Hard work and commitment paid off for the Phoenix Central School District Marching Band, which took home the state title during the season finale competition recently at the Carrier Dome.
Under the direction of Nick Gerling, assistant director Michelle Rudy and a talented staff, the band competed against eight other teams in the Small Schools 2 Class.
Performing to a musical arrangement titled “In the Grid,” the Firebirds impressed the judges and scored an 86.95, which was enough to edge out Mineola to capture the championship.
“I was overcome with emotions as the score for second place was announced and it was not us,” Gerling said. “As a young director it was ultimately a dream of mine to lead this group to becoming a state champion, but to have done this in only two years still is something I have not truly comprehended. I am blown away by the end result of this season.”
For Gerling, the music department staff, volunteers and band members, the state championship was a testament to the group’s effort and dedication and was “the icing on the cake.”
“The success to me is a direct reflection of the work ethic and dedication these students have to this program,” Gerling said.
Detailing the daily grind and commitment that is required of the students, Rudy echoed the director’s sentiments.
“I’m not sure if anyone that isn’t in it really grasps the long commitment that these students make and long hours in the hot sun, wind, rain, cold temps that they endure throughout the week/weekend to help reach this end goal,” she said. “It is quite an accomplishment after nearly five months of teamwork.”
The achievement marks the Firebirds’ first state championship in the New York State Field Band Conference competition in 10 years.
However, with 67 band members ranging from seventh to 12th grades, Gerling believes the right pieces are in place to continue Phoenix’s rich marching band tradition.
“I’m beyond lucky to have a true muse here with these students and I am blessed every time that I get to be in front of them and to foster their talents,” he said. “I am even more blessed that I work with staff and students that understand my vision for this program and are on board with the progressive growth and movement I am taking with the program. The win is a statement of the longevity and strength of this program. We are a very hardworking organization and all those involved do it for the pure love of the activity.”