East Lyme's Viking marching band is No. 1 statewide

All 37 Viking band students snapped into action playing the Latin music of “Vivir!” Tuba, percussion, trombone and guitar players stepped with the festive beat, while the color guard flipped vibrant orange and purple flags into the air.

The music transitioned smoothly among four songs: “Malagueña,” “Cuentame,” “Conga” and finally a medley of “Despacito” and “Vivir Mi Vida.”

After four months of practice and a six-minute performance at Veterans Stadium in New Britain, the East Lyme High School Viking Marching Band walked out of New England State Championships on Oct. 30 with a ranking of first in Connecticut and second in New England.

“Everything clicked together. People hit their entrances, soloists killed their solos. Our directors were screaming on the sidelines between movements. It fueled our energy through to the end,” said senior Sarah Singer, percussion captain.

Band director Angelica Fadrowski, who has worked in East Lyme High School band for two years after moving from Putnam, was also proud of her students.

“This is a really big win. We did really well. In any sport, state championships is the end of the season. Winning really meant the world to my students and staff,” said Fadrowski. “The students worked really hard this year, and the student leaders drove the process. In general, the students were hungry to learn, enthusiastic, and excited about this marching band season, including new members. This separated us from previous seasons.”

Competing in Division 1A against six other schools, the Viking band received an overall score of 88.8 percent, based on individual music performance, ensemble music performance, visual performance, overall effect, color guard and percussion scores.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a freshman, so it is so exciting that our years of hard work paid off,” said senior Owen Rodgers, drum major.

Increasing the band size dramatically, 26 new members joined the program this year. Size of the band has fluctuated, from about 200 students in the ‘80s to recent fractions of those numbers.

To increase size, Fadrowski emphasized the importance of recruitment from East Lyme Middle School.

“It’s great that young people are interested in band. It is nice to know that people coming from the middle schools know about band and are excited about it… In general, marching bands have to have better chemistry than a concert band, because we are all put into a situation where we have to make connections in order to have a good performance,” said Mae Czuba, junior assistant drum major.

Throughout the season (which started with a one-week band camp in August), students practiced three times a week and had local competitions in Norwich Free Academy, Fitch High School, Rockville High School and Sheehan High School, where they were undefeated. They also performed at home football games. In one or two years, national competition may be in the offing.

“We really worked very hard this year. We’ve definitely done more with the band than we’ve done in previous years, or at least since I’ve been here,” said Ian Aldrich, senior woodwind and band captain.

“We are also more of an intimate group than a sports team, because while we do march together, we also play instruments together and we try to work well together.”

Being for the most part self-funded, the East Lyme Viking band holds bottle and can drives on the second and fourth Saturday of every month.

“When people in the community think of the East Lyme marching band, they think of a large ensemble and also a sense of pride. The students always say ‘eyes with pride.’ That is a quote they use when they finish rehearsals,” Fadrowski said. Shecredits the East Lyme community and school system for their support in growing the program.

Band members are cheerful about their progress and hope to grow the program next year.

“They were very excited to end the season on a bang. They played their hearts out, and their success reflects upon their passion for the end of the season. States was their best performance of the year by far,” said Fadrowski.

Julia Walker is news editor of The Viking Saga newspaper at East Lyme High School.

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