Bert Johnson isn’t focused on winning marching band competitions.
The Lincoln-Way East High School music chair said he is more concerned with the Marching Griffins showing progress week after week throughout the season.
“The only thing we can control when it comes to a competition is how hard we practice and how focused we are on the performance,” Johnson said. “The judges are human and their assessments are subjective. You can’t really rely on that.”
The Marching Griffins have fared strongly in the first half of the marching season, earning first place at the Providence Catholic High School Marching Invitational in class 2A on Sept. 28.
The band’s competition piece for 2013 is “City of One Hundred Spires,” an adaptation of the 1968 composition “Music for Prague” by Karel Husa. Johnson described the piece as an “emotional reaction” to the Soviets invading the Czech Republic.
“It depicts the war time fog of devastation, and is based on a hymn,” Johnson said. “But there’s a piece of hope inside. The idea is someone watching might have no idea about ‘Music for Prague,’ but sees a work of art in a visual way, with the emotions portrayed on the field.”
To accomplish that feat, the band practices about 15 hours a week, broken into three hours a day after for three school days and as many as six hours of practice on Saturdays.
Plans for the performance began in January 2013, and rehearsals began in May going into the summer before the school year began. The band first performed publicly at the Momence Gladiolus Festival in August, and scheduled competitions and performances continue through November.
“We’re dealing with mortality here,” Johnson said about the performance piece. “They know they have a responsibility to not just run steps and play the notes. But they love what they are doing and to see the audience compelled by it is more fulfilling than any competition placement.”
Johnson expressed gratitude from the school district administration, parent volunteers and booster organizations for their support.
“They don’t get anything other than the satisfaction of seeing their kids performing,” Johnson said about the supporters. “They put in full time hours on top of their jobs and their lives. It’s incredible, and all four schools have that in place.”
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