A student writes a message near a memorial outside of...

A student writes a message near a memorial outside of Farmingdale High School in memory of the two teachers killed in a bus crash on Thursday in Orange County. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The marching band community on Long Island is a tight-knit one, and the loss of a popular Farmingdale High School band director and chaperone and injuries to students in Thursday’s bus crash has sent band members and staffers from schools across the region reeling.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in my band room when we talked about what happened and how could this happen,” Central Islip High School band co-director Jeremiah Ryan said Friday. “My students are planning a fundraiser with other local bands and are creating ribbons and a banner saying ‘Daler Strong,’ even though they have never met anybody in that marching band. They feel like they are part of that same band.”

Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, the director of bands at Farmingdale High School, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, who was acting as a chaperone, were killed when a bus on its way to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania, plunged down a 50-foot ravine on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda and overturned, authorities said. Dozens of members of the school’s marching band were injured.

Traveling via a caravan of buses with fellow bandmates and equipment is a familiar scenario for hundreds of Long Island students who participate in high school marching bands. Some high schools have competitive bands, and others do not compete but perform at parades, halftime shows and other events, such as Newsday’s Marching Band Festival scheduled for October. Local bands also travel and have marched in places as varied as Washington, D.C., and down the Main Street of Disney World.

“The band world is a small world, and marching band even narrows that down more,” said Lynn Cromeyn, director of the Northport Tiger marching band, flagline and the Tigerettes. “I am friendly with marching band directors, and we all know each other — and when a tragedy affects one, it affects everybody.”

Currently, several Long Island marching bands are competing in the New York State Field Band conference, which ends in late October in Syracuse. On Sunday, Copiague High School will host a band competition that will include 10 bands from Long Island.

There will be a moment of silence before the competition and participating schools will wear green ribbons in solidarity with Farmingdale High School.

“We will read a statement saying that we stand in support of the Farmingdale band program and support them during this incredible time of loss,” said Jennifer Ross-Troise, the Copiague district’s director of fine arts. She said members of the Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School band gathered Thursday night after rehearsal.

“Everybody realized that how tragic it was and how it could have been any of us,” she said.

Officials at Valley Stream North High School dedicated the marching band’s field show at Friday night’s football game to the Farmingdale band and community.

Some students start marching band as early as eighth grade and end up spending five years under the same director. Training often begins in the summer and some bands perform at events throughout the school year. Brentwood’s competitive marching band — the Green Machine — is among the state’s best, having won three state championships. The band celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and is a point of pride in the community.

“We were just starting rehearsal when my phone started to blow up,” Joseph Sitler, Brentwood’s marching band director, said about learning of the accident. “Getting through rehearsal — it was kind of rough. We are always getting on a bus, and we are always traveling with these kids to give them the best experience possible while in high school. I am still sick to my stomach.”

He said plans are in the works to raise funds for Pellettiere’s young child for a college fund or trust.

Some band directors have started to discuss ways to support the Farmingdale band, such as volunteering time to the high school program — if students and staff there want to continue the season.

In Northport, band members made a banner Friday in support of Farmingdale to share on social media. Band president Nicholas Thomas, 17, a senior at Northport High School, said he understands what it’s like to be part of a marching band, which gave him “long-lasting relationships with my teachers, my friends and my peers.”

Ryan, the co-director of the Central Islip Musketeer marching band, often shared the field with the Farmingdale band under Pellettiere’s direction at the Newsday festival.

“The kids know that their directors spend more time with them away from their own families to make this activity possible … and the kids give us everything they have in return,” he said. “Gina ran her program the same way. Those kids could march, those kids would play and play with an amazing sense of pride, and you could stand there and be in awe of what 300 kids could do under one person. That was the bond she had with her students.”

Former marching band alumni still remember what it was like to be part of her group.

Katherine Kacner Calderaro, 35, of Houston, was a middle school student in Huntington when she first met Pellettiere, who was working in the district’s music department. Pellettiere helped guide the high school’s marching band in Huntington before going to Farmingdale.

Being in the Blue Devils band “was the best decision I ever made — it gave me a sense of belonging and being part of a family. They were always there for you, and Ms. P was no exception,” Calderaro said.

