Coming off a championship season in 2016, the Phoenix Central School District’s marching band had high expectations going into this year, and their final performance at the Carrier Dome did not disappoint.
The Firebird contingent, under the director of Nick Gerling and assistant director Michelle Rudy, cruised to a state title in the Small Schools 2 Class to cap off a stellar fall season. The winning show, “Life on the Inside,” was a transformative piece that combined props and music to propel the Firebirds to the top of their division with a score of 86.4.
“It means that all of the time and effort going into what they’re doing has paid off,” Gerling said. “It’s time well spent.”
While the Phoenix marching band enjoyed its late-season success, Gerling noted that the season had some challenges along the way.
“They started off slow and steady and we really picked up speed during our third competition at West Genesee,” he said. “After that, they were improving five to six points every week. The students stayed driven and confident, but knew never to get comfortable and always stayed humble. While the staff worked to inspire the students during practices, the students ended up inspiring us throughout the entire season too. Together we were a great team.”
Gerling said watching the students experience so much success is a testament to their commitment.
“They’re an asset to the music program. They’re dedicated, responsible, hardworking leaders of the district,” Gerling said.
Hard work and commitment paid off for the Phoenix Central School District Marching Band, which took home the state title during the season finale competition recently at the Carrier Dome.
Under the direction of Nick Gerling, assistant director Michelle Rudy and a talented staff, the band competed against eight other teams in the Small Schools 2 Class. Performing to a musical arrangement titled “In the Grid,” the Firebirds impressed the judges and scored an 86.95, which was enough to edge out Mineola to capture the championship.
“I was overcome with emotions as the score for second place was announced and it was not us,” Gerling said. “As a young director it was ultimately a dream of mine to lead this group to becoming a state champion, but to have done this in only two years still is something I have not truly comprehended. I am blown away by the end result of this season.”
For Gerling, the music department staff, volunteers and band members, the state championship was a testament to the group’s effort and dedication and was “the icing on the cake.”
“The success to me is a direct reflection of the work ethic and dedication these students have to this program,” Gerling said.
Detailing the daily grind and commitment that is required of the students, Rudy echoed the director’s sentiments. “I’m not sure if anyone that isn’t in it really grasps the long commitment that these students make and long hours in the hot sun, wind, rain, cold temps that they endure throughout the week/weekend to help reach this end goal,” she said. “It is quite an accomplishment after nearly five months of teamwork.”
The achievement marks the Firebirds’ first state championship in the New York State Field Band Conference competition in 10 years. However, with 67 band members ranging from seventh to 12th grades, Gerling believes the right pieces are in place to continue Phoenix’s rich marching band tradition.