by Jonathan Wood
JACKSON-All one had to do was walk outside this past Saturday, take a deep breath, look at the deep blue sky and feel that it was the perfect day. Well, the Jackson Memorial HS Jaguar Marching Band had their own ideas on what a perfect day would look like. To the 183 members of the band, Saturday October 28, 2017 will always be remembered for something other than the beautiful weather. It will be remembered as the day they won the US Bands Group VI-A New Jersey State Championship at Highpoint Solutions Stadium on the campus of Rutgers University. In addition to winning the state title, the Jaguars also won the captions of best music, best overall effect and best percussion.
Their day began at 7:30 a.m. as they started their warm-ups, sectionals and eventually their full ensemble rehearsal prior to boarding their buses at 11:00 a.m. for their journey up to Rutgers. Once there, they suited up, grabbed their instruments and continued their preparations for their performance. Seeded number one going into the championship, the Jaguars were the last band to perform and stepped onto the field at 2:41 p.m. They seized the moment, put their best foot forward and delivered a performance worthy of a state title. It was the performance that their directors, their advisors and all of their parents knew was possible.
Competing in a group of five very talented marching bands from around the state, there was a lot of anxiousness as the scores and positions were announced. Once the second placed band was announced, the Jags all knew it was their day. When they finally heard the announcer say “your 2017 Group VI-A NJ State Champions, Jackson Memorial High School”, the stadium erupted with cheers from the band, the staff and all of their fans. The Jaguar faithful travel far and wide to see their favorite band. Parents, families, friends and alumni have a reputation of filling the seats on the road and they were out in full force at Rutgers. There were lots of high-fives, hugs and tears of joy as the band celebrated their victory. Reflecting on the victory Drum Major Matt Ebersole said, “It was a surreal moment. When they announced us as the state champs and gave us the banner and the trophy, the biggest smile came across my face and I couldn’t contain myself. Winning on that stage, with this group of people is something I’ll never forget.”
The Jaguar Marching Band arrived home in style. As their buses pulled off of I-195 and into town they were met by five fire trucks from the local volunteer firehouses. They escorted the band back to the school with lights flashing and sirens blaring. It was a worthy and emotional welcome home for the state champs.
Speaking on what it takes to make all of this happen, Asst. Band Director Eric Ficarra states, “It is a long, strenuous process, but there is no more joyous feeling in the world than getting recognition for hard work, and I am thrilled that our students can now share in that sensation after this weekend! I am incredibly proud of this design team and inspired by our students for what we were all able to produce this season.” Band Director Jason Diaz expressed his satisfaction by saying, “What an honor it is to represent the Band Community, Jackson Memorial High School and the Township of Jackson! The students, Band Staff and Parent Organization have put together a memorable performance that will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to see what this band produces this weekend in Allentown.
The Jaguars’ story hopefully has more chapter to write as they head to Allentown, Pa. on Saturday November 4th to compete in the US Bands National Championship. Drum Captain Benjamin Baggerly is confident about his band’s chances. He states “We have one more to go and we will not fall short of greatness, we will simply do our best.” Their rivals will be waiting for them, the Jags will be ready!