The Cherokee High School Marching Band and Color Guard has proven it knows how to make a proper debut. Competing for the first time as a member of the Tournament of Bands marching arts circuit, the band won the region 1 group 3 open class championship title with a score of 93.95.
Cherokee was the first to perform at the competition on Sunday, Oct. 20, and despite the inclement weather and some confusion over the scheduling of its performance, the group set the bar high enough that its competitors from Absegami, Shawnee, Southern Regional and Eastern Regional High School simply fell short.
The victory came in spite of a day wrought with setbacks, starting with a call band Director David Lynch received en route to the competition. Due to a slight miscalculation, it turned out Cherokee was unexpectedly slotted to perform first.
If that wasn’t enough to throw the group off, the sky opened up and unleashed a downpour just in time for the band to hit the field. But they were unfazed by the weather and instead embraced it. The band has something of a history of competing in the rain, so much so that senior drum major Monica Morrissey says they have come to think of it as their superpower.
“It was like a calling for us,” she said.
“It really brought the energy,” Lynch noted.
The band has traditionally competed in the Pennsylvania-based USBands marching competition, but this year Lynch sought out the Tournament of Bands instead as it featured a chapter more central to the band’s home base. The time saved by not having to travel so far for competitions, the director felt, could be redirected and used for extra rehearsal time.
“I think it brought a sense of comfort to the students,” Lynch said. “We didn’t have to have these huge bus rides.”
When he joined the music department at Cherokee 13 years ago, Lynch established a leadership council made up of students and headed by the band’s drum majors. Senior Grace Fox and Morrissey now fill this leadership role. Each brings years of performing experience to the table, having joined the band while they were in elementary school.
They attribute the latest win to a solid program and a somewhat laid-back attitude as newcomers to the Tournament of Bands.
“We weren’t really concerned with winning,” Morrissey acknowledged. “We were just like, we’re new to this, we’re just testing the waters, and if we win that’s really awesome. But we were just going to do what we do and lay everything out there, and I guess we were rewarded for it.”
“We often say, let winning be a byproduct of what we do in our culture here,” Lynch added.
Something that makes Cherokee’s marching band stand out in competitions is an emphasis on the visual aspect of the performances, with props and expressive dances worked into marching routines. In addition to the championship title win, Cherokee also took home caption awards for best visual and best overall effect.
This most recent performance, “Reflection,” featured some creative use of mirrors as well as voiceovers recorded by members of the band.
“The show is about the members of the marching band — it’s about me, it’s about Monica — whatever it means to find yourself,” Fox said. “That’s what the show is about.”