Sophia Nahli Allison defines her photography essay, Marching Together, by what it’s not. “This is not a story about an underfunded program or urban youth succeeding in band as a way to escape violence,” she said. Her images of Hillside High School’s award-wining marching band captures the students’ determination and ambition, while simultaneouslycounteracting the stereotypically negative representation of black teens. They want to go to college. They want to win. This, she said, “is a visual exploration of what it means to be young, talented, and black.”
During practice, Kiana Sumpter, a sophomore, begins to jump into a high split as she moves along with the music.
Ryshean Gulley, left, Janssen Slade, middle, and Dorian Terry, right, play the bass drum before practice begins. Gulley, a senior, has been playing the drums since he was 12-years-old. He is the section leader for bass drum and wants to continue playing in college while studying aerospace engineering. Slade, a senior, plays the snare drum and wants to pursue broadcast journalism in college while continuing to play baseball, and Terry, a junior and snare drummer, wants to play baseball professionally.
Bryanna Williams, right, and Ashton Farrar, both juniors, share a moment of closeness. Farrar, a snare drummer, has been playing the drums since he was 5-years-old. “It helps me clear my head,” he said. Farrar wants to study biology when he graduates. Williams, one of the auxiliary dancers, wants to study art therapy and pursue a career in entertainment.
Karrington Rice, a junior, comforts Ashanti Bailey, a senior, while she succumbs to nerves just hours before their first performance. Bailey is one of two drum majors, the top position of the marching band. Bailey said she was nervous about being compared to the past drum majors. Bailey played the piccolo and flute before becoming a drum major. She wants to study chemical engineering when she goes to college.
Shameria Murray, a cymbalist, chose this instrument because she loves the dance moves. Murray, who is a junior, likes motivating people and wants to be a preacher and basketball coach after high school.
“Band is supposed to uplift them and make better students and people,” Daryl White, the director of the band, said. “It’s a family for kids who never had a brother or sister.” White has played the trumpet since he was 12-years-old.