Despite heading into what appeared to be a “rebuilding year,” Floral Park Memorial High School’s marching band placed second in the state last weekend.
At the New York State Field Band Conference Championship held at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, Floral Park lost by less than one point to Jordan Elbridge in the Small School III division.
The marching band lost over 20 members to graduation headed into this season and recruiting was key, band director John Smykowski said.
“We needed to get newer students to buy into the program,” he said.
More then 30 new students joined the band, requiring the band to not only catch up with the rest of the competition, but to train new members. The band was able to work through those challenges to come together before the competition season, Smykowski said.
At their first competition in Brentwood, Floral Park placed eighth.
“I told the students ‘Look, I can sugarcoat this or I can give you the truth,’ and they all wanted the truth,” Smykowski said. For the rest of the season, Floral Park placed in the top three in competitions and even first in the state for several weeks.
“This season has been an incredible experience,” senior drum major Elizabeth Calandra said. “Ever since last season I wanted to lead the band and I got the chance.”
The band’s piece, “Heartbeat,” composed by Key Poulan, was chosen in order to make Floral Park competitive while compensating for the rebuild, Smykowski said.
The performance was split into three movements. In the first movement came the adrenaline rush of the heart, Calandra said. The brass section swelled and followed the beat of a heart, and the color guard held red flags that were pulsed to the same beat.
The second movement detailed the passionate heart, and “passion you feel when you love or hate,” Calandra said.
At the end of the second movement and moving into the third and final movement, the 100-member band formed into a small block, signifying the “heart attack” portion of the performance, and the following resuscitation, leading to the final movement into the shape of a heart.
“To come so close two years in a row was amazing,” Calandra said. “More than half of us were in tears and we had no regrets. We put it all out there.”
It was difficult to listen to the scores and have them be so close, Smykowski said, but the band is already looking ahead to next year.
“They’re already asking what we’re playing and what we’re doing next year,” he said. “And we’re going to be retaining almost the entirety of the team.
“Our biggest adjustment is going to be going out there and being successful with the same group we have, while also recruiting and getting kids to fall in love with the activity.”