The Viking Marching Band captured their 7th New Jersey Marching Band Championship, besting 97 other bands over the course of two days at High Point Solution Stadium at Rutgers University. SBHS was the highest scoring band in New Jersey with a score of 88.4, while sweeping every single category.
The Vikings took the first place awards in every caption, including Best Visual, Best Music, Best Effect, Best Color Guard and Best Percussion.
"It's really unbelievable. The kids are performing so well and the design team put on a great show," said Band Director Mark Kraft. "It really was a once in a lifetime experience. In my 34 years as director, there was never a band to finish first in every caption."
Kraft credited the band's upper classmen with setting the tone for the entire team from day one.
"Like with sports, it all starts with senior leadership," he said. "The upper classmen demonstrated a great work ethic that was contagious since last year when we finished second at states. Since then they've been on a mission to not let that happen again. There's no secret to success, it's all about hard work. Everyone put in the time, everyone put forth 100 percent effort in practice, and they're giving it all they've got every time out."
While Kraft had high expectations for the band this year, he said it takes a real competition to measure the true level of skill that the team has developed.
"I knew things were going well in September, but after 34 years you never know until you get into a competitive moment to find out how well you're doing," he said. "We took best band at a competition in Piscataway and swept the awards and I thought that was a nice start to the season. Then we had our own home show and had the highest scores. I really started believing when we went to Hillsborough and won the Mayor's Trophy and every caption award. We were feeling good, but at states there's 97 bands and you don't know what can happen, but they did a great job, hence the result."
Kraft, along with wife Ginny, has led the SBHS Marching Band to be ranked among the Top 25 in the nation at the high school Bands of America Grand National Championships, among countless other competition victories and awards. The SBHS Marching Band is no stranger to being ranked number one in the state, but have also ranked number one in the entire northeast, from Virginia to Maine, by the US Scholastic Band Association.
Students from the program have gone on to play at colleges like Yale, Princeton, University of Michigan and Penn State, while a former student also captained the University of Oregon color guard as they performed at the NCAA College Football National Championship game in 2011.
Kraft, himself a Grammy nominated Music Educator, has coached scores of talented musicians and dominant marching bands over the years with wife Ginny, but he said this year's team truly stands out.
"I have to say that every year's band and kids are special for different reasons," he said. "But competitively, this is probably our best band ever, which is amazing to say after 34 years. What I love about them is that they're really caring, humble and nice kids. They're going to be successful in whatever careers they pursue and that's part of what makes them special. These kids care about each other, have great team work and a great work ethic, and that's what leads to success. When kids figure out what team work is all about some really cool stuff happens."The Viking Band will return to action Saturday at the East Brunswick High School 31st Annual Marching Band Competition, which starts at 5:30 p.m. SBHS will finish the competitive season in the National Championships on Nov. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.