The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

2023 PHS Marching Band Update: Superchiefs Host “Battle of the Bands” on Home Turf

In addition to performing at PHS football games, the Superchiefs attend (and host) competitions all through the fall

Blinding flood lights on a cool night in autumn. At the start of another school year, the first football game of the year has everybody buzzing as halftime begins. The energy is ecstatic and the stadium slowly fills with a melody that slows down the world. When the band walks off and the halftime show ends, the atmosphere jolts back to normal. The tackles, horns, screams and buzzes return back into earshot and you wonder what just happened; That is the power of the ‘Superchiefs’ Marching Band.

Superchiefs perform at a fall football game

Piscataway High School is home to a number of unique art programs and extracurriculars, a notable one being the “Superchiefs” marching band. Currently led by Mr. Zampella, the Superchiefs have a rich history of success, no doubt made possible by all the work put into the program throughout the decades.

At its prime in the 90s and early 2000s, the Superchiefs hosted more than 200 members at a time. They performed at Giant halftime games and, most notably, marched in the 2002 Macy’s Day Parade, which no other New Jersey band has done until the Rutgers Marching Scarlet Knights this year (which also included 8 PHS alumni!).

Currently the band hosts around 50 members, grouping them in the “Double A” competition category; those of which are based on size (Single A being the smallest while Quadruple A is 100+ members).

Don’t think that the band means to settle however, with Mr. Zampella expressing his hefty goals to “work our way back up to a respectable size … I would love to get up to maybe Triple A with 80 to 90 kids, anything under 100 would be great, after a while it becomes huge…”.

On the surface, the Superchiefs might appear to be just a piece of the football team’s halftime shows, but in reality our marching band does much, much more.

The marching band is a competitive circuit that competes statewide against other high schools in the state, marching with the ‘New Jersey’s Marching Band Directors Association’ (NJMBDA). Throughout their competitive season, which officially begins the last Saturday in September and continues every Saturday until the last weekend in October, the band travels and competes in competitions that are hosted throughout New Jersey.   The Superchiefs even earned first place at the East Brunswick festival in late October!

Recently, the band hosted a festival in September, where they invited 13 bands to travel and compete on Piscataway High School’s home turf.

The Superchief festival is an annual event, with this year being the Superchiefs 44th time hosting, not including the 2020 pandemic.

Jennifer Grzenda, a Band Parent Organization Member on the Merchandise and Fundraising Board, shares how “This is my first Superchiefs festival since 2020, so this was my first one like this. In 2020-2021 that was post COVID and we really couldn’t do a lot of what we were doing here. I feel like we have a lot more energy now and having a lot more bands come and join and being able to see all the shows is awesome”.

As hosts, the band does not compete in the competition, but instead does the closing performance for the show.

Like a battle of the bands, 991 kids from 13 different bands performed and competed in the festival in a span of 4 hours. As a volunteer at this event, I had the pleasure of seeing first hand the complexity and awe of the performances, with meticulous, story-telling choreography ranging from bands, each bringing their own unique talent.

Kayla Graves, a junior attending PHS and 2023 festival volunteer states that “this [was] my first time at any band event and I really like the festival…I think it’s great that people can come out and support their kids, support their schools, I think the bands are really good, extremely talented. They worked really hard, you can tell, the performances were extraordinary and I really loved seeing them”.

Superchiefs perform at the PHS 2023 Pep Rally

Apparently, the marching band is not the only ones who host “underground” events like this either! The Choir, Band, Orchestra, and others host their own regional competitions and events too, since the high school is so centrally located.  The easiest way to keep up with all these events is by joining the official PHS Superchief Instagram @superchiefphs

In order to comply with their rigorous schedule, the marching band is supported by several legs that make up the band as a whole, arguably the most important being the parents of the band.

As Mr. Zampella states, the Band Parent Organization is “a HUGE piece of what we [the marching band] do because going to marching band competitions and football games and hosting these things, we simply cannot do what we do without them;” They volunteer their time and support because in the end “ they do it just because they believe in the organization we have, the kind of product of not only the music but the kids that we produce out of the program.”

The parental support for the marching band is uncanny and unlike any other team I’ve seen before. During my volunteering I got the opportunity to speak with some of the band parents and saw firsthand the love and dedication put in by them to the marching band. Sporting “proud parent of the band” t-shirts, parents donated baked goods and their time to set up and run the bake sale at the event— not watching their kids perform but instead running their event for them.

Sylvia Coelho-Yi, a band parent herself, shares how “this was the first time I set up for the Superchiefs festival so this was basically a learning experience and organizing all the volunteers and I am so glad that so many people volunteered for this today, it was awesome. … [the band parents] are a great community, we’re all here to support each other”.

Super parents indeed, the band parents are just as much a part of the band as the members themselves.

As you can see, the Superchiefs do so much more than play halftime shows, and are supported by an entire network of parents and volunteers.  If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Mr. Zampella or any current band members.

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About the Contributor
Nyasa Bryson, Journalism Student Reporter
Hi! I’m currently a junior at PHS and this is my first year officially writing for chieftain as a reporter (my freshman year I fell in love with the class and wrote as a student). You’ll see a lot of current events and just things that generally interest me: ranging from strike coverages to new fashion lines to music to AHS (Coven>>). Thanks for checking us out!

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