NHS band keeps hitting right notes

The Naugatuck High School marching band and color guard perform at halftime of the Thanksgiving Day football game. –FILE PHOTO
The Naugatuck High School marching band and color guard perform at halftime of the Thanksgiving Day football game. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — A true sign of success is consistency and growth, and the Naugatuck High School marching band has had both in spades.

The NHS marching band and color guard continues to garner accolade after accolade in competitions.

This past fall, the band won the Musical Arts Conference (MAC) championship in the Class III group with its performance of “Wright,” a tribute to the Wright brothers’ quest for human flight that took band director Robert Hughes and his staff six months to put together and teach to the students.

The MAC championship was the band’s fifth straight.

After a couple years dominating the competition on a local scale, Hughes and the band expanded to the national circuit, competing in the US Bands conference where they continued to excel.

Now ranked in the top 15 bands, the Greyhounds have appeared in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to compete for the US Bands National Championship twice in the last two years.

2015 marked another milestone as the program took home state championships in the national and local circuits for the first time in the last five years.

After joining the competitive circuit in 1984, the marching band has continued to grace athletic fields and conference events with their melodies and drills for 31 years.

Now in his fifth year leading the program, Hughes has helped the band grow in more ways than one.

“When I took the over the program about five or six years ago, it was a little bit smaller, but we had a great core group of students and staff,” Hughes said. “We just tried to buckle down and focus on the fundamentals and growing the program.”

Since Hughes’ arrival at NHS in 2010, band membership has grown from 50 to 80 students. With the help of direct and indirect recruitment tactics, the marching band has managed to attract students in high school and have started building interest in middle and elementary school students with its “World Tour.”

Taking time to visit local schools and perform, the band has exposed students to the joy and value of music at a young age, allowing them to see and hear each instrument while fostering a love for music early on.

“Hopefully they remember that experience as they come up,” Hughes said. “They have the opportunity to play an instrument or participate in color guard at City Hill. They value that, and it eventually matriculates to the high school level.”

While the marching band has proven itself as a competitive squad, it has also served as an extended family for the members. For seniors like drum majors Hunter Morris and Jonathan DeOlivera, the band and staff have become a second home where they have grown not only as musicians, but also as young adults.

“Over the years the band has been improving a lot more,” DeOlivera said. “Now as a senior I see how the upperclassman help everyone else grow. As that happens we gain more civility for the band. It’s great seeing that as a whole we grow together.”

Morris added that the overall growth of the band and its members has directly affected the level of success the squad has achieved.

“The success is just building off of it,” Morris said. “The way I see the success is that it’s built off of the growth and the more you succeed it just shows that more you’ve grown.”

The next opportunity to see the band in action will come Feb. 13 when the band hosts its Winter Guard show at Naugatuck High. For more information, visit naugatuckmarchingband.com.