By Connor Beach
When the Huntington Blue Devils Marching Band (HBDMB) traveled to Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome for the New York State Field Band Conference Championships, all 120 members of the band and color guard knew the goal was to produce their best performance of the season when it really counted, and that’s exactly what they did.
“The kids work incredibly hard to have their best performance of the season up at the Carrier Dome in their final show, and they truly achieved that this year,” HBDMB Director Brian Stellato said.
HBDMB competed in Large School Division 2 of the state championship on Oct. 27, and finished in second place out of nine schools from across the state with a score of 88.75, just 1.25 points behind eventual winner, Cicero-North Syracuse.
Work on this year’s performance, entitled “Americana,” began around the holiday season last year. Stellato said the staff began writing the music and putting together the show for the kids, which was followed by an interest meeting in April when the band began to take shape.
“The actual 2017 group started rehearsing in July and early August, and then in the end of August we have two weeks of band camp where the kids learn the whole show top to bottom,” Stellato said.
Huntington residents may be able to hear the band practicing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the high school to prepare for the weekend competitions that occur throughout the season in the run up to the state championships.
“This year it was between 70 to 80 drill sets, meaning between 70 to 80 memorized positions, that the kids have to figure out their individual responsibilities for that particular movement,” Stellato explained.
Much of the band’s rehearsal time is divided between “cleaning” the drills and practicing and improving the music.
The marching band is open to Huntington students from eighth grade up through high school seniors, and is led not only by Stellato and assistant band director Jennifer Schmelter, but also by a group of dedicated students.
Stellato praised the work of this year’s drum majors, junior Katie Riley and seniors Jamie Rosenbauer and Mardnie Mentor, as well as senior field major, Adina Kirkland.
“The drum majors and the field major are the head student leaders of the band,” Stellato said.
HBDMB’s score of 88.75 in the Large School Division 2 was its highest to date, and Stellato said the positivity has been with the band all season.
“The kids worked incredibly hard, and they all came together,” Stellato said. “It was one of those seasons that the staff looks around and says, ‘This is why we do this every year.’”
November is the month that Stellato and his staff use to decompress before work starts again on the 2018 performance at the end of December.
“It was a really positive season; we always tell the kids that the results are icing on the cake." Stellato said. "This year the results worked out well, but it’s really about the experience and the life skills that this kind of thing really emphasizes."