Tooting their own horns

Tuba, piccolo, clarinet students win slots in regional band

Normally, every year, one local student makes it through auditions and earns a spot on northern New Jersey’s Region Band. This year – breaking a North Bergen High School record – three students won seats, and one of them was named an All-State musician.
The New Jersey Music Educators Association hosted tryouts for the North Jersey School Music Association Region Band on Jan. 8 at Mahwah High School. Co-Band Directors Michael Connor and Brian Bonacci chose students with the talent to audition for the band, a process in which they must perform a solo piece, play scales, and sight read music.
The students selected will perform with some of the best high school musicians in North Jersey on Jan. 30 at Randolph High School, Randolph, N.J.


“I was happy, really happy to be a part of something like this.” – Ben Batista

NBHS students Ben Batista, Paola Montesino, and Jose Romero all made the cut. Batista, a tuba player, auditioned for the All-State Band two weeks after the Region Band audition, and learned the next day he had become North Bergen High School’s first All-State musician.
Connor called this an honor for the school and for Batista, especially considering that he is a sophomore playing with some of the best musicians in the state.
“Being surrounded by the best players in the whole state of New Jersey…that’s a great honor,” said Batista. “That’s a privilege.”

Making the cut

Batista said that last year when he did not make Region Band, it caused him to push himself further.
When he was selected and decided to audition for All-State this year, he didn’t expect to make it. He was surprised to learn that out of six tuba players, he was selected as the All-State musician and asked to perform in both the wind ensemble and orchestra bands.
Montesino, a clarinet player in her junior year, had auditioned for the Region Band in seventh and 10th grades, making it for the first time this year.
“It’s good to know where you are ranked,” said Montesino. “You know where you can go a little further. You lose motivation when you have no one to compare yourself to.”
Fellow junior Romero also was selected to play in the Region Band. He auditioned for both flute and piccolo, a smaller member of the woodwind family, and was selected as one of only two piccolo players, which shocked him since he only began playing the instrument since last year.
“Normally only really good players get the privilege to play the piccolo, so it’s a privilege to just get that,” said Romero. “I’m really excited to be the piccolo player of the [Region] Symphonic Band.”

Musical peers

Romero said that playing in the Region Band is difficult, since there are many more instruments than they are normally used to, along with much more difficult musical selections.
“You get to do really hard music in a short span of time because everyone is so talented here,” said Montesino.
She said that meeting students from across North Jersey allows them to observe how they practice and lets them make new friendships.
“I get to be surrounded by people who love music, people who are dedicated to music, and I know that’s the right place for me,” said Batista. “I was happy, really happy to be a part of something like this.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at

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