The North Bergen High School Marching Band scored an impressive success this season, taking the second highest score the school has ever received in competition.
On Nov. 7 they achieved 16th place at the United States Scholastic Band Association (USSBA) Northern States Championship for division group 3A, out of 22 other bands from the tri-state area. While they didn’t get first place, their 86.8 score was the second-highest in school history, and amongst intense competition the separation of points was often only three-tenths of a difference.
NBHS marching band competed against bands similar in size, which is how the USSBA designates divisions. Co-Band Director Brian Bonacci said that while size is mandated, income levels aren’t, so often the band was up against bands that have vast budgets.
“We’re definitely the underdogs.” – Linda Ramirez
“We’re definitely the underdogs, because we show up in our rental truck and our big yellow school bus and our not-so-great instruments, but we go there and we rip it and we show everybody this is what we can do,” said Linda Ramirez, a junior who plays the marimba and is also a drum major and conductor for the band.
Bonacci said that since most of the marching band consists of juniors, they hope to return next year and surpass the school’s record, which hasn’t been broken since 2005.
A season of growth
“We had some emotional rough starts,” said Bonacci. Early this season, one of the band’s students went into cardiac arrest at a game and had to be revived. The band dedicated their season to her, and at last week’s championships she returned and played.
However, the band made progressions of approximately five points at each of the five competitions they participated in, and that normally doesn’t happen, he said.
Avery Perez is a sophomore who transferred to the school a few weeks ago and was surprised by the band’s determination. She couldn’t believe how quickly their scores grew.
At a competition in Bricktown, N.J. the band was awarded Best Overall Music for their performance.
“We didn’t know that we even won it and taking the award for best music…we were astonished,” said Melissa Osorio, a junior who plays clarinet and is also a drum major for the band.
Bonacci said forming a parent association for the band, which hasn’t occurred in a few years, truly helped their season. They got Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill to donate lunch for the students last week for their competition, as well as promoted donations from other local businesses.
‘What it is to compete’
Bonacci also attributed their success to fellow band director Michael Connor, as well as the instructors for visual tech Paulino Jimenez, color guard coaches Yvonne Gonzalez and Sara Greenswig, and percussion instructors Mike Farnese, Ana Garcia, and Leo DeJesus, for the band’s success. And of course, the student’s dedication this year enabled their high scores.
“They work together toward a common goal and we teach them that no matter where they are, they stand toe-to-toe with people that are the cream of the crop of New Jersey and they walk away no worse,” said Bonacci. “They learn what it is to compete and to excel solely on their own hard work.”
Senior Michelle Armas, a clarinet player, was sad that the band wouldn’t be able to break the record, but was proud of what they were able to accomplish this year.
While the marching band season is over, the band was already looking toward the future, starting with playing at the high school football team’s championship game this weekend. If the school is successful, they could play at Giant Stadium this winter.
Osorio said that the main topic of conversation in the band right now is what they will achieve next year.
“Hopefully next year we will be even better,” said Perez.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.