Bloomfield ensembles take top prize, Naples Marching Band also shines in Sherburne Pageant of Bands

BLOOMFIELD — They have come close in recent years, winning Best in Class eight of the last nine, but this year, Bloomfield Central School music ensembles brought home the coveted Albert E. Whitney Overall Achievement Award.

“The Whitney is the highest honor that an individual band can receive at the Sherburne Pageant of Bands,” said Christian Culbertson, a member of Bloomfield Parents for Music. “The Whitney is awarded to the band that has achieved the highest cumulative points over all bands competing at the pageant. We were No. 1 over a total of 38 bands.”

He said Bloomfield has brought home many Best in Class Awards in Class A, including this year, but that the Whitney has been elusive until last weekend at the 69th pageant in Sherburne, Chenango County, billed as one of the oldest and largest pageants in the state.

The Whitney award is named for a man who co-founded the pageant in 1949.

“We have an awesome music department and kids that, when given a challenge, will rise to the occasion,” Culbertson said. “They outdid themselves and they should be very proud of their accomplishments.”

Naples Central School District Marching Band also did well, participating in the color guard, parade and drumline, winning Best in Class for Class C.

“We did absolutely phenomenal,” said band Director Phil Bariteau, instrumental music teacher in the high school. “We ended up with 94 points out of 100, the highest of all marching bands that were there.”

He said the Naples Color Guard was also named the best in its class and the drumline took first place in that competition.

Bariteau said Naples Marching Band, consisting of performers in grades 6-12, is undefeated in competition this season, which will wrap up this weekend in Painted Post, Steuben County.

He said the Naples Marching Band consists of more than 100 kids — nearly a third of the 6-12 student body. About 90 were available to participate in the Sherburne pageant.

“They put in a lot of hours,” he said. “They're quite a group of exceptional kids who work very hard. When we looked at the final scores and we found out we had the highest scores, we were blown away. We were really impressed, with that big of a competition, where the scores fell.”

He said the kids were pumped, but take everything in stride.

Bloomfield, with about 90 kids in tow, participated in the full schedule of events, including the jazz band and small ensemble on Friday night and concert band, parade, drumline and color guard on Saturday.

“Bloomfield has historically done very well in this competition, which included a total of 38 middle and high school bands this year,” said color guard instructor Sandy Turner. “The culmination of their efforts came in winning the Albert E. Whitney overall award for the first time in Bloomfield music program history.”

She noted Band Director Scott Hoffman also won the Best Director Award — for the second year in a row.

“Scott challenges these kids to not only do their best, but he purposely gives them difficult music because he has confidence that they will work hard to master it,” said Turner. “He has a way of connecting with them and demanding the best from them, which motivates and makes them respect him even more.”

She said Hoffman gave a very emotional speech on Saturday afternoon, addressing the band and color guard, while the marching band was practicing before the parade.

“It ended on a very positive note with Mr. Hoffman telling the band that he had every confidence in them and making the statement, 'Let's do this thing,'” Turner said. “After the scores and awards were announced, several of the band members told Mr. Hoffman that it was his inspirational speech that made the difference and was the reason they won.”

Turner said Bloomfield has been participating in the Sherburne pageant for about 20 years and the kids were very excited and very proud of winning the Whitney Award.

She said they had a challenging music book, performing a medley of Michael Jackson selections, and that the color guard, consisting mostly of newcomers, had a challenging routine.

“Two thirds were sixth-graders that had never touched a flag before,” Turner said. “They beat some guards that were almost three times their size.”

She said even the judges were impressed, asking how many seniors were in the program, lamenting that about 19 would be graduating, and suggesting — tongue in cheek — the band director could fail them, so the students would return and they would be able to hear their music again.

Turner, who is from Sherburne, said Bloomfield has a tradition of stopping at Joe & Vinny's Pizza when they arrive late Friday night, noting the owners are always accommodating and supportive.

“The owner comes out and he sits with us,” she said. “He cheers us on in the (Saturday) parade.The pizza place is right on the parade route.”

Particularly fun for the kids this year, Turner said, was that they were greeted by the East Bloomfield Holcomb Fire Department as they were coming through Victor on their way Saturday night and were escorted into town where people were lining the streets.

"It was a nice welcome home," she said.

The Sherburne Pageant of Bands is sponsored by the Sherburne Fire Department and hosted by the Sherburne-Earlville Central School.