Marching Their Way Into A Musical School Year

Divya Loganathan, Contributing Writer

The Morris Hills Scarlet Knights Marching Band started with a bang this September with a successful and much-awaited for marching band season. Numerous incoming freshmen and experienced upperclassmen joined together this year to collaborate in a musical ensemble, dedicated to the spirit of Morris Hills. With COVID-19 affecting many of the plans for last year’s band, students have worked hard to perform at the best of their ability in competitions throughout New Jersey this season. 

This year, the marching band decided to bring Morris Hills to the heart of Louisiana by performing a New Orleans-inspired production called “NOLA.” The idea was to express the city’s traditions and most significant cultural aspects including a jazz funeral, voodoo, and of course, Mardi Gras. This production featured the songs “Amazing Grace,” “Just a Walk Closer with Thee,” “I Put a Spell on You,” “Hurricane Season,” and “When the Saints Come Marching In.” Mr. Richard Hartsuiker, marching band director, said that he really couldn’t choose a favorite song from that group because he “truly loved all of the music [they] performed.” Drum major Gavin Tomasco had a different opinion, stating , “I think the best one is “I Put a Spell On You.” It’s a bluesy, slow song… it’s our ballad. We’ve got a nice development of the show once we reach that song. We’ve also got incredible soloists… they played wonderfully this year… and the ensemble sound just blows you away.”  The marching band has gone above and beyond this past season production-wise. 

The marching band was recognized for its efforts during competition season.  During their first event, they won first place and all caption awards at Roxbury High School. They continued receiving awards for categories such as music performance, visual performance, effect, percussion, and the color guard. “The performances at competitions were “FANTASTIC!” Mr. Hartsuiker exclaimed. A huge accomplishment was being ranked 6th in the entire state for their group size at the New Jersey Marching Band Directors Association circuit. The marching band and color guard at Morris Hills did a wonderful job at competitive events, both musically and visually.

While all of these accomplishments are impressive, the biggest reward of the season was actually having a season. COVID-19 drastically affected the marching band as it has for almost every other day-to-day activity. Tomasco stressed that “COVID had a HUGE impact on our band. Last year, for example, we didn’t have a fully fielded show… we didn’t have a competitive season either, that’s probably the bigger thing. The impact that that has on this season is that it was a whole year of no playing and marching, and in a way, we lost some continuity across the team.” Mr. Hartsuiker explained that this fall was the most challenging, yet rewarding, season in his career because of the difficulties they had to face getting back on track. He said, “… this season was overwhelming at many times… but in the end, the marching band survived and flourished the year amidst all of the setbacks and challenges.” In the end, the result of our marching band was beautiful. Seeing students come together to perform and meeting other organizations as well, served as a vehicle for everyone to share something special with our community.