School bands impress in NYC

East Meadow places first, Clarke third at Columbus Day Parade


The East Meadow High School marching band made its Columbus Day Parade debut in 1992, under the direction of Bill Katz, Ken Sepe, Joel Levy and Abby Behr. The band took first place among high school groups that year, and followed that performance with 10 more first-place finishes over the next 20 years. On Oct. 14, the band not only notched its 12th overall victory, but its third in a row.

To add to the day’s success, W.T. Clarke High School’s marching band achieved its best finish — third place — in just its fourth year of competing.

A yearly staple on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the parade runs from 44th Street to 72nd, an approximate 45-minute march. More than a dozen high school bands from across the tri-state area are evaluated by judges based on the quality of their music, the precision of their marching and their overall performance — coordination, creativity and showmanship, among other factors.

East Meadow’s band finished five points short of a perfect score, totaling 95 points, six points ahead of runner-up West Islip High. Clarke scored 87.5 points, a point and a half shy of second place. Behr, the East Meadow district’s director of music and art, described the two bands’ accomplishments as a culmination of hard work and dedication.

“It’s an acknowledgement of not only the time and effort,” said Behr, who has taught music in the district since 1989, “but the discipline and the skills that they’ve learned from fourth grade through high school.

“Everybody from the instrumentalists in the band to the color guard and the drum line,” she continued, “is just wonderful.”

Maintaining success

East Meadow High was the first high school band to appear in this year’s parade — the previous year’s results determine the marching order. The 204-member band stepped off at approximately 11:30 a.m., and marched up one of Manhattan’s most iconic streets, which was lined by thousands of spectators. “It’s very exciting for them,” Behr said. “There’s just a really special feeling that the students get marching between the buildings. The crowd loves them.”

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