Excitement at Hinsdale Central football games starts with the Red Devils marching band

5 minute read

Kimberly Fornek

Before Hinsdale Central’s Red Devils football team takes the field for its first home game Friday, the school’s more than 300 strong marching band will have roused the crowd.

Their job is to get the audience excited, said drum major Kelly Pam, a senior from Hinsdale.

Pam also plays the flute in Central’s wind ensemble, which has 60 to 70 members, but performing with the marching band is a different experience.

“I get to hear all 300 students and you can feel four times the energy,” Pam said. “The power behind the sound is what really moves me.”

When Matt Kurinsky became Central’s band director in 2017, he said there were 73 students in the band. This year there are 327. That growth is due, at least in part, to the smaller bands that feed into the marching band.

Over the years, the school has added classes, such as wind ensemble and wind symphony, for different levels of skill.

“As we have added bands, it has been by grouping kids who have a similar ability to play their instrument,” Kurinsky said. “We want every kid to feel like they have a place to play.”

Because much of the rehearsing takes place in class, students still have time after school for other interests.

“We also want kids to be able to do sports, activities, honors classes and band,” Kurinsky said.

When the weather allows, the band practices outdoors on the baseball outfield, which has a football field grid drawn on it.

“That’s our personal marching space in the fall,” Kurinsky said.

He also thinks students are drawn to the band by the camaraderie.

“There’s a social aspect to being in marching band,” he said. “We spend a lot of time together.”

In addition to their daily 50-minute class periods, the band practices for three hours on Tuesday evenings before Friday night home games.

The band also has performed in prestigious parades, such as the Veterans Day Parade in New York City and the New Year’s Day Parade in London in 2017. The band is planning a trip to Rome for the 2020 New Year’s Day parade there.

The great thing about the band is I see kids for four years,” Kurinsky said. When students join the band, most stick with it, he said.

Kurinsky and associate band director Matthew Goeke rely on more than 40 student leaders who handle tasks such as taking attendance, checking that students are standing on the correct spot and helping distribute uniforms.

The student leaders, such as drum majors and quartermasters, are the ones who make all that run smoothly, Kurinsky said.

“They take small groups of freshmen and get them indoctrinated into all things marching band,” he said.

Pam is one of four drum majors who help conduct, a role for which they audition. They stand on a raised podium during practice and games.

Sometimes, Pam said, she misses marching on the field with the other students, “but then I think about the influence I have by leading them stylistically. We help interpret the music in such a way we get band members and the audience excited.”

Elisabeth Bieber, a drum major from Westmont, was inspired to join the band by her father, who played the trumpet in high school and for the Marching Illini of the University of Illinois. She thought being a drum major would be good experience before college.

“I realized freshman year I wanted to be a band director and go into music education,” Bieber said.

Both she and Pam went to drum major camps over the summer. Their responsibilities include teaching band fundamentals, such as posture, learning to march in time and turns.

“It’s all about uniformity in visuals and that’s what we focus on,” Bieber said.

Central’s marching band not only has a large force, it also has a large repertoire.

“We try to be like a Big Ten school,” Goeke said, with the marching band doing a new show at each game.

The band will perform a classic piece, “Into the Clouds,” during the pregame show, Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” for their home opener against Oak Park River Forest High School, and music from the movie “The Greatest Showman” for homecoming.

Goeke said they give out new music regularly, so the students become good sight-readersand are exposed to different styles.

“Music in general is a great way to unite people,” Bieber said.

“I’ve performed in a lot of concert bands,” Bieber said, but playing for the large crowds at a football game is a special opportunity.

“It’s a way to share it with other people who normally wouldn’t hear the music we play.”

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