James Madison High School marching band returns for first time since COVID-19 pandemic

For the first time since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, James Madison High School in Sheepshead Bay has a marching band.
Teachers tell News 12 the work started with interest meetings last spring, and then a four-day camp over the summer, and students, like senior bass drum player Natalie Gugeshashvili, were hooked, saying "I remember the second I walked in, I was like this is amazing, I love it here, and I was like I wanna continue doing this, because it's so much fun."
Rehearsal by rehearsal, the approximately 20 students who had signed up started gaining confidence.  Senior trumpet player Aazora Richardson tells News 12 it helped that everyone was coming from the same place, so "as they develop, you develop too, we're all learning new things together, we can always help each other out."
Aron Kontorovich, the band director, says he was impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of the students as they put in the work to practice.  So far, the band has played at school football games and homecoming, with plans to add basketball games, and eventually parades to their resume soon.
With how long it's been since the school had a marching band, Gugeshashvili says,  "many people don't know that the marching band's gonna be there, so, when they hear us, they're like oh my god, that's incredible, and then they'll see someone like me and go I didn't know you were in the marching band! So, it makes me a cooler person at the same time."
Helping the popularity is that the band plays well-known songs, like Low Rider, Seven Nation Army, or the current fan favorite, Barbie - which Gugeshashvili and Richardson both say always gets a great reaction from the crowd when the realize what song is being played.
While this new version of the band is only a few months old, it already has students thinking about their future. Gugeshashvili explains that "when we come together towards the end of our rehearsals, you get to see how much - it just feels so electric, it's a lot of fun, and I just love that feeling so much, and I do want to continue it in college."
As for the high school, they say they want to keep building the band with new staff and students from its feeder schools, with an eye on James Madison's100-year anniversary in 2025.