SPS marching bands unite for Jamboree

Published 8:47 pm Monday, May 29, 2023

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The windy and cool weather couldn’t keep the crowd away from the 2023 Suffolk Marching Band Jamboree Friday, May 26 at Nansemond River High School’s Arrowhead Stadium. 

Families and students gathered to support the school’s marching band programs as well as cheer on the three bands from Lakeland High School, King’s Fork High School and Nansemond River High School. 

Suffolk Public School middle school students also attended with their families as they were invited to attend free of charge.

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The evening saw the three high schools battle it out as each band displayed their musical, dancing and both flag and baton twirling talents to the crowd during the showcase. 

During the intermission, all three band directors — Bernard Bradley of KFHS, Edward Woodis of NRHS and Alvin Wilson II of LHS each shared their thoughts on the jamboree and what it meant for the schools to be together.

“With this event, it’s something I think [has] been on our minds for several years now and it’s really good to see this come to fruition,” Bradley said. “It’s really good for our community to see all of our programs come together and represent all in one place and just as important, just to continue to build the programs in all areas, especially in our middle schools.”

He said they had the opportunity to come out for free this evening to view this, be a part of this, and it’s really good for them to see that hopefully we can continue to attract more students into the fine art of music.

Despite the competition, Wilson emphasized the unity and comradery of the schools and how everyone was there for their kids and their love of music.

“Even though we have competitive spirit in this inner friendly atmosphere, it’s still Suffolk Public Schools and we’re all here for the same goal and that’s to serve music and to bring our kids who have a love for music,” Wilson said. “I’m excited because all of the directors here [have] that same passion of feeding to our children for that love of music. ‘Cause I love the unity that we’re bringing together because we’re competitive but we’re all one.”

Woodis followed up by praising the work of his fellow band directors.

“I’m just proud to work in Suffolk Public Schools and with two outstanding fellow musicians, because we know that this is not everywhere,” he said. “I think we work well together. We’re competitive but we still come together. And the kids see that and it’s real timely that we got the Best Community in Music Education [Award] –  we didn’t know we we’re going to get that.”

SPS Coordinator of Fine and Performing Arts Joleen Neighbours, P.hD., attended, sharing her thoughts on how proud she is of the showcase. She emphasized its focus, saying, “It’s all about the kids.”

“I want every kid to have an opportunity to have something artistic in their life,” Neighbours said.

The band directors shared their thoughts on the event and what it means for their students.

Woodis discussed the middle schoolers who got to be there for the first time to experience the showcase.

“They see us in competitions, but I think this is the first time that they’ve seen us all together. Hope they take away from this that this is just the beginning. And it’s a new beginning after everything that they’ve gone through with COVID-19, it’s still a memory in the back of everyone’s head, but it’s a great way to kind of go forward into a new dimension for all of us,” Woodis expressed.

Wilson thanked staff members of the central office, as well as Neighbours for their support of the arts. He added students are taking away a sense of unity and how the event is so much bigger than them.

“This is all about community. Music is something that they are able to serve, and able to give the community and the people, so that they’re able to feel what they’re bringing to them because they’re artists,” she said. “I want them to make sure that they understand to take away unity, and music is something that they can serve each other as one through the community.”

Bradley said students will take away special memories from the event.

“Music is fun. Band is fun. And most importantly, the memories you can make from something like this is just something that you can never, ever take away,” he said. “So be a part of what we’re doing. We’re continuing to grow, we want everyone to be over a hundred pieces in the very near future. It’s about the love of music and we’re going to continue to bring it here at Suffolk Public Schools.”