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Fair Lawn High School Percussion Places at International Competition

Fair Lawn High School In WGI Competition
Fair Lawn High School In WGI Competition

Fair Lawn Percussion Reach Semi-Finals at International Competition

Rebecca Graziano 

The Fair Lawn Indoor Percussion Ensemble traveled to Dayton, Ohio to compete in the prestigious WGI 2014 Percussion World Championships on April 10-12. They placed 15th of 54 groups in their class and were one of only two NJ schools represented in a competition that featured more than 90 scholastic ensembles and 50 independent groups.

The World Championships in Dayton are the superbowl of percussion competitions, and units from around the world travel to Ohio each year to compete. The event draws more than 10,000 participants in two major categories. Both Scholastic and Independent Groups are assigned to skill levels and compete in A level, Open, and World Class competition.  All units are scored according to General Effect, Music, and Visual criteria. The most successful groups combine musical precision with intricate marching formations. Groups at the World Level often include acrobatics and surprising stunts. 

The Fair Lawn Indoor program is directed by Jamie Szeinberg, the FLHS Marching Band Director and Memorial Middle School Band Director.  His instructional team includes Dan Burbank, the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Band Director, and Paul Levitan, a Radburn Elementary School teacher, who each have key roles with the Indoor Percussion Ensembles. The ensembles are managed by Barbara Addon.

Since he started the indoor program in Fair Lawn in 2010, Szeinberg has been aiming his students at this competition in Dayton. He believes giving students the chance to participate in the international event expands their exposure and commitment to musical excellence.

Fair Lawn performed in Scholastic A class, competing in Thursday’s preliminary competition in a field of 54 units representing 23 states. On Friday, Fair Lawn moved the Semi-Final field of 32, and placed 15. The first 12 teams performed in finals competition. 

After their performance, Szeinberg shared his pride with his students. “This is the first group to break the ground and get to Dayton. This group has a great attitude. You will always be able to say you were the first group from Fair Lawn to compete here.”

Attending the WGI event in Dayton is like stepping into a three-day percussion intensive class. When Fair Lawn students were not practicing and getting ready for their own performances, they had the opportunity to watch other ensembles rehearsing in the parking lot outside the University of Dayton Arena. Prior to this, they had only seen these groups on YouTube and indoor percussion websites. They visited the vendor tent to try out the latest in percussion instruments and purchase souvenirs from the show.

Steve Gotlib, a senior who plays bass drum, explained the power of the world class competition. “The highlight of the trip was seeing Dartmouth High School (MA) and Pulse Percussion (CA) both taking home the gold medals for their respective classes,” he said. “Last year they had their worst years in a while and were able to not only recover, but raise the bar of the whole activity to new heights. What we all got to witness were some of the finest moments in WGI history and I still can hardly believe that we got to be a part of it."

Jackie Javier, a junior who plays vibraphone said, “The best part was meeting different groups from all over the world. We saw a group from Japan, and their music and performance were incredible. This was one of the best experiences of my life, and I'm so excited for next year.”

Kristina Dennis, a junior who plays marimba, saw the trip as a great bonding event for the ensemble. “ I feel like we all became closer friends during this trip,” she said.

The Indoor Percussion Ensemble relies on the Fair Lawn Friends of Music, a PTA group which supports all music programs in the district. Parent volunteers serve as roadies who load and unload the equipment onto trucks. They also help design, build, and paint the set, and they conduct fundraisers throughout the year.  Eddie Addon, the head roadie, drove the truck to Dayton.  “The kids will learn the music. We just need to all keep supporting our kids and the music program for the future.” 

The WGI event is the last competition for the 2014 season which saw the ensemble take first place in the USBands National Competition at Toms River on April 6. Burbank, the Pit instructor, told his group “It was an awesome season and one I'll never forget, not just because it was our first time going to Dayton, but because I was working with a truly amazing group of students and instructors. This is only the beginning of what we can accomplish!” 

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