Weehawken Music Director Steve Spinosa oversees the school's marching band with a lot of pride. He loves to give his band the chance to perform for everyone and anyone, long after the general marching band season has ended.
"We never put away the uniforms," Spinosa said. "The uniforms may have been cleaned since the end of the season, but we're always ready to play."
Recently, Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, who has been appointed in charge of the Hudson County delegation to attend Jim McGreevey's inaugural as the new governor, thought about choosing a marching band to best represent Hudson County at the big day in Trenton Tuesday.
Without hesitation, Fitzgibbons thought of the Weehawken High marching band. Fitzgibbons reached out to Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
"The call came to me out of the blue," Turner said. "Maurice asked if our band would be interested in performing and I said, 'Of course.' I think it's a great honor and it's a wonderful way to showcase our very talented band. Maurice had seen our band perform before and he thought that they would be perfect for the inauguration."
When Spinosa received word from Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan that the Weehawken band had been chosen to perform at McGreevey's inaugural, he was elated.
"It's unbelievable," Spinosa said. "We're such a small school and with all the bigger schools out there, it's amazing. I didn't believe it at first, but then I said, 'OK, what do we have to do?'"
The Weehawken High School marching band will be one of 10 New Jersey high school bands performing in the inaugural parade, right after McGreevey takes the oath of office as the new governor.
The band will march about a mile along Warren Street in Trenton, then head to West State Street, where they will march in front of the promenade and perform a number there, then continue on with the rest of the parade.
Spinosa said that he told the 60 members of the band the good news, then gathered them together for some practice sessions.
"It's a tremendous honor, so we have to be ready," Spinosa said. "I think we're going to stay with the patriotic theme, with perhaps a surprise here and there along the way. We figured that the patriotic theme is more apropos."
Added Spinosa, "I'm very excited for the students, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. When will they ever get another chance to perform at a governor's inauguration?"
The Weehawken High School band performed twice for former Gov. Christie Whitman, but both times were when she made appearances in Weehawken, at Hamilton Plaza seven years ago and during a campaign appearance at Town Hall four years ago.
To some of the band members, this has to be considered as a just reward for an injustice that happened a year ago. The band was all set to perform in the U.S. National Marching Band competition at Giants Stadium in November of 2000, but the threat of inclement weather postponed the entire competition, leaving the members of the band with no competition to play for.
"That was a big downer for us," said senior Sarah Murphy, who has been a member of the band since eighth grade. "That competition was a really big deal for us and we were all so disappointed when we couldn't go. Having the chance to play at the inaugural makes up for it."
Murphy, who plays the alto saxophone, said that performing will give the band a chance for major recognition.
"We're going to get a chance to make a name for ourselves," Murphy said. "Everyone will get a chance to see what we can do and what we've done. It's really great for our program to receive such an honor. As a group, the band loves going on field trips like this. It's a great way for us to spend more time together. We're getting a chance to represent Weehawken and Hudson County and that's a reason to be very proud."
McLellan said that he was very pleased to be able to send the band to the inaugural.
"Being one of the 10 bands to perform during the inaugural is quite an honor," McLellan said. "It's the first time we've ever done something of this magnitude. We are totally elated and consider it as a distinct honor. The kids have worked hard and deserve this. I know the level of their excitement is fantastic."
Spinosa was beaming with pride.
"It really makes me feel good that the kids are being rewarded," Spinosa said. "That's my reward. As long as the students are successful, then I get my reward."