Kingston High’s 200-student-strong Tiger marching band can toot its own horn for the second year in a row. The band recently tallied a near-perfect score of 84.55 (scores judged between 65-85) in the third division of the New York State Field Band Conference Field Show State Championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Tigers took on 54 other bands and came in second to repeating champ West Seneca West High School by a slim margin of 0.15 points.
Marching band publicist and band parent Perry Buchalski pointed out that the Tigers’ unique strength is their in-house, student-fronted leadership in which each instrument section is led by a student, rather than paid staff like many other school marching bands. Whereas most marching bands with half the musicians has between 10-12 paid staffers, Kingston’s has between four and five. Kingston’s band does have between 40-50 active parent volunteers in its booster club. The student section leaders have section meetings and weekly rehearsals at their homes, and extensive, two-week long preseason summer band camp entailing eight to 10 hour days where the marching band movements get put to the music.
What’s the glue that keeps so many students on the same page? According to Buchalski, it’s the love of music. “Being part of a big team is the deal because this team that works together to create a finished project, and our finished project is the score. And it’s the camaraderie,” he added. “They work together for two solid weeks at the end of summer.” Buchalski’s baritone-playing son, Patrick, 17, a senior is the appointed leader of all the section leaders. Patrick boiled it down to one word: “fun.”
“It’s a second family,” said Patrick. “We get along very well with each other. People in band have a lot of fun, the directors are always telling us to have fun, and that’s what it’s about. We are told to work hard, but have fun.”
For Patrick, it was a trial process. Anyone who wanted to try out for a position goes and helps out the middle school band for the Memorial Day parade, and there are other volunteer operations he was expected to show up for. Though it’s extra responsibility, Patrick was into the task. “I was the low-brass section leader last year. It was something I really wanted to do and it was something I thought I could really help out by doing.” Patrick considers himself an organized person, which he explained is a job where, “if you’re not organized, you’re not going to do well. If you’re not organized, it’s going to fall down on you because it’s not going to go well and the responsibility is on you.”
Patrick feels it’s “a huge thing” that everyone gets together, and gets along very well.
(Image: KHS marching band members at a recent practice. Photo by Phyllis McCabe.)