The marching band community on Long Island is a tight-knit one, and the loss of a popular Farmingdale High School band director and chaperone and injuries to students in Thursday’s bus crash has sent band members and staffers from schools across the region reeling.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in my band room when we talked about what happened and how could this happen,” Central Islip High School band co-director Jeremiah Ryan said Friday. “My students are planning a fundraiser with other local bands and are creating ribbons and a banner saying ‘Daler Strong,’ even though they have never met anybody in that marching band. They feel like they are part of that same band.”

Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, the director of bands at Farmingdale High School, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, who was acting as a chaperone, were killed when a bus on its way to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania, plunged down a 50-foot ravine on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda and overturned, authorities said. Dozens of members of the school’s marching band were injured.

Traveling via a caravan of buses with fellow bandmates and equipment is a familiar scenario for hundreds of Long Island students who participate in high school marching bands. Some high schools have competitive bands, and others do not compete but perform at parades, halftime shows and other events, such as Newsday’s Marching Band Festival scheduled for October. Local bands also travel and have marched in places as varied as Washington, D.C., and down the Main Street of Disney World.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The tight-knit marching band community on Long Island is reeling from the loss of a band director and chaperone and students being injured in a bus crash.
  • Traveling via a caravan of buses with bandmates and equipment is a familiar scenario for hundreds of Island students who participate in high school marching bands.
  • Several bands are planning steps to show support for Farmingdale, and some band directors have started to discuss other ways to help.

“The band world is a small world, and marching band even narrows that down more,” said Lynn Cromeyn, director of the Northport Tiger marching band, flagline and the Tigerettes. “I am friendly with marching band directors, and we all know each other — and when a tragedy affects one, it affects everybody.”

‘It could have been any of us’

Currently, several Long Island marching bands are competing in the New York State Field Band conference, which ends in late October in Syracuse. On Sunday, Copiague High School will host a band competition that will include 10 bands from Long Island.

There will be a moment of silence before the competition and participating schools will wear green ribbons in solidarity with Farmingdale High School.

“We will read a statement saying that we stand in support of the Farmingdale band program and support them during this incredible time of loss,” said Jennifer Ross-Troise, the Copiague district’s director of fine arts. She said members of the Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School band gathered Thursday night after rehearsal.

“Everybody realized that how tragic it was and how it could have been any of us,” she said.

Officials at Valley Stream North High School dedicated the marching band’s field show at Friday night’s football game to the Farmingdale band and community.

Some students start marching band as early as eighth grade and end up spending five years under the same director. Training often begins in the summer and some bands perform at events throughout the school year. Brentwood’s competitive marching band — the Green Machine — is among the state’s best, having won three state championships. The band celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and is a point of pride in the community.

“We were just starting rehearsal when my phone started to blow up,” Joseph Sitler, Brentwood’s marching band director, said about learning of the accident. “Getting through rehearsal — it was kind of rough. We are always getting on a bus, and we are always traveling with these kids to give them the best experience possible while in high school. I am still sick to my stomach.”

He said plans are in the works to raise funds for Pellettiere’s young child for a college fund or trust.

Some band directors have started to discuss ways to support the Farmingdale band, such as volunteering time to the high school program — if students and staff there want to continue the season.

A lasting bond

In Northport, band members made a banner Friday in support of Farmingdale to share on social media. Band president Nicholas Thomas, 17, a senior at Northport High School, said he understands what it’s like to be part of a marching band, which gave him “long-lasting relationships with my teachers, my friends and my peers.”

Ryan, the co-director of the Central Islip Musketeer marching band, often shared the field with the Farmingdale band under Pellettiere’s direction at the Newsday festival.

“The kids know that their directors spend more time with them away from their own families to make this activity possible … and the kids give us everything they have in return,” he said. “Gina ran her program the same way. Those kids could march, those kids would play and play with an amazing sense of pride, and you could stand there and be in awe of what 300 kids could do under one person. That was the bond she had with her students.”

Former marching band alumni still remember what it was like to be part of her group.

Katherine Kacner Calderaro, 35, of Houston, was a middle school student in Huntington when she first met Pellettiere, who was working in the district’s music department. Pellettiere helped guide the high school’s marching band in Huntington before going to Farmingdale.

Being in the Blue Devils band “was the best decision I ever made — it gave me a sense of belonging and being part of a family. They were always there for you, and Ms. P was no exception,” Calderaro said.

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