The last time the Lawrence High School marching band had a color guard, none of its current members were even born.
However, things have changed for the 2017-18 school year. The band will be accompanied by a color guard for the first time since 1989, and they’ll be performing in new uniforms, which not only incorporates an intriguing visual component to their performances at football games, but also allows them to compete in a whole new way.
While the band has been competing every year, it’s only been eligible to receive a score and a ranking individually. With the new uniforms and color guard, they’re able to move up to a Group 1 marching unit, finally able to compete and rank against other schools in the Group 1 class.
Co-directors Kaitlyn Cloud and Maggie McGill work alongside Andrea Meyer, the new color guard director. During the day, Meyer teaches science classes at LHS, and Cloud teaches music in the New Brunswick Public School District.
McGill says the colorguard brings visual excitement to the field and allows more students to participate in the band. Instrumental experience isn’t necessary to join the guard.
Band member Hope Perry just began her sophomore year. While her parents are originally from Florida, Perry and her family have lived in Lawrence for 13 years. After playing the flute for six years, Perry decided this was the year for change. Now, for her second year with the LHS band, you’ll see her playing the piccolo.
Perry’s enthusiasm for the marching band was evident as a large smile spread across her face when asked what these advancements meant for the band. “The new uniforms are validation that we are doing well, we are ready, and that the district recognizes that we have the ability to be a professional marching band,” she said. “It feels like the next step in the band’s origin story. It’s almost like a Disney movie moment. I know that to anyone outside the band, the uniforms might not be a big deal, but they are to us.”
When Perry isn’t marching across the football field or practicing the piccolo, she’s most likely doing homework. However, there’s a chance you’ll find her giving tours at the Morven Museum and Garden in Princeton, where she’s a docent.
Between school, band practice and extracurriculars, Perry’s always busy. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Perry said. “The relationships you build doing band are irreplaceable during the chaotic time we call ‘the school year.’”
The feeling of community among the band members, and now the guard members, is also shared by color guard member Cynthia Currie. “Band is like a second family,” she said. “Adding the color guard is a way to make the family bigger and give Lawrence something it hasn’t seen in awhile.”
Currie, a junior, enjoys being part of the color guard for the choreography. She’s new to the guard, but the routines remind her of days she spent as a dancer.
According to Currie, it can be difficult, but rewarding. “When we finally get the dance and the movements and do it all together, it’s exciting to see the final product,” she said. “Performing in front of people is a rush of energy.”
The students will be making their first public appearance wearing their new uniforms at the Memorial Day parade in the spring. In the meantime, the 35-member band is performing during school football games accompanied by their new guard members and will be attending four competitions this year.
Knowing that a color guard was crucial to move LHS toward a traditional competitive marching band, co-director McGill wrote a grant last spring and received funding from the Lawrence Township Education Foundation to purchase 12 color guard flags.
She felt that the uniforms were another key component to achieve the goals of the band and began coming up with some designs for the new uniforms on her own. McGill then reached out to uniform companies and sent the designs and specs out for bid. Stanbury Uniforms was chosen by the district to create the uniforms, which should arrive in late fall.
This year is McGill’s third year as the marching band director, but this job wasn’t her first encounter with the LHS marching band. Growing up, she was a student and band member at Freehold Township. During her high school years as a trumpet and french horn player, she remembers seeing the LHS marching band at competitions.
After attending the University of Delaware and graduating in 2015 with a degree in music education she found that LHS was in need of a band director and knew it was the job for her.
Since McGill started at LHS, she’s had her sights set on advancing the marching band and getting LHS recognized on a competitive level. “As the marching arts continue to expand, the Lawrence High School marching band wants to evolve with it,” McGill said. “The addition of a color guard and new uniforms brings us to the level of other programs. Our new uniforms were custom designed to represent not only our school, but also the community, and they will last us many seasons. Marching band is not just about how you sound, but also about pride and appearance.”
When marching, no specific student should stand out on the field, according McGill, who served as the drum major for over 350 members of the University of Delaware marching band. “The audience should be drawn to the entire form and not to one specific person, unless they are a soloist,” she said. “Our new design ensures this happens and that we look the best and represent our community at the highest level.”
McGill is no stranger to the methods of the marching band. In the fourth grade she joined Freehold Township’s band and learned to play the trumpet and didn’t put the instrument down until she picked up the French horn in high school. McGill led her high school marching band as drum major for two years.
Her passion and dedication to instrumental music carried on into college, where she studied music education. After marching with the mellophone, essentially a marching French horn, for a year at University of Delaware, she became the drum major for her remaining three years and graduated in 2015.
McGill currently lives in Hillsborough with her husband, who is the band director at Hanover Park High School in East Hanover. She offers private horn lessons throughout the Central Jersey area. In her time off from directing music, she still makes time for her own instrumental indulgence. You might hear her playing horn with the College of New Jersey Wind Ensemble along with other ensembles in the tri-state area.
McGill’s vision of the band is to get LHS’s program to be known for its musical proficiency and to be well recognized, “not just in the county,” McGill said, “but also throughout the state.”
As the band progresses, so will the goals of the band. “We hope to gain more members and a more diverse instrumentation, and make ourselves known for outstanding musicianship, marching and pride,” she said.