After a full season of competitions and performances, the Bridgewater-Raritan High School marching band ended its season on a high note Sunday—as the winners of the state title at the NJ State Championships in Edison.
“It was a nice way to end,” said band director Larry Markiewicz. “These kids are very proud and very passionate about what they do.”
But that’s not all—at the national championships in Indianapolis last week, the band placed 18th out of 100 bands, the highest Bridgewater’s band has ever placed in the national competition.
It began with preliminary competitions last Thursday and Friday, Markiewicz said, before the top 33 headed on to the semifinals. From there, he said, the top 12 performed for the title.
“This is the highest level of competition and judging,” he said.
Markiewicz said the last time the band performed in the national competition was in 2010, when they placed 36th. This time, he said, he was hoping to make top 29 at the very least, so placing in the top 20 was amazing.
“We were completely surprised that we placed so well,” he said. “I would have been ecstatic with 29th place, so this was beyond my wildest dreams.”
And all of this was done, Markiewicz said, after missing nine days of rehearsals because of school cancellations in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“I tried to tell the kids what to practice on their own through email, so that when we rehearsed again, they would show up prepared to practice those things,” he said. “But they really felt this was important and worked hard, even though we did not rehearse together.”
Markiewicz said all the credit goes to the 160 members of the band, who, on their own, made sure to practice and be prepared.
“It is really special,” he said. “I was shocked by how much spirit they had.”
And once the national championships were complete, Markiewicz said, the students barely had time to breath before the state championships.
They drove 700 miles from Indianapolis, Markiewicz said, arrived back in Bridgewater at 12 p.m. Sunday, took about three hours of rest, rehearsed for two hours then boarded the buses again for the state competition in Edison.
There, the band took the highest score in the history of New Jersey marching bands.
“They won it with a 98.6 record score, and won the state title,” Markiewicz said.
But Markiewicz said he did not have to persuade the students to practice beforehand or get them motivated the day of the competition.
“It was important to them,” he said. “I didn’t have to rev them at all, they were doing it all themselves.”
Markiewicz said he does a leadership training program through the band, and that helps them succeed.
“The kids’ work ethics, leadership and their passion [won this],” he said. “They have such desire to persevere, especially through the hurricane.”
Markiewicz said this was their eighth state title since 2002, and he is so proud of the work all the students have done.
“The program has always been good, but right now it’s become nationally recognized,” he said. “We’ve been a big fish in a small pond, and we’re starting to swim in the big pond now.”
The season—with their program “Exotica,” based off “1,001 Arabian Nights”—is over, but Markiewicz said he cannot wait for the next season.
“I never get nervous about the future,” he said. “I always think it’s going to get better.”
“The reason why is the kids,” he added. “They do the recruiting. It’s a really fun thing right now, and everyone is working really well.”
Markiewicz said he is proud of the work the students have put in, and said that everything they achieved was because of them and the passion they showed for the band.
“These kids are bonded together,” he said. “It was the highlight of my career, watching this.”