Luis Fabionar won’t be going around bragging to his friends at other Greater Middlesex Conference schools, telling them that he’s part of the best band in the conference, but nobody would blame him if he did.
Fabionar, one of three senior drum majors, leads the J.P. Stevens Marching Hawks onto the field at football games and competitions, and the squad was recently named as the topband in the GMC, according to a reader poll on The Home News Tribune website. J.P. Stevens received 66 percent of the 63,221 votes casted, besting perennial powerhouse South Brunswick, which received 33 percent of the vote.
Band director Andy DeNicola found it to be an honor to be recognized as the top marchingband in one of the most competitive conference in all of New Jersey.
“Marching band doesn’t always get a fair wrap,” DeNicola said. “Kids work hard and put time in throughout the whole year and a lot of times, it’s ‘oh the band is here,’ and it’s unfair. There are a lot of wonderful bands in this area and this is a hot bed for goodmarching bands. So for us, it’s a positive to hear that someone wants to talk aboutmarching bands and someone is willing to write about the best in the area.”
The 125-member band which has members from all four grades in the Edison-based high school, is headed up by a trio of senior drum majors: David Choi, Fabionar and Rudy Yang.
Choi, a first-year drum major, whose main instrument is the saxophone, said the support received from the rest of the student body has been excellent since he’s been enrolled at J.P. Stevens.
“We all have each others’ backs. They [the student body] look at the band and realize that we’re one of the best bands in the state and they encourage us to be our best,” Choi said. “It’s an honor, really. It feels really good.”
Not only are the Marching Hawks spending a lot of their time showing off their skills in competitions, but they perform before and during all of the J.P. Stevens football games. The members of the band spend more time with their band-mates than they do with their family at times, according to Yang, who said managing time is becoming harder and harder now that he’s one of the drum majors.
“Marching band is really time-consuming and getting home and doing my homework is really difficult after long practices,” Yang said. “But I feel like marching band helps me manage my time at home better, because I know I have to get everything done to march.”
But quite possibly the greatest thing for these kids is that they’re doing something that they love. And the fact that people are noticing how great of a band J.P. Stevens has is making DeNicola proud.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I couldn’t be happier with it all,” DeNicola said. “More than anything else, I want them to all feel good about themselves when it’s all over. Win, lose, draw, as long as they come out of it saying ‘we worked extremely hard, we did as good as we can do,’ that’s all I can ask for.”
Fabionar mentioned that his parents came out to their first football game earlier this year and were so proud of him and his efforts in the band. It was something he said that he will remember in the long-run, after he’s graduated and moved on to college.
But before that happens, the Marching Hawks have a few more important dates on their schedule, including possible trips to MetLife Stadium and Rutgers Stadium later this year.
“It’d be another once-in-a-lifetime experience to play at those places,” Yang said. “Just being able to play in such a big stadium against the bigger bands would be awesome.”
The people at J.P. Stevens aren’t the only ones who think that the Marching Hawks are deserving of their recent honor. Larry Markiewicz, who’s the band director at Bridgewater-Raritan High School and also a judge of band competitions, gave high praise to two GMC schools.
“I was just in Texas over the weekend judging marching bands down in Houston,” Markiewicz said. “I travel around the country teaching and drum and bugle corps. There’s a hotbed of bands in this part of New Jersey that the whole country is paying attention to. South Brunswick, Immaculata, us [Bridgewater-Raritan], J.P. Stevens, Hillsborough—there are a lot of great programs that people (outside New Jersey) recognize.”