Tri-District Band Festival Brings Hundreds to One Auditorium


Courtesy of the Lakeland Live Feed

The Tri-District Band concert is a new tradition at LRHS. This year saw over 200 students playing the “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Every year, the Lakeland Regional High School Lancer Band puts on performances for the community. Their winter and spring concerts are beloved hallmarks of the Lakeland school year. This year, a new tradition has joined the lineup: the first ever Tri-District Music Festival. The festivities were held on February 15, 2023 in the Lakeland auditorium. The Lancer Concert and Jazz Bands were joined by the Ryerson Middle School seventh and eighth grade band and the Wanaque Borough Middle Schools’ beginning and advanced level bands to create an unforgettable night of music. 

The theme for the festival was “Beyond the Stars,” and each band brought their own unique interpretation to their musical selections, and each received an interstellar response in return.

The festivities began with a consolidated rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. With nearly 200 students playing at once, it was a tight squeeze for the performers. It was standing room only, with chairs being rationed only to students whose instruments were too large to be played standing up. The entirety of Lakeland’s auditorium stage was filled, and the ground in front of the stage was also packed with students and their instruments.

The first band to perform solo was the Wanaque district beginning band. In keeping with the space-age theme, they performed “Milky Way March,” composed by Tom Molter, and “Warp Speed,” composed by Michael Story. The relatively simple songs were performed pleasantly and accurately. These music choices were perfect for the young musicians. They allowed the audience to see their budding skills without obviously overwhelming the performers themselves.

The Ryerson band chose to do two pieces from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” suite. First, they ramped up the intensity with “Mars, the Bringer of War,” as arranged by Johnnie Vinson. The endless suspense provided by this piece kept the entire auditorium on the edge of their seats. The heavy, mechanical thrum of the band’s basses especially contributed to the ambiance, sending a feeling of unease into the air. Once the audience was enraptured by their opening, Ryerson softened their repertoire with themes from Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, as arranged by Andrew Balent. The sound of this number seemed to bounce around the room, thoroughly delighting the audience. It was an exuberant tune that paid homage to life and all its joyful moments; truly a perfect way for Ryerson to end their solo performance.

The Wanaque district advanced band started their performance with a lighter number: “Little Star,” composed by Rob Grice. Afterwards, they brought the house down with a rendition of Stephen Scwartz’s “Defying Gravity,” from the hit musical Wicked, as arranged by Michael Sweeney. The latter piece put into perspective how hard each of the students had worked to develop their musicality, especially when compared to the pieces of Wanaque’s beginning band. It would be hard to believe that these same performers might have been playing pieces as simple as “Warp Speed” and “Milky Way March” just a year before this broadway triumph. It was truly a testament to all of the dedication and drive displayed by the young musicians.

The Lakeland Lancer jazz band provided a break from the night’s theme, opting for a classic number in their genre: “Go Daddy-O”. The Lancer Jazz band’s piece was composed by Scotty Morris and first recorded by the popular jazz group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. This piece was particularly well-received. Its stark contrast in style from the rest of the night’s selections snapped the audience to attention. The fast, swinging pace of the piece also helped to keep the energy in the room high as the night wore on. A well-placed trombone solo by senior Michael Phalon even elicited raucous applause from the crowd before the song had ended.

The Lancer concert Band flanked the jazz portion of the evening and brought back the night’s theme. The Lancers lead with a rendition of Disney’s anthem, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” composed by Leigh Harline, as arranged by Sammy Nestico. They certainly did the song justice. The iconic theme seemed to float as if lifted by balloons through the auditorium. Its exceptional delivery was bolstered by trumpet features from senior Liam Browne and a flute feature from senior Nicole LaDuke. The band’s second song choice was “In Flight,” an atmospheric piece composed by Samuel Hazo. True to its name, “In Flight” could have convinced anyone they were soaring through the air. Most of its glory can be attested to quick changes in tone and style of playing. The brightness of the song’s main theme was punctuated by intense percussion features, which seemed to emulate stormy skies. Of course, when quick staccato notes denoted dark clouds of terror, a slower tempo with lighter, more connected notes broke through the clouds and soothed the crowd soon afterwards. The Lancer Band’s musicians navigated these intricacies masterfully, leaving the audience in awe.

For the final performance of the evening, the bands consolidated once again. This time, they performed the theme from Star Wars, composed by John Williams, as arranged by Carl Strommen. Hearing the triumphant notes of the classic theme elicited a certain feeling of pride, especially among the performers and their directors, who put so much into creating the festival. 

Music is often something that goes unnurtured in the grand scheme of a school district, students aren’t given enough support, or the program is denied much-needed funding; however, the Tri-District Music Festival sang a different tune. In their rendition of Star Wars, and throughout the entire night, there was proof of a greater musical community within the four bands. There was a sense of comradery between musicians; individual work put into each and every piece; and adults behind the scenes, teaching, conducting, and putting in long hours for the sake of their students. The Tri-District Music Festival spoke of a larger triumph in Lakeland’s community: a resounding effort to bring music to all. An effort that seems to be having an intensely positive impact on everyone involved, and one that holds the promise to instill each of its musicians with the skills they need to truly end up “Beyond the Stars.”