By Marjorie Nesin
---- — The Gloucester High School Docksiders are preparing to leave their municipal dockside location at the school to anchor at a few other locations after they set sail as a featured band on a Carnival cruise ship next spring.
But in the meantime, the acclaimed GHS concert stage band is gearing up for its next performance — when the Docksiders will entertain guests at a wine-tasting fundraiser for their upcoming trip.
The Saturday-night fundraiser begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Gloucester House. Tickets, which cost $25, can be bought at Jeff’s Variety, from a band member or at the door.
The Docksiders have played and represented Gloucester and their school a few times at Walt Disney World in Orlando, at Disneyland in California and a number of venues — including Pearl Harbor — in Hawaii over the 12-year history of the program, and city residents and businesses have always generously chipped in to fully fund the students’ adventures and experience, according to music director David Adams.
“This community has really embraced these kids,” Adams said. “We have yet to take money out of students’ pockets for these trips.”
Monday, the teens rehearsed songs — up-tempo, slower jazzy and brassy — during a rehearsal session aimed not only at Saturday’s fundraising effort, but at the April cruise trip, as well.
The band plans to master upward of 45 songs before they jet to Miami to set sail. Adams expects the band will play at least two shows as the Carnival Cruise liner Victory floats along a route that will include stops in Cozumel and Ocho Rios.
The band ended up on the cruise ship’s roster after a combination of word of mouth in the music community and a few CDs that were sent in as an audition and captured the major cruise line’s attention.
“The comment we get most often from people is they don’t believe we’re a high school band when they hear us,” Adams said. “The band has established a pretty good reputation.”
Soon after the class bell tolled Monday, students began pooling into the classroom, immediately moving to arrange the tables into rows of chairs in a concert formation.
Corinne DeLouise snapped together her saxophone before walking around the room with a tuner to check each of the members’ pitch. When she first saw the band perform at her elementary school, DeLouise yearned to join, and she eventually did, working her way up to a student director position.
“The Docksiders had always been like these musical idols I looked up to,” DeLouise said Monday.
DeLouise, who joined the band in eighth grade, has traveled with the band to Hawaii and to Disney. The trips are a special experience that she might otherwise not know, she said Monday.
“The whole entire band is a tight-knit group, so it’s like traveling with a group of friends or in a family,” DeLouise said.
A member of the band family and another student director, senior Danny Wood, began playing trumpet in fourth grade and now plans to study sound recording and technology in college.
“This has been a huge part of my life; after about sophomore year, I started committing my life to music,” Wood said.
He said that, more than anything, he looks forward to performing on the ship. The band works hard to raise funds for their spots aboard, most often playing their instruments during fundraisers and selling tickets, too.
“The best part about the band is you feel really accomplished because you earn that money by playing,” Wood said.
Wood is among 17 band members auditioning to play at a district music festival this year. Last year, with 54 different high schools sending students to audition, Wood was selected as one of five trumpet players.
Monday, he and the rest of the band flipped their stuffed 3-inch binders open to sheet music slid into plastic sleeves. They dove into a quick and exuberating number called “Swing Machine.”
Adams stood among the students, his head bobbing to the rhythm, and his wrist tapping the beat. He slowly rose a flexed hand toward the ceiling as the song came to a brassy crescendo, then wagged a finger to cue a section of musicians.
The band members, donning their black pants and shoes, along with burgundy vests, white shirts and Docksiders ties on stage, will likely play “Swing Machine” aboard the ship. The song has gained the group popularity before, after all.
When the band played that song at Disney in Florida a couple of years back on a stage across the theme parks largest gift shop, the shop cleared out and Disney mascots lined the outside of the store, listening to the teens rock, Adams recalled.
Volunteers David DiPietro and Ryan Stadt, both of whom teach math classes at the school, help out as assistant directors. Their assistance, along with that of parent volunteers and the cooperation of students, make the trips smooth traveling, Adams said. Then, of course, there is the undeniable work ethic and cooperation of the students.
“Anybody can play the notes,” Adams said. “It’s how you interpret the notes, and it’s the fact that, like I tell them, you’re on stage the minute you walk out the door here.”
The kids learn more than music in his classroom. They learn to dress professionally, show they care about one another, act respectfully and commit to hard work, Adams noted.
“It’s those skills that we’re trying to teach them as part of this process,” Adams said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.