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Kaneland marching band celebrates season's accomplishments

MAPLE PARK – The Kaneland High School marching band packed the high school auditorium Nov. 14 for its indoor concert and awards performance.

With high energy, the band members – and friends and families – celebrated their end-of-season accomplishments.

Band and instrumental music director Aaron Puckett began by recognizing the hard work and hours of practicing, often in the heat of summer, in which the band members participated. Puckett said that long before the first day of school, the marching band was on the field, practicing for their first performance at the Sugar Grove Corn Boil at the end of July.

From summer band camp to community parades, Kaneland High School football half-time performances, exhibitions and competitions, the marching band has a full schedule. It takes a lot of effort and a big commitment, and they do it with such joy, said Maria Dripps-Paulson, Kaneland Arts Initiative executive director.

“Their enthusiasm for every kid [during the awards presentation] was pretty amazing and easily infectious,” she said. “Aaron creates an atmosphere of excitement for learning, and they perform with a professional demeanor that’s so joyful.”

From an award for the most improved player, and one for attitude and effort in each section to “beat gurus,” marching rock stars and dot masters, each member received a handshake from the others.

The indoor performance Nov. 14 included the Kaneland Knights' school song, a few pop favorites, a drum percussion piece and a “Trombone Suicide” routine, as well as an original collection of music by Tyler Brooks called “Parallel.”

Brooks, a Northern Illinois University student, who also has the distinction of having marched with the Cavalier Marching Band for the University of Virginia, has been writing the music and the drill choreography for the Kaneland marching band these past several years.

“I’ve put my heart and soul into this,” he told the audience. “To see my work come to fruition like this – I’m forever indebted to you, Mr. Puckett, for the opportunity.”

Dripps-Paulson said that middle school band director Rebecca Anderson works closely with Puckett to help develop and encourage the younger band members into the fold.

There are about 150 students in this year’s band, the largest number the high school has had in years.

Anderson said the credit for the enthusiasm about the program really belongs to the band members themselves.

“It’s the kids,” she said. “They really care about what we do, and they encourage each other to care. We have a really great student leadership team.”

The band’s drum majors are Hayley Kral, Patrick Murphy and Dominic LaSalle.

Part of the reason for the large crowd in the audience was due to the presence of a large number of parents, in addition to band members’ fellow students and friends.

“The support you give us is just tremendous,” Puckett told the parents.

He particularly singled out one set of parents, Walt and Kris Zimmer, who have been marching band supporters for the past seven years. Their daughter Hailey graduated from Kaneland a couple of years ago, and their son Hayden is a senior this year.

Kris Zimmer has taken on the responsibility for the band members’ uniforms, making sure they are sized correctly, cleaned, collected and distributed. Walt Zimmer has been responsible for prop construction.

The band’s roster of festival parades included Montgomery Fest, Maple Park Fun Fest, Sycamore Pumpkin Fest and more. They performed at an exhibition at Rochelle High School and participated in competitions at Northern Illinois University and Marengo High School, where they took third place, and at the Marching Band Classic at Western Illinois University, where they finished seventh in their class.

This performance was the culmination of the band’s season.

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