Summer band serenades campus community on Main Quad


Rebecca Oriza

Summer band led by Marching Illini director Barry Houser perform on the Main Quad on Thursday evening. The summer band made of a diverse set of musicians continue the 110 year summer tradition with an array of scores that end the concert with another prosperous performance for the summer tradition.

By Rebecca Oriza, Staff Writer

As the sun began to set on Thursday evening, a growing crowd could be seen coming to the quad, some on folding chairs or on picnic blankets, others on the grass — all waiting in anticipation for the 110th annual Summer Band Performance.

Directed by Marching Illini’s director, Barry Houser, the summer band is quite different from his typical group of students.

“It’s a little bit different because we have about six rehearsals to get ready for this concert,” Houser said. “We’ve got some high school students to college students all the way up to some older folks in the mix that have been 80 years old. It’s really a great opportunity to kind of merge a variety of generations, a variety of backgrounds into one band and be able to play.”

The band welcomes anyone with an instrumental background, including non-degree-seeking students. Part of the band is made up of community members, faculty and alumni. One alumnus who has been part of the summer band since 1968 is Verlin Richardson, who plays the trumpet.

“It was a fun group to play with,” Richardson said. “I loved ‘Summer Dances,’ the fourth piece. Just because it’s something a little different, it was kind of bouncing and jazzy. Of course, the marches are a staple of the university.”

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“Summer Dances” was fitting for the atmosphere, as it was written by Brian Balmages for an outdoor summer concert. Another unique piece was “Liberty Bell,” composed by renowned John Philip Sousa, whose legacy is housed in the University of Illinois Library archives.

The piece involved the historic bell inscribed “USS Illinois 1946,” loaned by the Naval History and Heritage Command to the University’s Naval ROTC.

“That’s the first time that we’ve incorporated it into this band, could be to the entire program,” Houser said. “It’s typically in Memorial Stadium for football games, so something a little unique.”

The concert began with the National Anthem, followed by the Navy Hymn. After an introduction, the band played several pieces from John Williams including the “Midway March,” which was Houser’s personal favorite.

“John Williams on this concert cycle has a lot of great music, but this one has a lot of special meaning to it because it’s been used in other concerts and other performances,” Houser said. “So, it kind of carries some personal, emotional things along with that.”

Another John Williams piece that was a crowd favorite is from the well-known series, Star Wars. Bruce Zimmerman, a band alum and member of the audience, said that while he echoes Houser’s sentiment on the Midway March piece, he also enjoyed the Star Wars piece.

“(The ‘Star Wars movies) came out when my daughter was small, so we went through them together as they were coming out,” Zimmerman said. “You know that it’s like film music, which is always great summer music. It’s a complex suite of pieces, you know, from the different scenes in the film, so it allowed each section to stand out.”

Zimmerman attended the concert with his wife, Maureen Reagan. Reagan was a fellow band and School of Music alum, who currently works at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts.

“I loved it, it was so nice to be back hearing live music again and seeing the quad being the quad,” Reagan said. “We know some of the people and it was fun to hear and see our friends.”

The night ended in applause and cheers from the audience, another successful concert in its 110 years of history.

“This marks 110 seasons of Summer Band and then we’re starting the 154th season of Illinois bands, so I have the great honor and privilege of serving as the 7th director of the Marching Illini,” Houser said. “Not a lot of people have had this opportunity, so I don’t take that for granted. But also making sure that we’re extending a great big invitation to anyone and everyone that wants to play, just a really important part of that as we develop and become more inclusive of everyone.”


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