Signing up to be a part of the Southern Regional marching band is just like signing up to play a sport in the high school.
Commitment, perseverance, dedication, teamwork and hard work are some of the words band director Andrew Wright uses to describe what it’s like to be a part of the Golden Rams, and his band members know well beforehand what to expect.
“The bar keeps rising here,” said drum major Jamie Myhre, a senior who has been with the Golden Rams since the moment she walked into the high school as a freshman. “Today’s 10 is tomorrow’s zero. We go to our directors and tell them we want to be pushed, because that’s the only way to reach excellence. We’re constantly improving things. We’re very nitpicky about how we perform.”
Wright, a 2002 Southern graduate and former marching band member who took over the band director position in 2008, said the framework by which he and his staff use to build the program is important.
“This is a team effort,” he said. “Just like the football team has offensive and defensive coordinators, we also have various coordinators that oversee their parts of the team and together we make it one successful program. We expect a lot out of our kids.”
Asbury Park Press readers voted the Golden Rams as the best marching band in the Shore Conference during a recent online poll. Following Southern’s 63.6 percent of the vote, Jackson Memorial received 30 percent. Manasquan, Toms River South and Toms River North came in with 5.4, 0.6 and 0.4 percent of the vote, respectively.
And for further proof of how good the Golden Rams are, just watch their halftime show and most of the competitions they attend. Everything’s fluid, crisp and full of energy. From the use of the color guard’s flags to props to placement of certain instrumental lines, the whole show is a work of art on a football field.
“This is one of the few scholastic activities that requires perfection, or as close to it as possible, all the time,” Wright said. “If a 93-percent is an A in the classroom, that’s actually pretty bad for a band. If we performed at 93 pecent, people would be running from the bleachers covering their ears.”
Along with a staff that includes assistant director/visual caption head John Davis, assistant directors Alyssa Wright and Mark Kadetsky, color guard caption head Frank Pupa, percussion caption head Brian Majoros, pit instructor Theresa Yurkevicz, music technician Johnny Dondero and color guard volunteers Michelle Deltufo and Dylan Brierley, Wright’s crew of 85 members has rehearsals three hours each twice a week starting in July.
Most of the band members practice on their own throughout the week as well, with competitions scheduled on a bunch of Saturdays and a few Sundays each fall.
“We put in a lot of hours,” said snare drummer Troy Hagen, a senior drum captain. “We’re very serious about how we perform and we work really hard. The ultimate goal is to have the perfect run. We want to be our best every single time we go out there to perform, and we’re only as good as our best run.”
Last year, the Golden Rams band not only swiped the Grand Champion crown at the Cavalcade of Bands in Hershey, Pa.. They also finished first in Group 2 at the annual Atlantic Coast Tournament of Bands Championships.
“It used to be that good enough meant you could pick some good music and have a little movement,” Wright said. “That’s not the case anymore. There’s a lot more creativity that goes into having a really good band, especially for competitions.”
Junior alto saxophone player Tyler Shives, whose brother, Drew, was part of the band when he was at Southern, aspired to be part of it while still at Southern Regional Middle School four years ago.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of the band when I got there,” he said. “There’s no greater feeling than when you come off the field and you know you’ve done the best show possible,” he said. “When everybody’s screaming and you know it’s because you’ve done your best, it’s just great to be a part of that.”
And being a part of it is like being part of a big family, according to Myrhe.
“We all want to see everybody within our family grow and get better,” she said. “As the drum major, I get to see it all, and I love to watch all the band members excel. It’s so great so see them start off saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this right’ at the beginning to ‘Yes, I can do it and do it well’ by the end of the season. For me, it’s like watching my brothers and sisters finally conquer something big and being excited for them.
“We demand excellence in a positive way. That’s what Southern’s about.”