25 Years of Music

Julia Florence and Kameron Patenaude

Julia Florence, Staff Writer

Annual Classic Marching Band Festival

Norwich Free Academy’s marching band celebrated its 25th year of hosting the Annual Classic Marching Band Festival this September on its home turf field. Not only did ten guest high schools from across the state participate: Cheshire, East Haven, East Lyme, Ellington, Joseph Case, Lyman Hall, Montville, Plainfield, Robert E. Fitch, Southington, and Trumbull, but Joseph Case visited from Massachusetts.  The festival took place in the early evening, and the schools performed one after another, under the bright lights. 

Spectators filled the stands, which made the band members proud after they had put in hours to prepare their performances around this year’s theme, “Taking a Risk.”

“We’ve been practicing since August,” said Finley McBride, a senior at Lyman Hall High School.

The reason why preparation is so important is because the Classic is not similar to most events the marching bands attend. 

NFA senior, Zachary Demboise explained, “This is completely different from any other competition; it’s a way to prove yourself and show our band we can welcome other people. It gets the band parents together, [and makes] the band community more tight.”

This sense of welcoming was evident to students from the visiting schools. Despite NFA being a “bigger campus than [some] are used to,” according to Arlo Hatcher from Cheshire, people not only greeted but supported one another from the stands. 

Norwich Free Academy’s band director, Kristen Motola, stresses this type of bonding in the school’s program.  When it comes to competing, “…[W]e really drive home that it’s about working as a team and really being confident with what you’re doing.  Knowing that you prepared every way that you can, having no regrets, and leaving it all on the field….And that really helps the performance be everything that it can possibly be.”

Southington, East Haven, and Lyman won the best overall awards with scores of 86.225, 81.25, and 80.925, respectively.  

NFA’s Band Program is Growing

Motola credits Norwich and the surrounding middle schools’ work in their music programs, in particular, for NFA’s current growth in both members and talent.  However, she also places great value in former band members for helping to build the school’s program.  

Motola told this year’s students, “[Alumni] are your past, and you are their future, and you are performing for the most important people. They built the band that you are a part of.”

“Music adds a lot to the culture, to everything that we’re doing here at NFA to create a community. We have athletes, really high achieving academic kids, and students that haven’t been a part of anything before. So for them to all come together- it really is just a magical thing,” she continued.

She focuses on creating ‘magic music moments,’ or times “where everything clicks, falls into place, and you just feel so excited and happy [in experiencing] a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.”

Motola believes that the student musicians “are representing the Wildcat marching band and taking pride in every single thing that [they] do.”

Band means “family” to alumni Ariana Bradley ’18 and Jason Biet ’04.

Bradley commented,  “I just missed marching band so much [that I wanted to] see how it feels watching them rather than performing.”

Biet credits NFA’s music program for enhancing his life, so much so that he works with the band.

“I was drawn back ten years ago to see if I [could] help out with the group of people that I came from….The band was everything, it gave me my whole life and career,” said Biet.