What Pep Band Meant to Me
Former member reacts to the program cut at JCHS.
For decades, the James Caldwell High School pep band was an indispensable fixture of Saturday football games, filling the air with marching tunes and pop songs; Santana's "Evil Ways" signaled the waning minutes of the second quarter, while Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" meant half-time had concluded.
Chiefs' touchdowns were made all the more exciting when the signature "War Chant" unfailingly kicked in–bass drums smashed with full intensity–riling up the crowd and players alike.
But now the pep band is no more. This football season, as a consequence of Gov. Chris Christie's slashes to education spending, Caldwell's team will no longer take the field to the sounds of our pep band–another victim of the forced austerity measures that have gripped the whole of the state.
Much of the voting-aged electorate simply tunes out political affairs, thinking them irrelevant to more pressing everyday concerns–children to bustle around, television shows to watch, bills to pay on time.
But Gov. Chris Christie's budgetary agenda–unprecedented in its scope and brazenness–has shaken many of us out of our apathy. His across-the-board cuts have penetrated even the sleepy suburbs, previously thought immune to Trenton's much-maligned bantering.
Christie has thus forced New Jerseyans throughout every socioeconomic stratum to view the most innocuous programs and initiatives through a newly politicized lens.
There is no better example than what's been cut in my hometown of West Caldwell. To imagine a home game without the pep band seemed unthinkable.
Christie's implementation of "shared sacrifice" has dissolved the vehicle through which many of my fondest school-aged memories were made. I was a member of the pep band every year from 2002 to 2006. It was largely thanks to those after-school practices and pre-game Blimpie lunches that I established some of my most cherished friendships.
It saddens me to think that future generations of JCHS students will be deprived of the same opportunities, ostensibly for no other reason that to satisfy our governor's insatiable quest for conservative credentials.
When Christie delivers the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in 2012–as he surely will–one can only wonder whether the camaraderie, music and communal bonds sacrificed along the way were worth it.
Michael Tracey is a 2006 graduate of James Caldwell High School and a contributor to The Caldwells Patch.