used to them and we still come out on top.”

The 110-member band and color guard topped a field of five bands in its division with its performance of “A New Day Celebration” by Aaron Copland. A total of 60 schools from around the state competed.

Jones said marching band sometimes comes with the stigma of students wearing tassels and carrying batons, but it is more complex than that. “Marching band has really grown up,” he said.

The 7 1⁄2-minute-long field show consisted of an elaborate series of maneuvers. The band had 10 large screens with painted backdrop that were moved behind and around them throughout the show to portray a rising sun, which matched the music’s theme.

Everything must go in clockwork precision, Jones said. The band members must be on and off the field within 13 minutes or they are penalized.

A panel of 10 judges, some on the field and some standing in a press box, grade the performance using set criteria.

For all its efforts, the school brought home the Governor’s Cup and a first-place plaque.

The award is even more impressive, Jones said, considering that the band got a late start in practicing. Jones was only hired in early August after 16 years in the Johnstown Central School District so the students started playing the third week of August. “We felt we were under the gun,” he said.

The marching band practiced on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

The band also earned three first-place awards and one second-place award during the regular season of competition.

Students in the rehearsal room can see the accomplishments of previous band members as dozens of trophies sit atop cabinets. David Bournazian directed the band from 1963 to 2004. Keith Bushey took over in 2004 until his retirement last year. Motivational messages like “pride, integrity and commitment” also adorn banners in the practice room.

Jones expressed thanks for the support of the parent chaperones and volunteers.

The band members do not have much time to celebrate their accomplishment. They’re in the midst of rehearsing for an upcoming series of performances, including marching in upcoming Veterans Day parades and the Gazette Holiday Parade, and performing their winter concert.

Eighteen-year-old senior Caleb Coffie, who plays tuba, said keeping in step is the most difficult part about playing in the marching band. He was confident that the team would take home the trophy from Syracuse.

“It wasn’t surprising for me,” he said.

Senior Brittany Rapp, 17, plays the clarinet in concert and stepped up to be a drum major, directing students in the field show. She said she was happy about the performance. “I was nervous. After all the hard work we put in, I was really proud.”

By contrast, fellow drum major Marissa Holliday, a 17-year-old senior, said she was not nervous at all.

“It’s so much fun. It doesn’t seem like work,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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