For those of us on the outside looking in, band might be reduced down to brass instruments, percussion, and woodwinds. Those of us on the outside may perceive that it’s centered around a new piece of music to master or a set of choreographed steps on the football field. We might assume that it’s “just a class” or “another extra-curricular activity.”
But trying to peg band solely as any one of those things would be an incomplete picture of something much richer and more meaningful going on behind the doors of Jenison Public Schools.
You see to those on the inside looking out, band is what you breathe. It’s the beat that sets your heart pumping. It’s in your blood.
And that means band is family.
This idea came alive when Mr. Zamborsky was asked to describe the best part of his job. He didn’t hesitate:
“Without a doubt, it’s the relationship with the kids.” He smiled and continued, “In high school bands particularly, but in band in general, there is a greater sense of community. It’s like a family; the kids who stick with the program and who have worked together — sometimes for seven years — are committed to each other and to the work that we’re doing. I really see mine as a special role, because other than parents or maybe a youth leader, I’m one of the main constants in their lives. We naturally become a family.”
The students at Jenison High School echo those sentiments resoundingly, explaining that while their teachers remain authority figures to them, they have become much more than that. They also were excited to share how the band program has shaped them as young people, building character traits that will follow them throughout their lives.
Junior Anthony Genovese explains, “I had the greatest experience in band! It helped me become a better person by teaching me hard work and determination.” Senior Shawn Nichols pointed out that the competitive nature of band helps them set goals and strive for excellence.
Mr. Zamborsky elaborates, “Marching band is the hardest thing many of them have ever done. The training — both physical and mental — is really tough, and the competitions are tough! It’s very rare to have to dedicate so much time to one thing at their age.”
But that dedication, tenacity, and hard work paid off in spades last November when the JPS Marching Band grabbed the title of State Champions, sending them on to Nationals where they advanced to the semi-finals. For the students, earning that distinction is still cherished as a favorite memory.
Shawn Nichols and Melissa Postema gushed over their experience at State, where they took first place for “Best General Effect” and “Best Visual,” winning for the first time since 2004.
Mr. York’s memory of the evening comes through the lens of a teacher letting the kids “pretty much run the show.” He likened the experience to letting a ball roll down a hill. “When the band hits the field during competitions, it’s all student-led, so it’s completely up to them. And likewise, they get to take it all in.”
Mr. Zamborsky is most proud of what the kids are able to do musically, and credits the collaboration within the band department for that success. He, Mr. York, and Mrs. Gembis are able to break kids up and give individual attention to those smaller groups because of thoughtful planning and teamwork. They’re flexible and cooperative, at times taking students to work in three separate rooms so they can receive specific training on small parts of the same piece.
It is this attention to detail that helps the band bloom and thrive.
Anthony and Melissa say there’s another ingredient to the band’s success, and that is the support and participation of the Jenision community. “We couldn’t do it without the people who believe in us!” they say.
Several students commented on how meaningful the small gestures are to them while they’re performing, like having parents pass out water bottles after football games and help run concessions or organize the boosters program. The community supports the hours of work that go into band camp, pre-band camp, post-band camp, and everything in between.
In short, they support. They cheer. They encourage.
Because that’s what family does for each other.
And that’s what band is.