Mineola band wins big second year in a row

Tom McCarthy
Mineola High School’s Marching Band placed first in their division at the New York State Field Band Conference State Championship held at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse from Oct. 26-27. (Photo courtesy of Mineola Union Free School District)

Mineola High School’s marching band is celebrating finishing first in its division at the New York State Field Band Conference State Championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse Oct. 26-27. 

This is the second year in the row the band has placed first, band director Christopher Toomey said.

“Our students, staff, and district are proud to take home the NYSFBC Championship two years in a row. It is true that someone takes home the Championship Governor’s Cup every year at the end of the season, but it is very rare to happen in consecutive years,” Toomey said. 

At this year’s show, the band performed its original routine “The Walkabout,” about Aboriginal Australian culture. It is a story of a tribe with 12-year-old learning how to live off the land, as the ancestors had done, Toomey said.

According to Toomey, the idea came to him after two staff members visited Australia and learned of its indigenous cultures in the summer of 2018. Toomey said that it was a perfect opportunity to educate music students, its audiences, and the bandleaders themselves.

Toomey said that since the conference began in 1974, only four other bands have ever won the back to back years. Mineola is proud to join this elite team, Toomey said, becoming the fifth school in NYSFBC history to achieve this.

“It really speaks to the student’s dedication to this activity, and to bettering themselves as musicians, performers, and people,” Toomey said. “This activity demands dedication and excellence from every member, and they continue to rise to the occasion.”

A walkabout is a rite of passage which a 12 or 13-year-old Aboriginal boy partakes in, Toomey said. As they grow up, the men of the tribe teach the young boy about how to survive off the land as their ancestors did, he said. At 12-13 years old, they send the youth out into the wilderness, alone, for anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months, he said.

“Our marching band show tells the story of a young boy going on ‘Walkabout’ notice the wording, it is used similarly to our word vacation…you can plan “a vacation”, but when you actually go, you ‘go on vacation,'” Toomey said. 

 “We are introduced to his tribe at the beginning of the show, and then he is set off into the wilderness on Walkabout,” he added.

At the Mineola village board meeting last Wednesday, Mineola Trustee Paul Cusato singled the band out.

“I also wanted to congratulate our Mineola marching band,” Cusato said.

Cusato said that both his daughters were involved in the band in the ‘90s saying, “Back then I can remember the hours and hours and days and days of after school practices. Obviously, practice makes practice.”

Toomey said that for countless students the music department is a “safe place” for them to be themselves. 

“They enjoy being in the music department, and they feel comfortable in the environment which we create for them,” Toomey said. “We had 105 students in our program this year, and each one of them plays a unique part in our show.”

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