Marching on Homecoming: The Band’s Perspective


Quentin Shaw

Members of the Marching Illini cheer during an Illinois football game. The band will perform during many events throughout Homecoming Week, including at the Homecoming Parade on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. and the Illinois football game against Wisconsin on Oct. 28 at 11 a.m. The Marching Illini will also perform at an indoor show in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person, $7 for seniors and $4 for University students. The event will also feature performances from the Illinois Wind Symphony and the Illinois Wind Orchestra.

By Yoav Margalit, Contributing Writer

Anybody attending a full-scale event at the University would be hard-pressed to miss the Marching Illini, who perform a variety of musical pieces while marching in perfect time with one another.

This polished veneer doesn’t just happen, though; it’s only with the careful coordination and determined effort that they go from practicing to performing.

Professor Barry Houser is the energetic director of Athletic Bands and the general administrator in charge of the Marching Illini.

Houser said this year’s Homecoming preparations are going smoothly, as the Marching Illini prepare to work with the Alumni Band, a group of performing graduates.

They’re also adding new traditions this year in addition to the Homecoming Parade– a Homecoming concert.

But not everything is smooth sailing.

Houser said the Homecoming season brings with it an onslaught of events that the Marching Illini need to practice for. Between a football game, the hosting of the Illinois Marching Band Championships and the Homecoming events themselves, the Marching Illini (and their director) have their work cut out for them.

When asked if this was the band’s busy season, Houser laughed and replied, “Just a little bit.”

Students in the Marching Illini also seemed preoccupied with the packed schedule.

Emily Bloom, junior in FAA and drummer in the band, said that while preparations for Homecoming weren’t fully realized yet, she’s looking forward to the events and to her third Homecoming experience.

“It’s nice to know how many people we reach out to during the Homecoming Week,” Bloom said.

Bloom added that it is gratifying to see all of the graduates, both inside and outside of the Alumni Band, come back for the week.

The spirit that the Marching Illini radiate is not just a front for the crowd. It was clear that the members of the band were looking forward to the events, as Bloom cheerfully walked through the cold rain toward that day’s practice.

Before each practice, the players practice their instruments and march, sometimes with friends, in review for the day. The camaraderie showcased by their practices removed any doubt that their performance this year would be any different from those of the past.

Cameryn Wysocki, senior in Education, has been a member of the band for four years. She said past Homecomings have always required a lot of preparation. There are many small performances necessary because of the Homecoming events.

Putting this into context, Houser’s response suddenly becomes the jocular answer in preparation of heavy routine labor: difficult, but manageable.

Wysocki continued saying that this year represented a bit of a change of routine, with events including the Illinois Wind Symphony, the Illinois Wind Orchestra and the Marching Illini.

Even though the work is similar while the events vary year to year, one thing that remains is the experience for the members of the Marching Illini.

Wysocki said that as important as practicing with the Alumni Band is to prepare for the parade and concerts, what is most valuable is the chance to meet the alumni.

Echoing her peers, Wysocki said that “we cherish Homecoming as a time in particular to appreciate and respect those who came before us, and to learn of their traditions that we strive to uphold.”

However, the transition from the traditions of the old to those of the new aren’t a barrier to the Marching Illini.

“We enjoy sharing our new traditions with the alumni and explaining how the band has changed and improved as well,” Wysocki said. “Personally, I think it is most special to meet people who have marched your exact same spot on the field and who appreciate the meaning and feeling behind our traditional repertoire.”

As the years go by, traditions are born, fade and are born anew. One thing that never changes, however, is how a group of passionate students, joined under the name of the Marching Illini, deliver sensational musical and marching performances each Homecoming season.

The next time one sees them showing their skills on the field, it will bear remembering how much time, effort and care goes into every beat.

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