Louis Armstrong once said, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." Clearly, the Moonglowers don't have to ask. premier jazz ensemble, the group took first-place in the State Division II Championship on April 30 for the third season in row.
The ensemble’s expert direction and musical cohesion earned it Best Saxophone Section and Best Trumpet Section awards. And in clinching first place, it edged the Princeton High School Studio Orchestra, a storied musical program that, like the Moonglowers, regularly takes home championship titles.
“It was a real accomplishment for us,” said Vincent Turturiello, director of the Moonglowers for the past 32 years and Supervisor of Fine Arts for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District. “The judges recognized us as the Outstanding Band in the state of New Jersey. To me, it was saying we were the best band there is.”
The student musicians were ecstatic.
“It was pretty insane,” sophomore Russell Davis said. “This year was more thrilling because the competition was really tough. We all thought Princeton was really good. We honestly didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Freshman Angelo Chaia added, “It was getting so suspenseful. Once they announced second place for Princeton, everyone just went crazy.”
What made the victory even sweeter: the win came just two weeks after the ensemble was named "Outstanding Jazz Band" at the Festivals of Music in Washington, D.C.
Key to the group's success this season, Turturiello said, was a unique sense of solidarity and cohesion among the student musicians, who possess a wide variety of interests and backgrounds.
“We have a nice mix of athletes, athletic scholars and very high level musicians,” he said. “Sometimes when you put those three elements together, you get the competitiveness of an athlete, the intelligence of an academic and the pure musical genius that shines through. This year’s band had all of those to display, which I think made a big difference.”
Nick Poulios, whom Turturiello called “one of those borderline musical geniuses,” received the Outstanding Soloist Award for the second year in a row. He, too, attributed the group’s success to the bonds that formed between the musicians, both on-stage and off.
“Everyone in the band is very tight with each other,” Poulios said. “We’re always rehearsing together. Not only do we have to get musically tight, but since we’re rehearsing here all the time, of course we’re going to get tight as people, which I think affects how we play.”
As senior C.J. Sciara pointed-out, a band is only as good as its musicians.
“It’s only prestigious because we make it that way,” he said.