• Joseph F. Berenato

High school band marches to victory


(l-r): Nicole Towne, Joshua Weikle, Romeo Lerza, Joseph Linneman and Alexa Erkman hold the banner and trophy after becoming 2021 state champions. (Courtesy Photo)

The Hammonton High School Marching Band is the 2021 Tournament of Bands (TOB) Group 1A New Jersey state champion.


“This was an amazing season,” Band Director Tim White told The Gazette.


White said thigh-school-band-marches-to-victoryhat, when band season started in July, they “never thought we would achieve all that we did this season.”


“We had our typical Tuesday/Thursday rehearsals, then we got ready for the Mt. Carmel procession on July 16. In August, we had band camp; we did one week of band camp this year. With all the rehearsals, we kept it all outside, just to be proactive and to follow all the different COVID guidelines and restrictions ... In our minds, as a staff, we were just hoping to get through the season; we just wanted to be safe, number one, with everything—with our precautions at rehearsal and being outside,” White said.


Band Director Tim White holds a plaque and poses along with members of the band after coming in fifth place at Atlantic Coast Championships. (Courtesy Photo)

This year’s show was titled “Photograph,” and featured “Story of My Life” by One Direction, “Photograph” by Def Leppard, “Freeze Frame” by J. Geils Band and “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran.


“The show was upbeat, fun, easily recognizable and the students had a blast performing it. We also had picture frames as props on the football field that visually represented a photograph,” White said.


White said that both the music and the show itself had been planned in late 2019.


“This was the show that we were supposed to have had in 2020—but COVID happened. All the competitions got shut down during that year. We decided to stick with the same show, and we did it. We had band camp, and we didn’t think, on our radar, we were going to be as successful as we were. The kids worked really hard, the music came together and the kids sounded great,” White said.


The Hammonton High School Marching Band entered the field for competition. (Courtesy Photo)

White said that the students were happy to once more participate in rehearsals, football games, community parades and competitions.


“They all wanted to be the best that they could be, and it showed. Each week, the staff and I always told the band to give their absolute best, strive for personal excellence, beat their score from the week before and to leave it all on the field during their performances. The kids did just that,” White said.


This past season, White said, there were nine band competitions. The Hammonton High School Marching Band won the first of the season and began to place in second or third in subsequent competitions, being bested by Mainland Regional High School and Winslow Township High School.


“It pushed us, as a staff, and it pushed the kids to really work hard and to double-down on the rehearsals. The kids won Region I Chapter Championships in 2019, so a lot of our seniors knew what it took to win a championship. It got to the point, in the end of September and early October, where we started to do really well, and we started to come back into first place at our local competitions. It was one of those moments where you take the kids aside, and you’re like, ‘Hey, we’re this close. Do you want to work for it? Do you want to try to see if we can win state championships?’ The kids were onboard,” White said.


The Hammonton High School Marching Band performed their 2021 show, “Photograph.” (Courtesy Photo)

White said that, at the Group 1A State Championships—held at Cherokee High School in Marlton, N.J. on October 30—the show “peaked at the right time.”


“The kids put on one heck of a show. It was really good,” White said.


The Hammonton High School came in with a score of 93.43 and won first place as state champions, tying with Winslow Township High School.


“I also want to give a special shout out to Winslow for their success this season, as they pushed us every week to be better. Each week, Hammonton, Winslow and Mainland were tenths of a point apart from each other ... We had great competition each week, and our students peaked and put on a fabulous performance at States and rose to the top,” White said.


White said that competition season continued the next day at TOB’s Atlantic Coast Championships.


“We also traveled to Harrisburg, Pa. on Sunday, Oct. 31 and competed against 18 other bands from the Atlantic Coast. We placed fifth out of 18 bands with a score of 92.04,” White said.


Members of the color guard pose. (Courtesy Photo)

White said that he is extremely proud of the students, especially with the challenges presented during the school shutdown in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


“We in the instrumental and the choral department did the best that we could to keep our programs going through all of that. We put on virtual winter holiday concerts and virtual spring concerts, and I think that helped to where, when things started to come back to normal—even though it’s not 100 percent normal—with Tournament of Bands allowing competitions to happen, the kids were prepared to go out,” White said.


White said the initial goal was to have a rebuilding year until they noticed how competitive the other bands were.


“That, in turn, made our kids and our staff buckle down even more and get more competitive ourselves, and demand more in terms of visual design, the drill and the musicality of the show. The kids had a taste for what it was, in 2019, to win Region I Chapter Championships, and they applied all that to winning States,” White said.


White expressed his gratitude to both the high school administration and to the Hammonton Board of Education for their continued support of the program.


“They are always there supporting us, and we are so appreciative of them,” White said.


White also credits part of the success of the season to the band booster organization, band parents and alumni.


“Every show, we would show up with maybe 10 to 20 parents to help with our props. With the show being a photograph, we had a giant, empty picture frame and we had three other picture frames. We were concerned about the kids and the visual design of the show and the music of the show, but it was the alumni and the parents who helped build the props, they maintained the props and, at the competitions, they were in charge of putting them together, dragging them onto the field and off the field. It was a well-oiled machine. Without the band boosters, the parents and the alumni who helped, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were,” White said.


The band’s show incorporated large frames to further the show’s motif. (Courtesy Photo)

White noted the continued importance that band plays in the lives of all those involved.


“Band is like a second family to many of our students, alumni, parents and staff members,” White said.


Senior Leigh-Anne Jones, who plays the alto saxophone, agreed with White.


“After five years in this program, I’ve made some of my closest friends and best memories. I’m so proud of the group and everything we’ve accomplished together,” Jones said.


Eighth-grade trumpet-player Virginia Echevarria said that this was her first year with marching band and found it “kind of scary at first.”


“The more I was there, the more I started to feel like it was my second home. To the seniors I just want to say thank you for making this year good, and hope it will be for when other people start to join,” Echevarria said.


Senior Donavan Spencer, who plays the tenor saxophone, said that this year was “amazing.”


“I was truly happy to go out with a bang. It was great being on the field with all of my friends—and some new kids that I grew a great relationship with. Mr. White has been and will continue to be one of the best band directors I have ever had—and I’m so thankful to be able to participate with all of my friends,” Spencer said.


Joey Linneman, a senior who plays in the backfield pit, said that “Photograph” was pleasing all around.


“Our show was beautifully designed; the music was catchy and playing it was highly enjoyable,” Linneman said.


Color Guard member Katherine Julia, a senior, said that all of the students’ hard work paid off.


“The season was filled with a lot of hard working days and time consumed making us better, but it was also filled with so much laughter and jokes that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Julia said.