2009 Band Feature-Effingham High School
Filed under: — Dan Balash @ 7:00 am

This is the 9th in a series of 13 band features for the 2009 season.

Effingham Illinois is a town of approximately 12,000 people, located 50 miles from Decatur.  It is perhaps best known for the 200 foot tall cross at the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70.  Effingham is also mistakenly reffered to as “Effington” on Ben Folds’  new cd, “Road to Normal.”  Effingham High School has 927 students.

Today we talk with Brad Wallace, director of bands at Effingham High School.

Illinois Marching Online: What is your prior directing experience?

Brad Wallace: I have been at Effingham for seven years, and this was my first teaching position. I did my undergraduate degree at Eastern Illinois, and student taught at West Aurora High School. I was the section leader for the trombones in EIU’s marching band, so I gained some marching experience there.

IMO: Who is on your staff?

BW: We’re really fortunate to only be about 40 minutes from EIU, so all of the staff comes from there. Kayne O’Brien and Kate Henry (EIU students, Kayne is a Cavalier) do the colorguard; Patrick Rheingruber and Anthony Graffeo (EIU students) teach the battery and front ensemble, and Matt Clayton (EHS alum and member of the Blue Stars) helps with music and visual. I also have a student teacher this fall from EIU who is involved in everything. His name is Mr. James Stanford.

IMO: What is your 2009 show about?

BW: Our 2009 show is different than what we’ve done in the past. The title is “Chaos Theory”. It is composed by Alex Yoder, who is fresh out of college (Ball State University). He teaches at Anderson (IN) High School. We purchased it through Center X Productions. The movements are titled: Random Conditions, The Butterfly Effect, and Eventual Order. