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RFA Marching Band nurtures a ‘special bond’

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
Posted 10/29/22

The Rome Free Academy Marching Band becomes a “second family” for its members, said Director Stephen Russell.

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RFA Marching Band nurtures a ‘special bond’


ROME — The Rome Free Academy Marching Band becomes a “second family” for its members, said Director Stephen Russell. There is a genuine camaraderie that grows during each marching band season for participants and their audiences alike, he explained.

“I love seeing the development of a special bond between the students, staff and community as each season progresses,” he said. “Many students refer to marching band as their ‘second family.’ It has shown to be a place where the typically quiet ones speak their voice, the insecure ones come out of their shell and the leaders of the group get to display amazing qualities they normally do not get a chance to with other activities. Being able to witness that is simply incredible.”

The nearly 40 members of the RFA Marching Band this year have performed at each home football game plus competitions. This Sunday, they will compete in the New York State Field Marching Band Conference 2022 Championships at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse.

The RFA Marching Band competing in the Large School 3 Class at 8:39 a.m.; Westmoreland Central School Marching Band will compete in the Small School 2 Class at 3:24 p.m.; and New Hartford Central School Marching Band in the Small School 1 Class at 6:01 p.m. From 9:55-10:30 p.m., the event will conclude with the Drum Major/Senior Retreat Awards Ceremony.

This is Russell’s second year directing the marching band, affectionately known as “the RFAMB.” While there are no official co-directors this year, Holly McCoy has been doing “an amazing job” directing the group while Russell has been out on leave - his wife recently gave birth to their first child, he said.

“The staff has been amazing running the group in my absences,” he said. “The seniors have done an incredible job leading their sections this year. The parents have been stepping up a tremendous amount to make sure the kids and staff have everything they need for rehearsals, bus rides, competitions, etc. The group has been functioning like a well-oiled machine. When we walk out of the Dome this Sunday, regardless of the result, I will walk out incredibly proud of this group! They have put so much time, effort and care into the RFAMB.”

Their Band Council includes President Dennis Van Hoesel, Vice President Dakota Morrison, Secretary Jacob Cosentino and Treasurer Nito Davis. Section leaders are Karabrie Wiggins for the colorguard, Nito Davis for percussion, Robin Litts for upper woodwinds, Dennis Van Hoesel for mid and lower woodwinds, Enrique Rivera for upper brass and Jacob Cosentino for lower brass.

Russell said this year there are students from grades 6-12 in the marching band.

They have two weekday rehearsals in the fall and typically rehearse the morning of a show day as well. They normally meet at the beginning or end of rehearsal to discuss plans for later in the week and also give the students time to reflect on how their previous rehearsal went and discuss where they need to make improvements from there. Upperclassmen share their own input and advice for any questions the younger members may have as well. 

They competed Sept. 10 at Jordan-Elbridge, Sept. 17 at Cicero-North Syracuse, Sept. 24 at New Hartford, Oct. 1 at Oswego, Oct. 9 at Arlington and Oct. 22 at Central Square. Throughout those shows, the group has competed against three other groups in their class, and at each of those shows, they have received first place in the Large School 3 section, Russell said.

All members contribute to their success, he complimented.

“The marching band is the only activity I am aware of that has no second-string performers,” Russell said. “Groups put out from 30-200-plus students for their shows, and every single member has an important role in the group. Not only do their performances bring excitement to events, but they rejuvenate the pride that many folks in the community feel watching them.”

Tickets are $23 in advance or $25 the day of the event for adults and $16 in advance or $18 that day for senior citizens 65 and older and students 18 and younger. There is no additional order fee when purchasing online. All tickets are general admission with no reserved seating.

For more information or to order tickets, visit


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