By Ann Marie Barron
Though they’re more comfortable performing a bit later in the day, members of the Randolph High School Marching Band happily rose before dawn recently and traveled to New York City for a chance to perform live on NBC’s Today show.
On Oct. 8, the Marching Rams, including members of the Color Guard and several cheerleaders traveled to Rockefeller Plaza to perform the Today’s homecoming show.
The experience was one none of them would soon forget.
“I don’t think any of us have experienced anything like that and it was a really big honor to be a part of that,’’ said Katrina Arenas, a senior drum major. Arenas said she was pleasantly surprised by the support they received from the Today show staff. “They were all really nice,’’ she said. “They made sure we knew what was going on and what to do. It was all really organized.’’
The band played seven songs as four Randolph cheerleaders danced and four members of the band’s color guard performed on each side of the stage. The performance took place outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza at around 8:30 a.m.
Since the marching band has 150 members, only a select few could be chosen to participate, said Band Director Dawn Russo.
“They earned it,’’ said Russo of the participants, noting that the band members she selected all had been named section leaders last spring. It’s a position that requires dedication, maturity and responsibility, among other strong qualities, she said. “I thought it was fair to take section leaders because they have worked the hardest.’’
The band was invited by Brittany Mania, a 2011 Randolph High School alumna and an associate producer on the Today show.
“When tasked with finding a high school marching band for Today’s homecoming show, I turned to the best one I knew: The Marching Rams,’’ Mania said. “We were very pleased to spotlight the Marching Rams on Today and share their music with our three million viewers. They did a great job!’’
“It was surreal,’’ said Russo, who has been at Randolph High School for 18 years and been the band director since 2005. “They have a plan, but they change it at a moment’s notice.’’ Russo said they’d planned to perform three times, but wound up playing much more – four songs for the television audience and three more for the crowd gathered outside in Rockefeller Plaza.
“They give you the exact minute when you’re going to play,’’ she says.
The hardest part was getting up so early, they said. The group boarded a charter bus at their high school at 3:45 a.m. to arrive in Manhattan at 5:15 a.m.
“It wasn’t easy for any of us,’’ said Arenas, noting that the marching band had performed at a home football game against West Morris Central the night before.
Russo said the trip was made easier by a helpful group of parents.
“The band parents fed us, which was a good thing,’’ she said. “They fed us well. A lot of parents came out to support us. That was a nice surprise.’’