41st Pageant of Champions to rattle windows this weekend

The Oswego Marching Buccaneers perform at the 2017 Pageant of Champions.

OSWEGO — For the 41st consecutive year, the Port City on Saturday will be filled with the rhythm of pounding drums and the clamoring ring of horns as the annual Pageant of Champions takes over Joseph Wilber Field at Oswego High School.

One of the premiere invitational high school field band competitions in central New York, the Pageant of Champions for decades has attracted the best the region has to offer in innovative programs and passionate supporters.

“We’re pretty psyched,” said OHS Marching Buccaneers Director Scott Ciesla. “When you have a show that’s been around 41 years, every year we get to put something on like the Pageant of Champions, it’s special to the community.”

A founding member of the New York State Field Band Conference when the organization was created in 1972, the Marching Bucs in the decades since have traveled far and wide in their relentless pursuit of performance excellence. The band has been featured at the 1989 and 2000 Fiesta Bowl Parades, the 2006 Citrus Bowl Parade and the Rose Bowl Parade, among many other nationally renown venues.

The Marching Bucs maintain an aggressive competition and performance schedule, officials said, culminating with the Oct. 27 Field Band Conference finals at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

The Marching Bucs opened their season on Sept. 7 at East Syracuse-Minoa, an outing Ciesla said “went really well” and set the squad up in good position to take the field this weekend for a unique out-of-this-world show.

Dubbed “One Giant Leap,” the 2019 Marching Buccaneer production will “commemorate and celebrate” the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. On July 20, 1969, the United States landed three astronauts on the moon and returned them safely to Earth several days later — as the world watched with bated breath. This past summer, the memory of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins’ historic flight was remembered around the globe and that commemoration served as the inspiration for the Marching Bucs’ routine.

Led by Drum Major Dan Emmons and Assistant Drum Major Aidan Thompson, the “One Giant Leap” performance will feature original music by composer Michael J. Miller. Richard Strauss’ epic “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (best known as the most recognizable leitmotif from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” will also feature heavily in the show’s score. Solos will be performed by Cameron Ford on trumpet and Abigail McPherson on flute.

“We hope audiences enjoy our ‘blast from the past’ tribute to this monumental event,” Ciesla said.

In 2018, the Pageant of Champions marked its 40th anniversary and among the hundreds of performers, supporters and field band fans who crowded the Wilber Field grandstands was one notable district official whose memory of the very first event is as permanent as the flag plant on the lunar surface.

Oswego City School District Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey was the Marching Bucs drum major in 1978 at the inaugural Pageant of Champions and would eventually lead his squad all the way to the Orange Bowl on the strength of their performances featuring music from the Richard Donner film “Superman.”

“This is a great way for the community to see our musicians and high school musicians from across the region perform,” Goewey said, noting it will be “great in a year or two to see this event hosted in the new Oswego multi-purpose stadium” slated for construction as part of the district’s ongoing $63 million capital project.

Behind every successful ensemble is a committed supporting cast and the Marching Bucs are no different: Ciesla said the district’s buildings and grounds and transportation staff have been “tireless and amazing to work with” preparing the field for the competition while also pointing to the Oswego High School Band Parents Association’s work to “make sure their children can have the best experience possible.”

“With all the equipment, everything we’re constantly doing and everywhere we’re going, we wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Ciesla said.

The 41st Pageant of Champions will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Wilber Field on the Oswego High School/Frederick Leighton Elementary School campus. Bands slated to perform include Westmoreland, Rome Free Academy, East Syracuse-Minoa and New Hartford.

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