The Highlanders have established a long record of excellence throughout their history. Highly respected among the nation’s competitive band groups, Highlanders have been a dominant force in East Coast activities almost from the day they were formed.
The Highlander Band was created in 1962, shortly after the opening of Governor Livingston Regional High School. Its first Band Director was Forrest Bartlett, an outstanding music educator and an accomplished trumpet player. Mr. Bartlett guided the selection of a style and theme for the Band.
The school was named for Governor William Livingston, Governor of New Jersey from 1776 to 1790, and signer of the constitution. William Livingston was the son of Robert Livingston, originally from Ancrum, Scotland, and a member of the Stewart clan. It followed, therefore, that the school symbol would be the Highlander, a fierce Scottish warrior, and the school colors would be red and blue, the dominant colors in the Royal Scots Guards, and wear the red and dark blue colors.
From 1962 until 1964, the Highlander Band built its strength as, primarily, a concert and stage band while also performing at football games and parades. Its uniform then bore little resemblance, other than color, to the current uniform. The transition from one to the other occurred as a result of the creative chemistry between Mr. Bartlett and a local resident, Robert Harrison.
Mr. Harrison, an accomplished bagpiper, suggested that a bagpipe band would fit perfectly with the Highlander style, and offered to work with students to establish such a group. Mr. Bartlett agreed, and secured approval from the school administration. Mr. Harrison, assisted by his friends Bill Cochrane and Frank Mulreany from Mountainside, began forming and teaching the Highlander Pipers.
From 1964 until 1972, the Band was known as “the Highlander Bands” to acknowledge the fact that two distinct “bands” (the original band and the new bagpipe band) formed the unit. During that time, the original band uniform was changed to approximate that worn by the Royal Scots Guards. Together with the unique bagpipe band, the Highlanders quickly became parade and concert favorites in the Northeastern states.
In 1970, Daniel Kopcha came to Governor Livingston as Marching Band Director. Mr. Kopcha also carried a reputation as an accomplished music educator, and was clarinetist with the U.S. Army Band. He brought a love of classical music and marching bands to the Highlanders, and began to influence their style and performance patterns.
In 2007, a new era of the Highlander Marching Band began under the leadership of Nick O’Sullivan, a Governor Livingston graduate from the class of 2003. Mr. O’Sullivan is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of Music at Rutgers University and is an accomplished musician himself. He has a unique perspective on the marching band, having experienced it as a student and now as the director of the award-winning Highlanders.