Pounding drums, waving flags, trumpeting horns, dancing feet -- these are the sights and sounds that will come off the field at Hofstra University's James M. Shuart Stadium this week.
It's not football, but fans of a different sort are set to pack the stands and cheer on dozens of high school bands and precision drill teams performing at Newsday's 50th annual Marching Band Festival.
ABOUT THE SHOW
When the festival began in 1963, only 13 bands were featured in the single night program. This year, 47 bands from across Nassau and Suffolk counties will play over the course of three days. Participants say because the show is not a judged competition, the atmosphere is celebratory -- not cutthroat.
"These bands routinely perform at the football games to support their community and school, but this is the only event that's just for them," says Joe Romano, MacArthur High School's marching band director. "They can really show off what they can do."
Each band's show has a specific theme, be it Broadway, Disney movies or classic rock. This year, Uniondale High School is going in a pop-oriented direction, incorporating music from contemporary artists like Pitbull, Rihanna and Bruno Mars mixed with some classics from Earth, Wind & Fire and Jimi Hendrix that fit their theme, "A Night Out on the Town."
"We are a high-energy band. People expect a certain style of show from us," says band director Colton Wynter. "It's about a combination of school pride and self pride."
Meanwhile, Levittown's MacArthur High School will deliver a tribute to New York with a baseball medley of "Meet the Mets"/"Here Come the Yankees," plus performances of "On Broadway" and "New York, New York," complete with a kickline.
Playing the music is only half the challenge -- the bands also entertain with colorful dance moves and creative line formations on the field.
Northport High School, one of the original 13 bands that started the festival, is the event's largest marching band, with just under 300 members. Its Tigerettes dance troupe and flag line is marked by energetic choreography that even gets band members dancing.
"While the drum line does a one-minute feature on Chick Corea's 'Spain,' the band puts down their instruments and does a choreographed dance," says band director Shirley Rush. "It's pretty powerful. They take up the whole field."
Each band creates formations on the field at some point in their 10-minute routines. MacArthur forms a giant M, and Uniondale creates a diamond. In keeping with its "machines" theme, Levittown's Division Avenue High School breaks into "The Robot" dance.
The festival typically draws about 4,000 people a night, with community members from each district patchworked into the crowd to support the hometown band.
"People scream for their band and film them," says senior Schuyler Melore, 17, drum major for Northport High School. "Some even wear T-shirts that say, 'I'm with the band.' It's crazy."
Senior Deanna Scopaz, 17, of MacArthur High School, says the audience participation actually enhances her band's performance. "When we hear the crowd cheering, it riles us up and makes us want to perform better," she says.
Uniondale senior Cary Lamb, 17, used to be a regular spectator at the annual festival -- until he took the plunge and joined the marching band and now is its drum major. "Their performance was so electrifying, I had to be part of it," he says. "There's a 'We are all in this together' spirit to the event. Every year, I can't wait for the festival."
Newsday’s 50th annual Marching Band Festival
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Oct. 23-25, Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium, Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead
INFO 631-843-2214, newsday.com/marchingbandfestival
ADMISSION $10 ($8 advance)