NFA’s Band Open House Welcomes Eighth Graders

Julia Florence, Staff Writer

The Norwich Free Academy’s marching band director, Kristen Motola, welcomed both her current students and the incoming class of 2023 at this year’s annual band open house.  Incoming students were able to catch a glimpse of what life is like in the NFA marching band, and how pursuing talents on campus can impact their musical careers.

“I was actually planning on going to a different school. I probably wouldn’t have come to NFA if I did not come to the open house, because I just [wouldn’t have seen] what a great program this was,” stated ninth grader, Jenna Wesa.

“I joined marching band in freshman year…It’s always [been] a fun time, and it was just a new experience for high school…Because my life in eighth grade was very hectic, [I wasn’t able to attend the open house]…[But], for students [who do attend], having the ability to get a first-hand look…meeting the leadership team, the people that they’re going to be around for three straight months…, and just having [others] there that [they] can look up to is helpful,” explained NFA drum major, upper Noah McMahon.

“It’s a completely different world than anyone can possibly realize, …[so the open house is a good] kick-off [for] our season,” reasoned Motola. “We get to see who we have coming in, where we still need to recruit, [and how we can show them what we have to offer]…,” Motola added.

Lisa Zeppieri, a first-year band mom, was unsure about the rehearsal/competition schedule, the participation fees, the retreat, and the many hours of practice, but, she now believes, “[although] you put a lot in, you get a lot out.”

Zeppieri’s son has not only gained a social network from the band community, but has expanded from marching band into all musical programs (concert and jazz), which has actually opened doors to a theatrical career.

“It seems overwhelming at first, [but when kids come in], they [grow] to love it and it [becomes] so important to them. So, the best thing is to just maybe talk to other[s], reach out, ask a lot of questions, and then you’ll feel at home,” advised Zeppieri.

That is exactly what the Juhola family did. Nancy Juhola’s two daughters, Shaylin and Megan, are involved in band as a section leader and band captain, respectively. 

“I came by myself, not knowing anyone from Brooklyn…It was a big step, … but not leaps and bounds. They take you through baby steps, and then you’re walking, crawling, [and soon] running…[Eventually, they] help integrate you into playing the harder music. So [you’ll start working] on small things, and then [learn to build it alongside everybody into] one giant show,” explained Megan Juhola.

Wesa appreciates the sense of community that being a band member offers.  

“Before marching band, I was somebody who liked to do things really independently. And being in the marching band, it [has] showed me what such a large group can do, and [how] it makes you feel a part of something bigger…It’s been a wild season, because there’s so much that goes on…, but the entire thing is something that you just want to keep coming back to, and it’s fantastic,” she shared.