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Strike up the band: Marching band students dedicated to putting on a good show

Before the music starts, Batavia High School junior Linnea Johnson is thinking about a couple of things.

Thoughts include making sure her feet are in time, keeping her shoulders square, an upward horn angle and playing with dynamics and articulation.

“Each set is a new chance to do something better,” said Johnson, 16.

Johnson is one of the 120 members of the Batavia High School Marching Band. In recent years, Batavia and other schools have risen to the challenge of creating elaborate productions with props and choreography.

The bands’ showmanship has been on display every Friday during home football games.

Chris Owen, Batavia’s marching director, said he has seen several changes in marching band performances since he was in high school in the late 1990s.

“The amount of change that has happened in the activity is massive,” Owen said.

In the 1990s, a typical marching band would have 20 different sets, “or pictures,” said Aaron Puckett, director of the 115-member Kaneland High School marching band. The school’s competitive show has close to 80 pictures it has to make during the show.

Both Batavia and Kaneland work with someone outside of the school to help them write the bands’ complicated sets.

Kaneland’s show theme this year is “The Hunger Games,” based on the popular books and movie franchise. The band utilizes circular platforms reminiscent of scenes from the movies, and some of the band parents volunteered their time to help with costuming and effects, Puckett said.

To prepare for the fall performances, schools typically hold a band camp, followed by after-school rehearsals.

Batavia students have to commit to joining the marching band and all of its performances by March of the previous school year, Owen said.

The Band Family

Senior Todd Martin first made the decision to join Batavia’s marching band as a freshman based on his interest in music and seeking out more friends. His eighth-grade graduating class at the Batavia Montessori Academy had seven students.

Martin, who plays center snare, said he has become close friends with those in and out of his section.

“I really like the musical challenge that marching band has given me,” Martin, 17, said.

The freshmen band members end up becoming mentored by the upperclassmen, said Jim Kull, St. Charles East band director.

Even with middle-school band experience, practice is crucial for the incoming freshmen to get down all the marching and playing they have to do as marching band members, Kull said.

A willingness to practice and a positive attitude are the most important things to keep in mind, said Samantha Reattoir, a Geneva High School color guard captain.

Reattoir said memorization skills also are crucial for color guard members because they cannot use “cheat sheets” once out on the field.

For all the work and commitment marching band takes, marching bands do not hesitate to recommend incoming freshmen to join their ranks.

“It was overall one of the best decisions I made in high school,” Johnson said.

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