By Julio Avila
The crowd at Town Hall Tuesday gave the Walt Whitman High School’s Wildcat Marching Band a round of applause, but it was not for one of its outstanding performances. This time, it was to acknowledge a big recent achievement: capturing its first New York State band championship.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, a Walt Whitman High School alum, introduced the roughly 70-member band and congratulated the band on its “show-stopping performance” before a town board meeting.
The band competed Oct. 10 in Manhasset, receiving a score of 78.075 and awards for best visual performance, music and effects. The band’s efforts led it to the state championship on Oct. 18 in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where the band scored 86.4, taking top honors in the same three categories, as well as and color guard.
Just as Cuthbertson gave one last congratulatory remark, attendees burst into applause that lasted about two minutes.
Winning the championship was not only significant to the students, but to the co-band directors Dennis Pettas and Caitlin Coumatos, as well.
“It’s all about seeing the smiles on the students’ faces,” said Pettas, who has been co-band director with Coumatos for two years. Pettas said spending time with the students, helping them mature, develop and succeed at something they worked so hard on “is priceless.”
All the hard work and hopes came to fruition, John Murphy, the school’s principal said. “It was a phenomenal performance,” he said of the band’s winning effort at the championships.
This is Murphy’s first year at Whitman, coming from Brentwood High School, a school that has a “strong” music program, he said. Murphy said he follows the group on their performances and lauded the efforts of the band directors, students and parents who volunteered their time.
But the students are still pressed for time as Coumatos pointed out that most band members are honor students. Performing with the band while studying for classes and participating in activities such as sports will help them “take on multiple responsibilities and still succeed at everything,” Coumatos said.
“It’s just finding a healthy balance to be able to commit their time to everything,” Coumatos said.
Moving forward, the band is “constantly building. We’re constantly looking at just advancing the program and looking into just new ways to help them succeed,” Pettas said.
For the band’s performances, visit LongIslanderNews.com to access audio clips on this story’s online version.