Eastern Regional Marching Vikings continue excellence

The Marching Vikings are undefeated this season with their performance ‘The Gambler,’ having won the regional and state championship. Now, they look forward to the Atlantic Coast Championships

Denise Decanay, captain of the color guard, holds a poker chip during the Marching Vikings performance of ‘The Gambler’ on Sunday, Oct. 21

You could say it was a busy weekend.

Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday Oct. 21 were two dates the Eastern Regional High School marching band had circled on calendars for months. After their conclusion, the group can now call itself both the 2018 State Champions and the Group Three South Jersey Regional Champions after performing the piece “The Gambler.”

Most notably, the band defended its home turf on Oct. 21 at the Regional Championship.

Marching band director John Stanz and his fellow staff selected the piece in February as the one the Marching Vikings would perform for the 2018 outdoor season, something that understandingly requires taking plenty of factors into play.

Stanz and his staff will peruse websites watching videos of shows and performances, listening to the music and carefully deciding which performance would be the best fit.

“We listen and see if it’s something that we feel is fit for the students that we have and how well we think that we are going to be able to achieve with the certain shows,” Stanz said. “It just comes down to being something that interests us and making sure it’s going to fit what we have here.”

Senior Deklin Parker, drum major, says the hard work from all the students is what makes the show a success every year, and especially this one.

“To actually put it all on the field, it takes about two months of practice; a light month in July and then a heavy month in August of just practice consistently,” said Parker. “And by about the first week of September, we probably have all of it, where it’s dirty, but we can get through it all.”

However, after having practiced the performance possibly 100 times over the past couple months, according to Parker, the show gets better and better with each passing day. Even late in the season, the group can make small changes to the performance when watching replays to help fix minor flaws that staff or students might notice.

“Even later in the season we change things up here and there,” said Parker. “It’s never really fully mastered, but we get it to the point where it’s clean and everything will fit together.”

Senior Deklin Parker prepares to begin the Marching Vikings performance at Eastern Regional during the Regional Championships on Sunday, Oct. 21

Sophomore Arianna Reischer, who plays the flute and piccolo, spoke about the demands marching band requires that outsiders may not realize fully.

For example, the winds and brass section has approximately 27 students, creating a large environment to get everyone on the same page for the performance. Over the summer, the marching band undergoes the famed “band camp” week, where Eastern students attend four days of practicing and training, taking about 12 hours each day working on their music and the performance.

“In terms of learning the music, everyone needs to be on the same page,” said Reischer. “There can’t be one person that’s behind, we’re only as strong as our weakest link.”

Reischer was just one of the many students who was thrilled to perform on their field for the regional championship.

“Just because it’s our home show and everyone was super excited to be on our home turf,” said Reischer. “We know this field so well; we’ve spent so many hundreds of hours here already. Just to show people on our own home field what we’ve got was amazing.”

Junior Marisa Tate plays the marimba, and is going through her third year in the program.

She came into high school without knowing how to play any musical instrument and not being able to read music at all. However, she now can do both, and could not be more thankful for the experience she has had through the years with the Marching Vikings.

“I improved so much over these past three years,” said Tate. “Looking back, I would have never thought I’d get to the place that I am right now, it’s crazy to think that. I really enjoy it and I love coming to practice.”

Having won all seven performances this season, the Eastern Vikings now are looking forward to the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championships in Hershey, Pa. Stanz has been the director since 2007, and the program won the Atlantic Coast Championships twice in recent history, back in 2012 and in 2014.

He expects another fantastic performance from his band in its final outdoor show of the season.

“I feel really good, but I’m nervous,” said Stanz. “You know, cause there’s two bands playing that we’ve never seen before so it’s kind of like unknown competition. In football, you have a chance to watch film and scout out another team, and we don’t have that opportunity. All I know for us is that we need to make sure that we’re really putting our heads down these next two weeks and are as well prepared as we can possibly be.”