Emotions ran high and the word “congratulations” was posted all over social media after Seneca High School’s marching band announced it had won a state championship, a win that placed the group on the same level as its sister schools.
The marching band won the 2019 U.S. Bands State Championship, Group IIIA on Nov. 2 with a score of 93.36. It also won best color guard and visual effects at the competition, a result band Director Keith Styers described as a perfect ending to the 2019 season.
“We have had years where we’ve done well, but we’ve never had a year like this,” Styers said. “We won almost every competition we were in this year. We won at Lenape, Brick and Robbinsville high schools and the championships.”
The band played composer Key Poulan’s piece, “Another Place, Another Time,” for the November competition. The song evoked the feeling of a night in the library, a scene inspired by the film “Night at the Museum.”
After each competition, Styers; Grady Barber, assistant band director; and the students would watch judges tapes and use the critiques to make the performances stronger.
“You’re listening to them and that allows us to push more dynamic, more intensity, (to) blend visuals and all of the different things that we do that goes into telling the story that we want to tell,” Styers explained.
Color guard senior and Captain Megan Steltz noted her crew did costume changes between songs, sometimes during them, a different experience for everyone.
While Seneca is on cloud nine with its season wins, Styers and Steltz acknowledged winning didn’t come easy for the band in years past. It placed last in some competitions and just last year, made it to the championships but didn’t win.
“You’ve got to make sure that you don’t rest on your laurels and allow for some other band to catch you, or allow something that you do well to not be great,” Styers said.
“Our mindset has changed because I remember my freshman year, we would do what we were meant to do, but we didn’t bring it to that next level. We just performed on the surface level. Then, in each year, we brought it up more in the theatrics and just felt more competitive as we got good scores.”
With five competition wins, Seneca has leaped to the same level as its sister schools — Lenape, Shawnee and Cherokee — bands which are a constant inspiration for Styers.
As for the marching band’s future, Styers said he will step down from his director role to that of an assistant next year, passing the baton to Grady Barber. With the transition, Styers said the band can still capitalize on its winning season and come out on top.
“It gives us a lot of motivation heading into next year and it raises our expectations,” he said. “We’re now a championship band and there’s already expectations like, ‘Here comes Seneca.’“