WHS Marching Band took home the state championship title

New members proved to be top brass in a competitive division

(L-R) Drum major Luna Garcia, band members Sandy Cheplic and Leivys Garcia. (Photo courtesy Gabrielle Jonas)
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(L-R) Drum major Luna Garcia, band members Sandy Cheplic and Leivys Garcia. (Photo courtesy Gabrielle Jonas)

Weehawken High School’s marching band recently took home a state championship title at the USBands Division IIA competition. With a score of 85.69, the band was a cut above all competition in their division for the seventh time in the past eight years.

“Everybody feels incredible,” Director Ryan Gorman said. “The students had their best performance of the year at the State Championships and knew that they left it all out on the field. Once they found out they won, it was an extremely exciting and emotional moment, particularly for our new members.”

The show was a collection of Motown’s greatest hits, including The Supremes’ “Keep Me Hangin’ On,” Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” The Temptations’ “Get Ready” and “My Girl,” and Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” and “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Gorman said the selections were made for their potential to mesh well with visuals and design concepts.

Seven judges decided that the ensemble had a combination of the best music, visual effect, and overall effect, based on on instrumental prowess, choreography, and a confident presence. This was the first year for about half the ensemble.

“One of the crazy things about this season is that we have a lot of first-time members,” Gorman said. “We have new members in percussion, and in every single wind section. More than half of the marching band are first-timers. The color guard was entirely made up of first-time participants, and yet the color guard received awards all season. The fact that we have so many first-time members and yet still have done such a fantastic job in a high division is to their immense credit.”

“They have battled mental and physical fatigue, hot, cold, wet and windy weather conditions.” — Ryan Gorman

To become top notch, Weehawken high schoolers rehearsed diligently. Members had to practice three days each week after school, and performed in competitions every weekend, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday.

“They have battled mental and physical fatigue, hot, cold, wet and windy weather conditions throughout the past two months, and managed to balance full academic workloads, extracurricular activities, and athletic team workloads in addition to their busy schedules as band members,” Gorman said.

“I feel especially thrilled for our seniors. They are leaders and the members that everyone looks up to in the band, and for them to get to close out the final chapter of their band careers here at Weehawken High School with a state championship was very emotional and meant a tremendous amount to them.”

Students attended a band camp where they practiced through the sweltering heat in the latter half of August for 10 hours daily, shortly before the competition schedule began.

Gorman said that neither he nor the band’s members had any strong expectations leading up to the decision. “It was hard sitting through awards announcements,” Gorman said. “Everybody was very anxious.”

2019 was Gorman’s second year leading the marching band. This year, he upped the ante for the troupe, by increasing the number of members the band had from 38 to 51 (excluding the pit crew), thereby entering a more competitive division. While the band’s seasonal win-loss record wasn’t exceptional compared to years spent in the prior division, that risk yielded a great reward by giving the bigger-than-ever group a chance to prove victorious in a tougher field of players.

Gorman said that there was a wide array of factors that went into the win. He said that much of it had to do with the students embracing one another and embodying a band family, the support of parents at events near and far, and the special support of school and community members including Principal Robert Ferullo, Vice Principal Nicholas DeStefano, Superintendent Eric Crespo, the Board of Education, Mayor Richard Turner and the Weehawken Council, and the community at large.

The band staff included assistant director Dave Ingersoll, coordinator/ drill designer George Lavelle, color guard instructors Lori Law and Elizabeth Jessen, percussion instructor Tom Mulvaney, and visual instructor Christopher Camizzi.

The Weehawken High School Marching Band will have competed at the USBands Group IIA national championship in Allentown, Pa. by press time. This story will be updated with their results.

The winning performance can be seen on Christopher Camizzi’s YouTube channel:

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