RHS Percussion Wins Major Award!
Story by: Rob Kinch
Photos by: Joseph Mudrak
They didn’t exist prior to 2015. The RHS Percussion Ensembles were subsequently created and painstakingly developed by teacher and Band Director Miguel Bolivar to offer another performance and competitive opportunity for the students of Rahway. Despite the success and numerous awards enjoyed over the years by the high school’s Marching Band, Mr. Bolivar had an even greater vision for his students. “Since I began my career at RHS, I have aspired to having Rahway known and recognized for the musical talents that exist within this community not only on the local level but also on state, regional, national, and world levels as well.” He could not have possibly foreseen that in only a few years, one of his Ensembles would indeed earn its rightful place on the world’s stage.
“Many know Rahway High School as a school where athletes can excel, but lately it has been our music students,” boasts School Superintendent Dr. Patricia Camp…and with good reason. Beginning in March 2019, both Percussion Ensembles A and B have each garnered their fair share of wins. First place honors were awarded to Ensemble A on March 2 at the TIA Triton HS Competition in Runnemede, NJ quickly followed by yet another 1st place win March 9 at the MAC-Shelton HS Competition in Shelton, Connecticut. Not to be outdone, the musicianship of Percussion Ensemble B was also recognized with 1st place honors at the same competition!
Truly realizing an encore of wins, Percussion Ensemble A went on to score 1st place at the WGI Toms River Power Regional March 16, scoring an 85.3 at finals, the highest score ever achieved by RHS at a WGI Regional. This score put Rahway in the top 5 in their group in the country as they headed to the World Championships in April. Band Director Bolivar offers, “These awards are a tribute to our students’ dedication and countless hours of rehearsal, their passion for expressing their feelings through their music, and for believing that they have something to say.” He adds, “Watching my kids perform with their hearts and talents held high at these prestigious competitions, reaffirms my pride in what I do.” Senior Tiahna Sterling echoes the sentiment of all her Ensemble bandmates, “Being in percussion for 4 years, we’ve never experienced consecutive first place wins. It keeps the students and staff motivated for our World Championships performance and leaves us wanting more!” What no one knew was that the more was yet to come.
With both hopes and morale now on an ever-ascending crescendo, 21 students of Ensemble A embarked upon their journey to Dayton, Ohio to take the floor with premier scholastic and independent percussion groups from around the world. A unique showcase written by Mr. Bolivar and his colleagues, Mr. Joseph Berger and Mr. Mark Eichenberger, quickly set Rahway apart from its competition, earning the dedicated young musicians a coveted spot in the finals round. Surpassing their initial hopes of making it simply into the finals, which for most is a feat in itself, the ensemble found themselves avidly in pursuit of the metal. Performing at their highest level, the students achieved an award-winning finale…the honor of being awarded the bronze medal, ranking them as the 3rd best Percussion Scholastic A Group in the world.
Celebrating a season of ‘firsts’, both the staff and students of Rahway High School’s music department can now anticipate not only maintaining their standing in the top three groups in the world, but to ultimately bringing home the gold as well. However, as sophomore Aidan Evans shares, the ensemble’s success has for them a more far-reaching value. “Being at the summit of all the percussion ensembles of our class is not only inspiring to us, but to all the other music groups within our community and even way beyond.”