This article originally appeared in the February 23, 2020 edition of Dartmouth Week. To read the original article and view photos from the event, please click here.
Flags were flying and drumbeats echoed through Dartmouth High School on Saturday as groups from all over New England came to participate in the annual New England Scholastic Band Association show.
39 color guard and indoor percussion teams — from independent groups to schools from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire — took part in the seven-hour show on February 22.
It was the first NESBA show before the finals on April 4.
The event is hosted by the Dartmouth School Music Association.
“We’re the support group for all of the schools, all of the music groups,” said DSMA president Russ Benoit.
“Dartmouth is known for how great its music department is,” he noted. “And some of the staff come from world-class drum groups and other music groups.”
The groups perform to popular music — anything from Britney Spears to the Police — as well as original compositions.
“Some groups will use music that their own instructors wrote, so you get a combination,” Benoit said. “Every now and again you’ll hear a snippet of something you recognize. It’s a lot of fun.”
The event serves to raise funds for DSMA and the Dartmouth music program.
“We need to raise about $100,000 a year between all of the groups,” said Benoit.
The funds are used for everything from maintaining the trucks used to send kids and equipment to competitions, to props and flags, music rights, and staff stipends for those coming from outside the school system.
Supporters from all over the region trickled in and out between each performance throughout the day, filling the gym stands and cheering as each team came out to perform for the judges.
Jennifer Connolly of Dartmouth came to watch her twin daughters in the junior varsity color guard. “I’m very excited,” she said. “I’m so happy for them. They’re all nervous…but they know to just have fun. That’s what it’s about.”
Each performance had its own theme. Dartmouth’s Junior Varsity Color Guard performed “Bewitched,” featuring witches swooping through a set of dark woods, while the Varsity Color Guard’s theme was “Jazz’D”, with bright colors and flashy abstract patterns.
This year’s theme for the Indoor Percussion is called “The Web,” and the performance featured dancing spiders and performers caught in a spider web as well as tablets, screens, and icons from famous social media outlets.
Although all three teams gave much-praised performances, Dartmouth’s Indoor Percussion was a knockout, receiving a standing ovation and earning the second-highest score of any percussion team that day.
It came second only to Spirit Winter Percussion, an independent group that includes young adults as well as children.
“I like the energy that Dartmouth brings,” said resident Liza Sousa, who was looking forward to watching her 15-year-old daughter Mia Amaral play the rack in the performance.
“She likes the whole camaraderie, and how they always aim to be better, and the support they get from the teachers and instructors,” she added. “It’s so enriching to her in all areas.”
“So far so good,” said Dartmouth School Committee member John Nunes of the show. “Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves, which is what it’s all about.”
“I think our kids did very well,” noted Music Director Bill Kingsland. “A world class group and an 86 at their first show — that’s scoring pretty high right out of the blocks.”
Dartmouth High student Alexander Le played the snare drum during the show, which he said went “really great”.
The senior said the group has been practicing about 20 hours per week since December to prepare.
“There were a lot of applauses that we weren’t expecting, and that’s usually what gives us energy throughout the whole show and pushes us to the finish,” he said with a smile.
Nancy Farias came to see her grandson Jake Meatty, who plays the drums.
She was thrilled with the performances. “I just like to see the young people doing something with their lives,” she said.
“I saw quite a few of [the performances], and I thought Dartmouth was the best,” she added.