NHS marching band bringing the thunder


Naugatuck High School marching band director Robert Hughes leads the band through a late August practice. The band will host its annual Thunder in the Valley competition Saturday at the high school. The competition begins at 6 p.m. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — There’s thunder in the forecast this Saturday over Naugatuck High School’s Veteran’s Field. The storm that’s brewing is, with any luck, purely metaphorical.

The Naugatuck High School marching band is hoping for sunshine Saturday as the band hosts its annual Thunder in the Valley competition.

“It should be a really good show,” said new band director Robert Hughes.

Band Council President and Naugatuck High School senior Brenna Barrett said she was excited for the show.

“Having this show is a way for us to represent our band not only in the town, but what our band has to offer,” she said.

The event is back for its 19th year after taking a hiatus last year due to lack of interest from other bands.
Seven bands signed up for the competition this year, as well as the University of New Haven Marching band, of which Hughes is a co-founder.

Last year, only three bands were interested in the competition, which wasn’t enough to turn a profit for what is usually the band’s biggest fundraiser. Instead, band members went door-to-door in their uniforms to make up for the loss in revenue.

“That was not fun,” Barrett said. She said the band raised awareness for the program, but not enough money to make up for the loss of Thunder in the Valley.

This year, Hughes said he hopes to turn a profit of $6,000 to $8,000 after about $3,000 in costs for food, custodial staff, fire, police, and awards.

“If we made $5000, that would be considered profitable,” he said.

Even if the show is financially successful, Hughes said the band will have to find other ways to raise money.
Over the years, the band has gotten less money from the school but incurs more costs, Hughes said.

“We’re always looking for different opportunities to fund raise and support the program,” he said.

The competition couldn’t happen without the support of volunteers.

“We were able to get the parents’ support up where it needed to be,” Hughes said.

He said about 80 alumni parents and new active band parents volunteered to help out with the event.

The competition will kick off with a combined performance of the national anthem with City Hill Middle School eighth graders and the high school band.

The middle school band will also play a few patriotic tunes during intermission.

Hughes said his students are excited to have a home show.

“It’s a great night for the kids because it’s all about celebrating them and what they do all season long,” Hughes said.

Sophomore flute and piccolo player Megan McSweeney said she looks forward to having more of her friends and family come to watch her perform on her home field.

“At first, I didn’t really realize how big of a deal it was,” McSweeney said on the cancelation of Thunder in the Valley last year. “Later, I was really upset that we didn’t get to have it, which makes me even more excited now because it’s my first (home competition).”

Trumpet section leader and junior Roberto Rodriguez said this year’s competition will be different with a new band director.

“He’s a lot more on top of things,” Rodriguez said.

Thunder in the Valley is Naugy’s second competition of the season after competing in Brookfield last weekend.

“It went pretty well,” McSweeney said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The ‘Hounds earned a score of 69.20 out of 100 possible points. Last year, they finished out the season at 89.95.

“I’d like to break 90 this year,” Barrett said.

As the host band, the Greyhounds will not be competing for a score this Saturday.

The band will compete every Saturday until Nov. 12, with the exception of Oct. 8.

“We have an awesome show put together and I’m very optimistic that the students will perform well,” Hughes said.

The band is facing new challengers this year as it has moved up to the Class III division due to increased membership. The band includes 65 musicians, five more than last year.

When asked if bigger bands are better, Hughes said, “They’re louder.”

Naugatuck is currently the only Class III band in the Musical Arts Conference.

Although each class is judged by the same criteria, Hughes said each class has a different set of issues to focus on.

“We picked a very difficult, demanding show, and we’re really focusing, in general to taking the students to the next level of performance,” Hughes said.

This year’s show features music from the Millennium Celebration fireworks show at Disney’s Epcot Center in Florida.
“We have some really fast tempos, so the kids are moving. I think they really like the demand that they have from it,” Hughes said.

Band members said they like the new music.

“It’s a lot harder than previous years, so it gives us that extra challenge to become even better,” Rodriguez said.

With about one-third of the band members and half the staff, not to mention the director new this year, Hughes said the band still has a lot of work to do.

“We get to sort-of hit the reset button he said,” he said.

Hughes said he isn’t concerned with scores or wins.

“I just want us to put the best possible product out there. … So long as the kids have fun and they learn something in the process, that would be my goal,” he said.

The Thunder in the Valley is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at Naugatuck High School.