North Brunswick High School’s Marching Scorpions marched in the national Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C, this summer.

The national spotlight was on the Marching Scorpions of North Brunswick High School (NBHS) during the 2019 Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C. They were one of 16 high school bands selected from across the United States to participate in America’s birthday celebration, which includes, floats, balloons and military groups.

Senator Thom Tillis nominated the band in 2018 to perform in the 2019 parade, which is sponsored by the National Park Service. NBHS band director Chris Cook submitted a video and resume of the band, and that secured their spot in the parade which is attended by hundreds of thousands of people each Fourth of July.

Some of the music the Scorpions played in D.C. included: Stars and Stripes Forever, Michael Jackson songs and Got to be Real by Cheryl Lynn.

Cook smiles thinking back on the fundraisers, the chartering of the buses and all the steps the parents, 70-plus band students, administrators and boosters took to send the band to Washington.


“Most of the band was able to go, while others had commitments, like one enlisted in the military,” Cook says. “For most of these students,  it was a first-time trip to D.C., or any big city.”

Cook says the band prepared quite a bit for the event. “It was hot. We did a lot of conditioning, practicing in sweats to simulate marching in uniforms. … And I don’t know what the kids would say was better – marching up Constitution Avenue or the Golden Corral all-you-can-eat buffet afterward.”

Drum major Nick Stanley says he had never really been to a big city like D.C.  before. “I liked the infrastructure (of D.C.), the parade itself was impressive with balloons and so many people, but it was HOT,” he says.

Cook says the D.C. event was monumental. “Being on a national level and televised, lifts the expectations to a whole new level. There’s pressure for what’s next.”

When Cook started teaching at NBHS in 2012, it was a bit rocky with some of the parents. Cook graduated from a historically black college in Hampton, Virginia, and wanted to use what he learned there. The marching styles he wanted to teach were different from the  DCI Corp style formerly used at NBHS. While changes in the band program were eventually accepted, he is quick to thank everyone who supported him from the start. “I have to thank all that my principal, Mr. Price, Mrs. Brown the assistant principal, and the former principal have done to be supportive of the changes,” he says. “Also, Superintendent Dr. Oates has helped the band program grow this far.”

Cook says he took the band from a competition-only type group to participating more in community events. “We practice every day.  They work hard. They do fundraisers for trips, and they are always performing in Leland somewhere, like at the SECU opening and Founders Day.”.

In one recent after school rehearsal, the band worked on dance steps to a Stevie Wonder medley under the leadership of band captain Jurnee Montgomery. Cook says the students like most of the dance routines. He uses Pyware, a 3D drill design software to sync footwork with the music.

“I like to use a combination of old school music to get parents interested, and new school music that students like,” Cook says. “Kids don’t like to go home and practice, but if it is music parents know, they can say ‘I’ve got the album, listen to this, now go play it like that.’ And, if it’s new school music, the students will practice songs they like.”

On home game nights, the band stays after school until game time, eliminating having 70 students go home or out to eat and franticly trying to get back in time. Volunteer groups provide meals, which could be packaged sandwiches or meals, or something hot. They break for dinner about 4:30 pm, and any group interested in providing a meal can reach out to Cook through the high school.

Hear the Marching Scorpions for yourself:

  • Come to a home football games:
  • Showcase of Bands at WBHS on October 22
  • Wilmington Veteran’s Day Parade on November 9
  • NBHS Marching Scorpions Booster Page on Facebook

Laura Glantz Photography