Wade Behrens, an eighth-grader at Frost Junior High School in Schaumburg, takes his music seriously. He plays trombone with his school band and with the Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 jazz band.
But on Friday, he took it to a new level. Eighth-grade band members from Frost, Keller and Addams junior high schools marched with the Schaumburg Marching Band at the homecoming game.
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"This is going to be fun," Behrens said before their practice, held Thursday on Schaumburg's football field.
In all, nearly 500 band members stretched out across the field for the halftime show. Schaumburg High School Band Director Kevin Miller calls it the "really big band."
The high school band opened the pregame show with Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." Miller's downbeat signaled the eighth-graders to march in formation from either side of the field, before the mass band played the national anthem and the Saxon fight song.
The marching was the hardest part, the young players agreed.
"It's hard to keep up with their pace," admitted Jason Schoo, an eighth-grade trumpet player from Frost. "And it's hard to hear everyone else around you."
The audience, on the other hand, had no trouble hearing the big sound coming out of the combined bands. During the halftime show, they played a tribute to the rock band Journey, including their hits, "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Any Way You Want It."
"That's what's so much fun, you get to play the cool music that the high schoolers play," Schoo added.
Educators see even more advantages to the bands working together.
"This is terrific, they're up for it," said Frost Band Director Roy Hansen. "It gives them a chance to step out of their environment and see what goes on here."
Their partnership started earlier this month, when Schaumburg drum majors Shil Punatar, Nathan Spees and Jaimie Spahr visited all three junior highs with Miller, to teach the eighth-graders how to march and to review the music.
"The eighth-graders get a taste of what the high school marching band experience is like," Miller says. "They get a chance to see the spirit level at a high school sporting event.
"Often, their biggest fear is the marching band," he adds. "This helps to alleviate that to a great extent, and the high schoolers get a chance to teach what they know and lead the youngsters."
Schaumburg sophomore trumpet player Kathleen Young, remembers marching alongside the Conant High School marching band when she was in eighth grade.
"It was scary," she recalls. "I thought it was really nerve-racking, especially on game day.
"But I had fun. I couldn't wait to join band when I got to high school."