Royal Blues Crowned Repeat Champs
ROCKY HILL - The Rocky Hill High School Royal Blues Marching Band has done it again.

       A year after taking the Class IA title, the Jim Shuman led ensemble was crowned state champs in New Britain, claiming the highest score in the region for “Best Overall Effect” and “Best Musical Performance”.

       This marks their third state championship since 2004.

       “I can’t stress how refreshing it is, to see kids working that hard for a common goal,” Shuman said over the phone last week-just over a month after the Band’s October 28 triumph.

       And the work, started long before the first leaves of fall-to put it in perspective, Shuman is already preparing for next year’s competitive season. This is around the time in which he usually inquires about copyright purchase prices, in order to garner permission to use the music he envisions building the Band’s performance game plan around.

       He’s just secured permission for music inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, and, if he does things as he has in past years, the Band will see the sheet music for the first time this coming Spring. Practices start, officially, in the summer-a stretch culminating in a week long “band camp” of 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. sessions.

       “It’s a lot of hours, a lot of stress, and a lot of fun,” Shuman said.

       Shuman can still recall last year, and the judgement time jitters musicians experienced as the winners were announced and they hadn’t been called yet. When asked if they were more confident this time around, he admitted that he told them not to even think about it.

       “They expect to play well, but you never know where you’ll land when based on other groups,” he said. “You don’t control that, so we just focused on having a great show.”

       But of course, the win helps.

       “They were ecstatic, but they get that it could have gone a different way, and it doesn’t affect how good it was,” Shuman said.

       For Shuman, the performance-“Africa: Ceremony, Song and Ritual”-was a dream long deferred, to compose a show that paid homage to his days as an international percussion student. The program utilized a mix of traditional African instruments, with a sequential progression to their modern counterparts.

       “It was a nice balancing act,” he said.