‘Phantom’ not tragic for Lakewood band

Students wow audience
at final home game
performance of season

Staff Writer

‘Phantom’ not tragic
for Lakewood band
Students wow audience
at final home game
performance of season
Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — The fate of the Phantom of the Opera was tragic, but not so for the beckoning future of the Lakewood High School Marching Band, which performed an award-winning adaptation of the Broadway hit throughout its 2003 season.

Just as their predecessors had done the year before, current band members have impressed those in a position to judge their work.

The band were named United States Scholastic Band Association 2003 New Jersey State Group 1 Open State Champions as well as the Cavalcade of Bands 2003 Independence Open Champions.

On Sept. 19, the band participated in the Miss America Parade in Atlantic City.

The young performers’ success is due in no small part to their director, Deb Knisely, who took over the position last year. Knisely works closely with the color guard’s choreographer, Bobbi Joblasberg. Joblasberg is also the assistant band director and coordinator.

Together, the two women and their youthful protégés have given new life to a classic tale.

Based on a 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux, "The Phantom of the Opera" is about a musically gifted but alienated man who hides his disfigured features beneath a mask while living in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera. His obsessive love for the opera company singer he helps elevate to stardom ultimately leads to his own downfall.

Lon Chaney won acclaim as the first phantom in a 1925 film for silent screen audiences. Several other cinematic versions were made in succeeding decades before Andrew Lloyd Weber turned the story into a musical that won a Tony Award in 1988. Fifteen years later, Knisely adapted it for the Lakewood marching band.

On an unseasonably warm day early in November, band members filed single file onto the Piners’ football field for their last home game appearance of the year.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your Lakewood Marching Band," said an announcer over the loudspeaker.

The all-female color guard was the first to take the field, followed by band members dressed in blue and white uniforms.

In dramatically different costume, the young women were garbed in knee-length black velvet tunics with one gauze sleeve, close-fitting black silk pants and a short black satin cape.

Poised with their arms holding the edge of their black capes over their heads, the young women stood motionless against a powder blue sky as they waited for their cue to begin. On the opposite side of the field, near the visiting team’s bleachers, the musical’s trademark white mask and a single red rose were painted on alternating black background displays that faced the Lakewood bleachers.

As the band began to play the somber opening strains of "The Music of the Night," the black and gray flags the guard carried were swirled in slow, dolorous patterns that began to increase in speed.

Walking backward as they played, the band members separated into two lines of musicians that stepped with controlled movements amid the flashing black and gray colors of the guard’s fast-moving flags. At the sound of cymbals crashing together, the flags were abruptly lowered and then exchanged for replacements in a pale yellow color.

Continuing to play, the band members stepped sideways as the color guard raced between their lines in the opposite direction, streaming the flags behind them. Just as quickly, the guard once more switched flags in favor of those in a pink and mauve hue.

Criss-crossing the band line, the guard’s flags provided a spirited accent in counterpoint to the sad music being played.

As the band’s concluding notes lingered in melancholy sadness, the color guard members dropped to one knee, bowed their heads slightly, and clasped their flags against the poles to which they were affixed. The performers stood motionless for several seconds before taking their bows.

The audience was captivated. Rising to their feet, many in the crowd expressed their approval with loud applause and hoots of admiration.

Their reaction was similar to that of onlookers the previous day, when the band made an appearance in the Oak Street School Halloween Parade and performed with the school’s sixth-grade band afterward.

"The little ones are great," Knisely said before returning to the high school with the band. "(They are) the future of the Lakewood marching band."

When asked if he wanted to be a musician when he grew up, sixth-grader Philip Williams II shyly nodded his head.

"They have to want it," Knisely said. "This is one team where everybody does the playing."