There’s Christmas spirit and school spirit, but then there’s Center Moriches School District spirit; combine the three and you’ve got a formula for success, which was instrumental in propelling the Center Moriches Middle School Band to first place in News 12’s annual Sounds of the Season competition, held last month.
The Center Moriches Middle School Band beat out nearly 3400 musicians across Long Island – from soloists, to church choirs, to fellow school bands – thanks in large part to the overwhelming support received from the Center Moriches community. The contest, established by News 12 online in 2017, launched on Nov. 29. Nominations were able to be submitted until Dec. 6, and based on those nominations, the number of contestants was narrowed down to the Top 12 musical groups or musicians. Dec. 9-13 then marked open voting and after that round, the Top 5 were selected.
Sara Greene, Center Moriches Middle School music teacher and band director, was notified on Friday, Dec. 6 that the middle school band had made it to the Top 12. It was the first time that the middle school band participated in the contest and Greene said she was beyond thrilled at the news that the band had advanced.
“The middle school band is a special group because it is a group of sixth to eighth graders—many schools do not have all three grades combined into one,” explained Greene. “The level of music performed, as well as the musicianship displayed by these young students, always impresses me. They work so hard to play very challenging music for their age and strive to produce mature sounds that have been described by others as sounding like a high school group.”
News of the contest and the student musicians’ outstanding performance spread fast, and soon it seemed that the entire school district—students, staff, teachers, administrators, parents, friends and family—were scrambling to make sure they logged their votes. All voting took place online, and people were able to vote multiple times. Voting officially ended on Dec. 13. Greene was notified shortly thereafter that not only had the Center Moriches Middle School Band made it to the Top 5, but that they had also secured a total of 19,660 votes: the next closest group received 19,592 votes. The grand prize was to be taped during a live performance that would air periodically on both channel News 12 and News12.com, beginning Dec. 19.
A News 12 camera crew visited the middle school campus on Tuesday, Dec. 17, to film the band performing two selections: "A Christmas Festival" by Leroy Anderson and arranged by Robert W. Smith, and "Dance of the Tumblers" from the opera "The Snow Maiden" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and arranged by James Curnow.
Although admittedly nervous, many student musicians were also proud of their accomplishment. “We worked hard for this moment,” said eighth-grade student Jimmy Deedy. “I felt like we really put our heart and souls into it to make it sound the best it can be.”
“We went beyond our comfort zone and worked together as a team. We also really appreciate the recognition of our hard work,” added Jonathan Frohnhoefer, also in eighth grade.
To be highlighted on News 12’s Sounds of the Season was also an honor for the entire school district. School superintendent Dr. Ronald Masera, who joined the district this past year, said he was overwhelmed but not necessarily surprised that the middle school band had won and garnered nearly 20,000 votes.
“It was truly exciting to see the level of support we received from our community for the News 12 Sounds of the Season competition. For a relatively small school, it is amazing that we were able to place first in voting! It is inspiring and heartwarming to see what can be accomplished when an entire community pulls together. Mrs. Greene sets such high expectations for our middle school musicians and they rose to the occasion, making us all very proud. Their performance was magnificent.”
Christine Buff, mother of eighth-grade twins Stephen and Spencer, said having her sons be able to perform on News 12’s Sounds of the Season was “a dream come true. Music and Arts is so very important to kids and we are fortunate to have very committed staff in the Center Moriches district. This community rallied and the support from all over the country is what assisted us in getting the chance to perform.”
“I set very high standards for my students and they amaze me every day with how hard they work to achieve their level of musicianship,” noted Greene. “For them to be recognized for their dedication on a larger platform is something that they truly deserve. I am also extremely overwhelmed by the amount of support we received. I was blown away by the fact that the entire community came together to bring us almost 20,000 votes! I am eternally grateful for that!”