The Dartmouth High School Marching Band is the 2018 Division V National Champion.

In the autumn on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts, temperatures begin to drop as expected. Summer rentals are boarded up and beaches are slowly emptied of the sunbathers and swimmers as planned. Leaves are expected to change their colors and then gently fall to the ground.

In the town of Dartmouth each fall, almost anyone within a two-mile radius of the high school can also depend on hearing the marching band practicing well after sunset and under the lights of the parking lot. Of course, all of this hard work starts in May, goes through the summer and into the autumn, when the competitions begin.

Almost as dependably expected is the Dartmouth High Marching Band bringing home a national championship. They have won three years in a row now, eight out of the last 10, and placed second in the two years in which they didn't win.

The success ratio would make Bill Belichick blush.

Having had two sons in the Dartmouth marching band, I can testify to the commitment that is expected of the student and volunteers, and it is met with enthusiasm by all. Someone in the Dartmouth Schools Music Association should start competing with Tony Robbins. These kids sacrifice so much of their free time and other activities in their lives. Parents revolve much of their precious free time around the ambitious schedule of the band.

Each morning, bottles of water are packed, along with lunches and snacks. And each night, after nine o'clock, the parents bring the tired kids home. They are all on a mission here. No complaints, no excuses. They just work and improve, work and improve.


There are many unsung heroes that support the logistical challenges of financing and transporting the bands. The uniforms are updated and the expensive purchases are unavoidable to put the esteemed product of the Dartmouth High Marching Band on the field to perform. Expensive instruments and apparatus to make them mobile came at great cost. An 18-wheel truck is in the entourage.

Many good and dedicated Dartmouth citizens and businesses have been as remarkable as the talent in terms of their own over-achievements. Fundraising, tailoring and various other art forms are needed each year. Very few stay after their own children graduate, and the names change but the consistency of excellence endures.

The steady denominator in all this is the Dartmouth band director William Kingsland. He and percussion guru Tom Aungst are out there every day, making sure the excellence continues. Both are nationally renowned.

The first thing you realize when you speak with either is that they quickly deflect any praise toward them, and direct it to the entire team effort. They direct it to the group of 130 or so performers, seniors in high school all the way down to eighth graders from the Dartmouth Middle School.

In one of the most under-reported success stories in New England, the Dartmouth High School Marching band adds to the dynasty with a national championship in its esteemed division.

On Saturday, November 10, the band scored the only score north of 98 (98.075) of any band in all divisions. The towering trophies were taken off the truck and placed at the doors of DHS Sunday night after a police and fire lighted escort from the highway, where over 400 cheering family members, friends and supporters were waiting. As the three buses rolled up, the band came off of them, tired but smiling.

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An intentional, almost Vulcan-like lack of expression was offered while the band stood perfectly still in uniform at the competition, when the audience cheered throughout Metlife Stadium in New Jersey as their performance ended with a sudden climax. But as they got off the bus to see the appreciation, they showed emotion and gratitude and fully took it all in.

My son Martin is now a freshman and has been part of the last two championships. He has a chance for three more! Below are his little sisters Elena (six) and Nina (nine), who quickly drew up impromptu posters with crayons before running out the door to jump in our car and go to the high school last night.


The band was rewarded with a day trip to the Palisades Center, where they enjoyed the afternoon skating, rock climbing, riding an indoor Ferris wheel and just letting loose for the first time in months. Good. They deserved it.

What they accomplished will be reminded to each student, faculty member and visitor every day, as the trophies are featured in the vast trophy case in the front hall of Dartmouth High.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 


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