About The Band

THE GARDEN STATE SYMPHONIC BAND is a fully professional musical ensemble modeled after the very successful Sousa Band of the early 20th Century. Its primary goal is to maintain the American tradition of the professional concert band as a viable, artistic medium aimed at presenting aesthetically uplifting performances, which at the same time are entertaining to the general public.

 The Garden State Symphonic Band can trace its history back to 1907 when it first emerged as the Goodwill Fife & Drum Corps, which, after a few short years, in 1910, became the Goodwill Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps. In 1920 it became the Goodwill Band, which , in 1958 changed its name to the Bay City Band. In 1967 the name was again changed, this time to The Garden State Symphonic Band, the name that the band operates under to this day. 

In recognition of over 100 years of music making, the Band has been the recipient of special congratulatory citations, resolutions and/or proclamations - in the House of Representatives by the Hon. Frank Pallone, Jr.; in the New Jersey State Legislature by Senator Buona and Assemblymen Barnes & Diegnan, The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders by David B. Crabiel, Director and Board Members, and in the Woodbridge Township Council Chambers by Mayor John E. McCormac and the Town Council. 

In recent years the band has performed in a number of different venues; including, the Garden State Arts Center, the State Theater in New Brunswick, the Clinton Museum, the Woodbridge Center Mall, the Twin Towers in the Highlands, in public schools in Perth Amboy & Edison, in Monmouth & Middlesex County parks, as well as in municipal parks in Perth Amboy, Sayreville, Carteret, Woodbridge, Matawan, South Plainfield, Edison, Keyport, and Madison Township. The band has been performing an annual series of free outdoor concerts in Perth Amboy, NJ, for well over 70 years. 

Band members are graduates of several of our most prestigious music conservatories; including, Julliard, The Manhattan School of Music, The New England Conservatory, The Curtis Institute, Oberlin, The Eastman School of Music, and The Mannes School, as well as major universities such as Penn State, Rutgers, & the University of Michigan. Many of them have performed with a number of major orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the New York City Opera Orchestra & the Brooklyn Philharmonic. They have also performed on Broadway for many of the most successful musicals of the past two decades. Several players have also worked in the bands of Buddy Rich & Louis Bellison as well as in the back-up bands of many of our most famous entertainers: including, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Liza Minelli, Tom Jones, Peggy Lee, Engelbert Humperdinck, Sarah Vaughn, Vic Damone, Cleo Laine, Liberace, Lena Horne, among others. 

Todd Nichols,Conductor, currently serves as Director of University Bands at Rutgers University. He received his DMA in Conducting from Rutgers University, having studied with William Berz. As Artistic Director for the Eastern Wind Symphony, Todd conducted highly acclaimed performances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center and recorded recent releases Resurgence and Elements. Under his direction, the Eastern Wind Symphony received multiple Grammy Award nominations of eligibility and have been invited to perform at major conventions. Todd recently co-authored two articles accepted for publication in The Journal of Band Research and WASBE Journal. Todd was appointed Conductor of the Garden State Symphonic Band in 2023.  For further information on Todd  click here .

Ginny Johnston, Assistant Conductor, received her Bachelor of Music from Syracuse University and her Master of Music from Boston University in composition and clarinet performance. She studied choral conducting at Westminster Choir College and earned her Certificate in Nonprofit Management from The Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University. Ginny served as Executive Director for The Discovery Orchestra, a nonprofit music education organization, for 13 years. She is now Finance Director there and was Executive Producer for three of the Orchestra’s award-winning public television programs. Ginny has been a professional free-lance clarinetist, conductor and composer in the tri-state area for the past 30 years. She has played clarinet with the Garden State Symphonic Band since 1993, and was appointed Assistant Conductor in 2023. Other conducting work in includes directing the Triad Vocal Ensemble community choir and serving as Associate Conductor of the Maplewood Community Band. For further information on Ginny,   click here .

Chris Pedersen Jr., Conductor Emeritus, was the Band’s Conductor and Music Director for over half a century.  He is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music where he majored in the clarinet and studied conducting. Beginning his involvement with music at age 13, performing with a local Latin band, Mr. Pedersen has had an extremely varied career, playing for operas, ballets, symphony orchestras, concert bands, show bands, ethnic bands, stage bands, and jazz and Dixieland bands. He performed regularly as a woodwind specialist at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel for over 25 years, as well as at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark an in New York City at Carnegie Recital Hall, the Hubbard Auditorium at the Manhattan School of Music, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Town Hall and at the Empire Room in the Waldorf Astoria and several Broadway shows.  

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