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Compete for Life’s Marching Band Performs at Hinchliffe Stadium

Compete for Life’s Marching Band Performs at Hinchliffe Stadium

October 18, 2023

Marching bands have been a part of the Paterson community for decades, with high school students from both John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Eastside High Schools playing in parades or at football games in Hinchliffe Stadium. The JFK marching band was especially successful in the 1990s and 2000s, receiving awards from statewide marching band competitions, including first-place and best-in-show awards. These awards are still on display in the hallway near JFK's band room, but the marching band itself has struggled at times to remain a part of the school. Due to state-imposed budget cuts over the last decade, Paterson Public Schools have had to reduce funding for arts and music education. As part of these cuts, JFK was left without a band director—and without a marching band.

Today, the band is supported by NJCDC's Compete for Life program at JFK, which provides a variety of academic enrichment, career exploration, and youth development programming to prepare students for success in college and a career. In 2017, through the vision of several marching band alumni — Ivory Holliday, Craig-Capers Redmond, and Khalil Williams — Compete for Life was able to keep the band going. They knew how important the marching band was for them in high school, and were determined to bring the marching band back for current JFK students. In 2020, they were joined by three more band and Compete for Life alumni —Zanir Frierson, Fantasia Williams, and Ajanae Reed— who also began working as Youth Development Specialists.

All six of them now coach the current Compete for Life students in the marching band, which is comprised of 20 high school students from JFK, International High School, and Rosa L. Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts. Currently, the band itself only has a drumline, but the coaches hope to expand in the future to include other instruments. In addition, the marching band includes both a color guard and a majorette team that perform along with the drumline. Through Compete for Life, these students have the opportunity to share their passion for music, develop their skills, and have fun performing! Marching band members practice four days a week to prepare for performances at JFK's athletic events.

This year's first performance was on October 6 for JFK's Homecoming football game, which they played against Passaic High School. During the school day, the marching band performed at the school's pep rally, helping get school spirit up for that night's game. After school, the members got ready for the game before heading over to Hinchliffe Stadium. Even though it was raining, the band still had a great time performing, cheering on their football team from the stands throughout the game!

I love being a part of the band. The people here, they're like my family," said Natalia, a student at JFK. "This is my passion, this is where I want to be, and this is what my heart is into.

Another student, Destiny, said "I like being in the JFK marching band because it's like a family and it's just fun. We do many things and we get along together."

"The marching band is significant to the students," said the band's coaches. "Many high school students in Paterson go through many hardships, so the marching band allows them to express their emotions through playing the drums/instruments and dancing. The marching band becomes a family, a sense of community, and a space to go with their school struggles and receive advice from the coaches and fellow band members. Most importantly, they learn the art of music and performance."

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