By Adam Silvernail

It was a warm, spring morning and the bus was supposed to leave at 7:30 a.m. Due to some slow-pokes, however, it left closer to 7:40 a.m. 

After an hour on the road, we arrived at Darien Lake. We had to go through the main gate instead of a side gate like normal, and walk from one side of the park to the other. 

We grabbed our instruments from our van that was allowed to use the side-gate and brought our equipment to a grassy clearing nearby. 

We tuned our instruments there, set up at site 5 — also nearby, fortunately — and played our three songs, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “A Pirate’s Tale” and “Pandora’s Lament,” for the judges.

After we had finished, we packed up our equipment and hauled it all the way back to the bus on the other side of the park, since the van had to ferry members of the track team to a competition.

It was about 10 a.m. at this point, and we were granted two hours to enjoy the park before lunch. The meal was decent, and afterward, besides a quick check-in at 3 p.m., we had five hours to go wild before the awards ceremony. 

At 5 p.m., all the bands and choruses that performed that day met at the same spot we ate lunch. The speakers were extremely loud so everybody in the back could hear and I immediately regretted sitting in the front.

There were 11 schools competing in our AA division alone. Out of the 11 bands, we placed 2nd with a rating of 97.55 out of 100. Not too bad.

The school that did beat us was a charter school, and its students get private lessons. I don’t feel too bad losing to them.

After the ceremony, we had until 6:30 p.m. to have fun before we got back on the bus and came home. After we had left, I had the opportunity to ask some students what they thought.

“I wasn’t satisfied at first,” said Caleb Jennings, ECS sophomore, “but [another student] said that at the other schools they all get private lessons, so I guess second was pretty good.”

Crystal Wilder, high school band director, was pleased with the result.

“The development throughout the school year as well as the overall musicianship of each student,” she said. “Also, despite our having fewer numbers in some (music) sections than the score (song) calls for, we learned how to balance our group out.”

“After we had finished performing, it was difficult to accept that, underneath screaming children on roller coasters, this was the last time we were playing as a band,” said Louisa Benatovich, ECS senior. “Band has been such a huge part of my high school experience and Darien Lake this year marked the end of an era.”

On a happier note, Leilani Foster, Ellicottville freshman, had lots to say about her first Darien Lake trip

“I loved it!” she said. “Definitely don’t eat so many loaded French fries, but it was fun. The best ride was the Predator and I can’t wait to go again.”

Jalee Evens, a sophomore, responded that she most enjoyed the magician and “debunking all of his tricks with [her] colleagues.”

We had fun this year, and we will next year. And the next. And the one after that. But if I know this band, we won’t be content with just second. I give you my personal guarantee and promise that we will bring home the gold next year.