High school marching bands hit the neighborhood streets

Who doesn't love a parade?

With the holiday weekend approaching, high school marching bands are stepping up their game, taking their music out of the band rooms and onto the streets in neighborhood parades.

Take Palatine High School. They started a tradition of holding a neighborhood parade on their last day of band camp. This year's version took place earlier this month. Band members sported a Hawaiian look for the occasion and even threw candy to fans along the route.

“It's been really cool to see the size of the audience grow over the years,” says Marissa Rentner, assistant band director at Palatine. “It's become more of a community event than just another day of band camp.”

The parade has a different destination each year: the home of the family hosting their barbecue.

“The parade allows us to focus on our marching technique. Students focus on staying in straight lines, maintaining spacing and turning together as a line,” Rentner adds. “But we also do the parade as a way to get more involved with the surrounding community.”

Band members hope that by engaging local neighbors, they will be rewarded by drawing more fans to their halftime shows. Those who come will notice something different about the band: new uniforms. This will be the band's first new look in 26 years, Rentner says.

Over at Schaumburg High School, its marching band took to the streets for two successive days in early August. The better to prepare for their appearance on Monday in Schaumburg's Septemberfest parade.

“It's a great opportunity for our students to apply several concepts we have worked on throughout the week,” says Schaumburg Band Director Vincent Inendino. “Since the parade never stops, our students have to be mentally, musically and physically engaged at all times, performing at a high level whether they are stepping off or have been marching for 30 minutes.”

The neighborhood parade also allows each year's new drum major to direct the band for the first time. This year's leader, Samuel Hessian, said he speaks for all of his classmates when he says how much they love to entertain people in the community.

“It motivates all of us to see so many joyful families, specifically the children who clap, cheer, dance, and find enjoyment in the parade music,” Samuel said. “I love glancing along the curb and seeing so many people genuinely delighted with the ambience that the parade creates.”

And why not? Their parade show this year is anything but traditional. Look for the 220 band members to play Jimi Hendrix's “All Along the Watchtower” in the parade on Monday, Sept. 3. If that's not exciting enough, look for the Saxon Marching Band to play the music of Earth, Wind and Fire at their halftime shows this season.

The area's largest marching band is from Stevenson High School, which this year will have 450 students hitting the streets on Sunday, Sept. 2 — the largest band in the school's history — when they march in the Buffalo Grove Days parade.

Look for them to play a traditional, patriotic show that includes “Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle.” In preparation, they practiced marching around the school's football stadium and track.

“The Buffalo Grove Day parade is always a big highlight for us,” says Sonny Petway, director bands. “We are always excited to be able to give back to the community that has done so much for our program.”

Senior drum major Samuel Hessian leads the Marching Saxons from Schaumburg High School during one of their neighborhood parades earlier this month. Look for the 220 members to be a featured unit in the Septemberfest parade on Labor Day in Schaumburg. Courtesy of Schaumburg High School
Members of Stevenson High School's marching band prepare for their upcoming performance in the Buffalo Grove Days parade. The 450-member band is the largest in the area and committed to returning to play in Buffalo Grove every year. Courtesy of Stevenson High School
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