• Michael O'Connor

EHHS Co-op Marching Band Adds Another Championship to Their Collection

Photo Credit: Michael O'Connor

This season has been another one to remember for the EHHS Co-op Marching Band. They are again proving their skills with another state championship. With this win, the team advanced to the USBands National Championship in Allentown, Pennsylvania to compete on November 2. There, they placed first and won the National Championship for class IIA: a feat not accomplished in several years by the very successful band program here at EHHS.

Photo Credit: Michael O'Connor

The band is no stranger to success, as the past few seasons have been nothing short of superb for the team. Since 2011, the team has won a total of five Connecticut and New England state titles, respectively. They won three titles in a row from 2017-2019. This season, the band managed to one up their already impressive performances by not only winning the CT and New England championships, but also winning the National Championship. This is the first time the team has done this under director

Mr. Matthew Laudano, and the members

could not be more ecstatic about it.

Photo Credit: Michael O'Connor

Senior, Ryan Brockett, who has been playing the tenor saxophone in the band for two years, could not be more proud of the team’s achievement. “Winning a national championship was one of the coolest and proudest moments of my life. Not even necessarily for me, but for all of my band mates who worked so hard this season; it just shows that we really worked for this achievement,” he said. Fellow band member, Radames Velasquez, a senior who has been in the band for three years and plays the trumpet, added to this saying, “Our national championship win felt very well deserved, and I was extremely excited to achieve that with my friends and end my senior year on a high note.”

The hard work by the team has been evident day in and day out. They have stopped at nothing to be successful. Specifically, the amount of practice the team does shows how determined they are. Every year, the team begins with preseason rehearsals in May, which takes place about twice a week. Once the school year ends, the band takes a break until the beginning of August, which is when band camp starts. At band camp, the band practices every weekday for two week straight. This leads right into their normal practice schedule for the school year, which is Tuesdays and Thursdays for three hours, as well as a longer practice on Saturday when their competition season starts. At the practices, the team aims to perfect every routine they do. “We wanted every minute of every rehearsal to be better than the last,” said Laudano, who is currently in his ninth season directing the band. Their relentlessness is something the band always tries to keep in order to be the best they can when it comes to their competitions. In fact, the band was so focused that they made their own motto, which is “relentless dedication to improvement.” Along with this, they also wrote “relentless” on everyone’s palm at championships this year. According to Laudano, the team did this to ease the feeling of apprehension before their performance. However, because of the relentless dedication the band has, they nailed the performance on the biggest field they have ever had to do it on.

For this year’s field show, the band did titled “In Ashes: Ending,” which is a portrayal of a modern day Pompeii eruption. This includes city sound effects, a news broadcast, and a volcanic eruption. . This show was the one that they performed at the national championship, and it’s been a favorite to many that spectate, from the fans to the judges. The color guard is also seen in the performance, who Laudano describes as the visual interpretation of the music. “From the way their costuming and makeup is, to the design of their flags, and their bodies movements, all that is geared toward mirroring the music,” said Laudano. However, learning the routine proved to be a tough challenge for the band, as it took a lot of hard work and devotion to perfect it. In fact, Laudano claims that it was one of the more difficult routines the band has done,; it was so hard that the band’s music arranger wanted to talk Laudano out of it. Still, through their determination, the band always executed the piece greatly, securing their win at nationals. “It was a big gamble choosing something so difficult, but the band stepped up to the plate and it really didn’t affect them at all. They just pushed through,” said Laudano. Ryan also agreed with this, but he contributed a big part of the success to Laudano and the rest of the directors, saying “I believe the directing by Mr. Laudano and just the pure hard work we do really gives us energy and power to become so great. We work tons of hours really perfecting parts of the show, and I think all of that time and effort is what makes us so successful.” Another factor that made the band’s performance that much better is the fact that Laudano and his staff did everything “custom,” while other bands typically will perform a “pre-packaged” show. This allows the piece to be performed as effective as possible, as the band is able to adjust pieces of the routine to fit their strengths and weaknesses as a team. This creative factor certainly gives them an edge when performing in their competitions.

While the majority of the band is EHHS students, there are also students from North Branford High School, which makes the band a Co-op. In total, there are nine members from North Branford High School. The girl’s hockey team, which created their own Co-op inspired the band to do the same. “It’s definitely been a big help. We’ve seen the participation decline, which is not just a music issue, it’s athletics too. Teams seem to be shrinking and getting smaller every year. It’s a great partnership, and they bring a lot to the table; they help us sound bigger and stronger,” said Laudano. This help was definitely needed in order to be as successful as the band has this season, especially with how hard certain routines can be. The Co-op formation has helped both on and off the field. “Having people from different places is such a fun experience because we're all so used to coming to one school. You only know the people who go there, so meeting people you never knew existed can be really cool,” said Ryan.

Photo Credit: Michael O'Connor

The cooperation between the schools is not typical. The EHHS band is the first in Connecticut to form a Co-op. Overall, the bond that has developed within the team throughout their time spent together is yet another impressive feat. The team has grown so much that Ryan says it has felt more like a big family than anything, no matter the age difference of the members. For others like Radames, joining the band has helped him learn and get more involved with others. “As a sophomore, I was very quiet and awkward, but as I became more comfortable, I made friends that I will have for the rest of my life; that is what I will take away from my highschool experience,” said Radames. Laudano added, “It doesn’t matter how many kids you have in the band; we just have 51 kids who are just really great.”

This tight bond, along with their hard work and dedication, ultimately led to the band’s championship win. This championship is an accomplishment that the band has truly worked their hardest for since the first weeks of practice in May,. To see their devotion pay off has made everyone a EHHS proud!

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