Band, alumni warm up for Homecoming halftime act

By Chris Liu

Four hours before kickoff, a team prepares. The team is one of the best in the nation and is eager to perform. But they are not putting pads and cleats on; they are donning their uniforms and shining their instruments.

The team is the Marching Illini, and they will be the other main attraction at the Homecoming football game against Minnesota on Saturday.

Recognized as one of the nation’s premiere college marching bands, they call themselves the “best band in the land” and are ready to put on a great show for the homecoming game.

“Homecoming is a chance for people to come together,” said Peter J. Griffin, director of the Marching Illini.

The band will perform five new songs at the game that will last about 10 minutes and will then play more traditional school songs.

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    A special treat is the return of a 200-person alumni band that will accompany the current 330 student band during parts of the performance.

    “Homecoming is a chance for alumni to come back to campus and relive what it was like when they were here,” Griffin said.

    Griffin asked former Marching Illini Director Gary Smith, who directed from 1976-1998, to help direct the band for the show. Griffin hopes the students will see the connection between two generations and see how he was taught when he was a Marching Illini baritone player in the late 1970s.

    “We want to bring back a little bit of the past so students can experience it,” Griffin said.

    Alex Moroz, freshman in FAA and clarinet player, said he looks forward to his first homecoming game and figures it will be even more special than his experience at the first game of the season.

    “I’ve never played in front of so many people,” Moroz said. “Just hearing the roar of the crowd is so awesome.”

    After having experienced three homecomings already, Sarah Kowalis, senior in FAA and cymbal player, said she still gets nervous before performances.

    “It’s a rush, it doesn’t get old after three years of doing it,” Kowalis said. “The best part is when you’re standing on the field and you see 60,000 people staring right back at you.”