For the first time since 2009, Mineola High School’s Marching Band placed first in its division at the New York State Field Band Conference State Championship.
The band defeated eight other schools in its division, Small Schools II, with a score of 85.05 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse last weekend.
“The band has always been a source of pride for our school,” said Joe Owens, district supervisor for fine and performing arts. “It continues to grow and improve and we couldn’t be more proud of the nearly 100 students who participate.”
This year’s performance was written and composed entirely by Mineola staff members, including Ken Kamping and Chris Toomey, who directs the band.
“Most school bands will purchase a show to perform for the year,” Toomey said.
It was advantageous to write their own show, Toomey said, to capitalize on skills that make the band unique. A lot of the marching band students are also actors and interested in drama, Toomey said. Story-telling was a critical part of the performance.
Mineola’s winning show, titled “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” stood out because of its story-telling attributes, Toomey said.
The show describes a scientist’s journey through the production of a robot. Journal entries chronicled the story as the band played.
The performance took place in three movements. The first movement involved the building of the robot and an ensuing malfunction. A crowd favorite moment came when the robot malfunctioned and all 100 band players stopped completely, Toomey said.
“A hundred people frozen on a field is pretty powerful,” he said.
In addition to the beat of the drums and blaring of the brass section, futuristic sounding
whooshes and zooms and the trickle of mallets over a xylophone add to the upbeat science-fiction thrill.
The color guard wore body suits covered in black and blue circuitry, with face paint to match.
The performance’s second movement focused on what was missing in the robot: the ability to reason. Throughout the performance, a large, mechanical prop was stationary at the 30-yard line, occasionally glowing with bright colors the same as the spheres that the color guard was waving around.
The third movement depicts the robot turning on its human creators as in classic science-fiction movies, Toomey said. The performance concluded dramatically with the robot being shut down, the entire band seizing and frying as electrical sounds depict the robot dying from a virus.
Writing the show started over a year ago, Toomey said. For most of the summer, only the music for the performance was rehearsed. At a weeklong band camp at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the band put together the music with all of the movements of the performance.
“Marching around a field and blowing into a tuba is a lot to take in,” Toomey said. “It isn’t exactly something you do every day.”
It took a few weeks for the band to get comfortable in the fall competition season, but the team’s sense of unity brought it all together before Syracuse, Toomey said.
“This year … the students banded together in a way we’ve never seen,” he said.