by Jonathan Wood
The Jackson Memorial High School Jaguar Marching Band are the US Bands Group VI-A National Champions!!! On Saturday, November 4th in Allentown Pa., they put on the show of a lifetime, outperforming the other talented bands in their group to grab the national title as well as winning the captions of best music and best overall effect. With that comes the national championship banner and the prized national championship trophy, all 10 foot 4 inches of it. This all comes on the heels of their NJ State Championship win the week before, an unprecedented double for the school. The school’s Asst. Band Director Eric Ficarra reflected, “Winning these titles these past two weekends is not only a reflection of the work that the instructional staff, students, and Band Parent organization have put in, but also a reflection of the incredible support we receive for our programs from the Jackson community. We could not do what we do without the network of support we have in all those who contribute to our success. It is truly an honor to be a part of this legacy, and it is just simply euphoric to take home the National Championship with who we now know to be the best band around!” For the second straight week the Jaguars received the royal treatment upon arriving home. As they exited the NJ Turnpike they were met by the NJ State Police for an escort down I-195 and as they arrived in town they were passed off to vehicles from the Jackson police department, numerous fire houses and EMT services. It was a well-deserved welcome home for the National Champs.
It all started back in January, when the students in the percussion section began their preparations for a show that wouldn’t “premiere” until late August. As winter turned into spring, other sections started to familiarize themselves with the music and drill that would eventually lead to one of the most decorated seasons the Jaguars have ever had. Reflecting on the victories and their place in the band’s history, Senior Drum Major Vance Balce states, “It was unreal. Seeing the giant smiles and tears on my friend’s faces when we received that trophy was something I’ll never forget. I let the moment unfold for itself and embraced it. I felt whole. Everything we endured, everything we fought for, every note we played, and every step we took, I could feel all of it being finally paid off with everyone’s cheers resonating throughout the stadium. We had made history in our books, and I couldn’t have been any prouder of this journey that we finished together, as a family.”
While most of us prefer the feeling of a warm summer evening, the Jaguar family will always have great memories of “On a Cold Winter’s Night.” The program was based on classical Christmas and winter themed compositions and the difficulty and beauty of the music was a determining factor in the band’s two championships as they won best music captions at both competitions. As great as the music may be, the visual aspect is equally as important. Band Director Jason Diaz explains, “After putting all the compositions together, there were two visions that kept popping in our head; the first were images of bare tree branches blowing in the wind and the second was the color scheme of the Disney animated fllm “Frozen”. With all these basic elements, “On a Cold Winter’s Night” was born and developed into an award winning program.”
Once the program is set, it isn’t only about learning and perfecting the show. Parents on the equipment crew spend hours upon hours building and painting props, loading and unloading trucks and making sure the band has everything they need. Parents on the hospitality crew make sure the band, the staff and the crew are all fed and hydrated for their long competition days. The chaperones are there to make sure the kids are all safe and where they need to be. It is all about family and it takes a family to win a championship. “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, the band’s signature song even reflects this sense of family. After the victory everyone was hugging, crying, screaming, high-fiving and many kissed the trophy. Mr. Diaz summed it up when saying “It was extremely gratifying to observe the entire Jaguar Band Family embrace the Nationals Trophy and Banner while capturing photos for their own memory albums. We truly create a family atmosphere and what an honor it was to celebrate these victories with our brothers and sisters.”
It was truly a magical season for the Jaguars and an incredible way for the senior class to go out. Senior Color Guard Captain Kailyn Turner expressed her feelings by saying “I’m so thankful that I got to be a part of this band. The last four years left me with amazing memories and winning the national championship was just the icing on the cake.” While marching band is over for the seniors, they will always be a part of this family. As they say, “Once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar.”