Making modifications to a season-long field show just days before the biggest marching band tournament of the year can be a risky gamble. Get it right, and a band can propel itself to the top of the score sheet; err just a bit, and judges’ scores can sink hopes for a championship.
For the York Catholic Marching Band, the risk was worth the reward. Alterations to its “Hephaestus’ Workshop” show three days prior to the Cavalcade of Bands Championship in Hershey spelled out sweet success, as the 33-member group took first place in the tournament.
The band scored a 91.585 with its performance, its highest score in remembered history, according to marching band director Cecelia Mezza
“Our goal for the night was to earn a 90 and to leave it all on the field,” she said of their Nov. 14 performance at Hershey Park Stadium. “I was so happy for our students. They have worked so hard all season, and to have that recognized by surpassing their own goal was amazing.”
The band also earned the High Music Award for its division.
The Cavalcade title is the band’s second consecutive championship, having also reached the pinnacle with its first gold medal in 2019. Cavalcade of Bands did not have a championship in 2020 due to Covid safety concerns.
“Our students are amazing. They are the reason that we made it as far as we did,” said Mezza, who is chair of the school’s fine arts department. “They are dedicated, talented and willing to work hard every day, regardless of the weather. They put all of their energy into performing the show and communicating the storyline to the audience. It is so much easier to be apathetic and say that what we are doing is good enough, but the band didn’t do that. The band kept reaching for the next goal, and then the next. They are simply amazing people and we are so lucky that we get to teach them every day.”
Senior Emily Danczyk, the band’s high winds/clarinet section leader, credits the entire band’s dedication for the championship title, especially with the last-minute changes to the show.
“Up until three days before championships, we were changing the drill, incorporating new visuals, cutting and rearranging show music,” she said. “Executing the show’s final songs were no longer muscle memory, as so many pieces changed. It took drive, initiative, honesty and determination from each student and staff member to make this happen.”
“Ms. Mezza always says, ‘Marching band is a sport of perfection,’ because each individual person must contribute their all to the whole, as there are no substitute performers, no off days, no redos,” Emily added.
This year’s drum majors are Nate Gingerich and Chris Gick.
“Marching band is a wonderful experience for those who want to develop and follow their passion for music,” Chris said. “I first joined the band my freshman year and I have always enjoyed playing music with my friends in the band. This activity helps people grow in their musical abilities and gives them an opportunity to meet new people in our school.”
“Being one of the drum majors, I had high standards for our band going to championships,” he added. “I was aware that our show was good enough to win first place. Since June, our band has been working extremely hard to make our show the best it could be, and I am very proud of all the YCMB members for their dedication to our show. I knew that what we performed Sunday night was very good, yet the first place announcement was still one that brought an immense amount of joy to everyone there.”
More than back-to-back championships, the York Catholic Marching Band is celebrating its bonds.
“To me, marching band is all about family. I’ve met my best friends through marching band, and it has been incredibly special to perform with them these past six years, let alone stand together at Hershey Stadium to accept a first place championship win with a score over 90,” Emily said. “This season was incredibly fun to perform. Even though we were breaking school records at every competition, the scores were the last thing on my mind: first came wanting to enjoy the people I was surrounded by.”
Mezza hopes these connections, heightened by the Cavalcade championship, will ultimately be a boost for students and for the school.
“For the students in the band, I hope this achievement solidifies for them that hard work pays off, and that when we work together we can achieve great things,” she said. “For many of our seniors, this is the culmination of six years of hard work. The tears of joy were flowing before we even left the field. The students knew they had given their all and already reached their goal of ‘leaving it all on the field.’”
“The YCMB staff is small but mighty. Mike McGuinness and Cheri Bogart help to make marching band a wonderful place to be every day. They are dedicated and hard working and support the students in everything they do. The band parents and families are the most supportive people you will ever meet. They serve pulled pork on Friday nights and travel to competitions on Saturdays. We could not have gotten here without all of them. This was truly a group effort,” Mezza said.
Learn more about York Catholic by visiting www.yorkcatholic.org.
(Photos courtesy of York Catholic Middle and High School.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness