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The band can play: Northport High School marching band finds alternative performance after Newsday Festival cancellation

Schools by: Harrison LeBow, October 15, 2021

Members of the Northport Tiger Marching Band perform at home on October 9, 2021. Photograph by Herman Chin, via Facebook (Northport Marching Band Booster Club page).

After weeks of emotion and protest, members of the Northport High School Tiger Marching Band will finally be able to show off their hard work to the community and others under the beaming lights, at a USBands competition taking place at Walt Whitman High School on October 24 from 5 to 9pm.

This, however, was not always the plan.

Typically, the Tiger Marching Band’s fall season culminates with its final, show-stopping performance at the Newsday Marching Band Festival, a presentation they work toward all year.

The last such festival took place in October 2019, with hopes of its return for the 2021-2022 school year. On September 10, 2021, however, the Newsday Marching Band Festival announced on its Facebook page that its “number one priority” was the safety of student musicians, attendees and staff. “As the pandemic continues to endure,” the post read, “we have decided to postpone the 2021 Newsday Marching Band Festival.”

With college football teams filling their 90,000-seat stadiums to the brim, the students, parents, and teachers of Northport-East Northport did not take this decision lying down.

Upon hearing the news, Northport’s marching band student leaders quickly sprang into action, creating a petition that amassed over 2,100 signatures in less than 24 hours, headlined and hashtagged with the band’s ultimate goal: #letthemplayNewsday.

Northport High School senior and band president Braden Ciszek, the creator of the petition, gave the following argument in support of the cause: “The annual Newsday Festival has been canceled for 2021. This is an outdoor event that was taken away last year due to Covid. This year it is more than possible and safe for it to happen when indoor stadiums are filling with thousands of people every weekend and high school football teams are traveling again. There is no reason for us not to be able to play this year, we have already lost enough to Covid.” The Tiger Marching Band’s Booster Club ensured wary participants that, following and respecting pandemic procedures, “all of our district’s safety protocols would apply.”

The petition even caught the attention of local media, with four Northport marching band seniors and student leaders interviewed for a segment on News12 of Long Island.

All this, however, did not get Newsday to budge. Talk of a rehabilitated festival “sometime this spring” fizzled into nothing, and the 2021-2022 Tiger Marching Band was left feeling robbed of a fall-season culmination and those burning memories of playing in front of thousands under the lights. Until now.

With the invitation to perform at the USBands competition made official on October 5, the Tiger Marching Band’s directors and student leaders met and hammered out a renewed performance, one that attempts to simulate as best it can those traditions forged at the first Newsday Marching Band Festival in 1963.

USBands is a competitive circuit for high school band programs nationwide. In this upcoming performance, the Tiger Marching Band will be exhibiting their field show, but not competing with the rest of the bands. Tiger Marching Band students and parents will have the opportunity to watch the various bands performing that night, as well.

Tickets for the USBands Competition on Sunday, October 24 will be sold at the door. Food and concessions will also be available.