Mamaroneck High School’s Band Travels Nationally for Annual Festivals and Competitions

Recently, the school received recognition at the Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz Festival in Greenwich, Connecticut, and finalist status at Boston’s Berkley High School Jazz Festival.



The Mamaroneck High School band often produces professional musicians.

photo by fred levine

“I did a lot of sports growing up, and often compare music to athletics,” says Timothy Hooker, director of bands at Mamaroneck High School. “I’ll tell the kids that if you try the hardest you can and do your best, that’s all you can ask.”

If we’re taking that analogy further, this music teacher and his school have put together an all-star team: More than 200 students play an instrument or sing within the music department, and two young MHS musicians from the band and orchestra recently were named to All-Eastern ensembles (as was one choir member). “It reflects how this community accepts that the arts are an integral part of a child’s growth,” says Hooker, who’s spent 17 years leading various bands at the school, including two jazz bands, a concert band, pep band, and percussion ensemble. (There are also three orchestras and a choir under two other teachers’ respective direction.)

These triumphs are also a reflection of the incredible effort MHS’s music teachers and students put into their music-making. Throughout the year, for example, Hooker and his bands hit the road, attending festivals and competitions in places like Canada, DC, and Virginia Beach, and gathering honors as they go. (Among these, they recently received the top nod at the Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz Festival in Greenwich, Connecticut, and finalist status at Boston’s Berkley High School Jazz Festival).

Not surprisingly, with such a rich grounding, a fair number of MHS grads have gone on to follow the beat of a different drum (or sax, or cello), first attending an arty school like Oberlin College or Berklee College of Music, then pursuing music as a career. “We have kids that have played behind Carlos Santana, Hanson, and the Frank Zappa orchestra,” says Hooker. “They’ve toured Japan, or performed at Bonnaroo, or are out in LA trying to make it on the scene.”

It’s a journey and passion Hooker and the other music teachers are happy to nurture. “My new principal asked me, ‘What is your goal this year?’ I said, ‘I have one every year—to make the program stimulating for the kids.’ I’m here year after year, but they’re new here.”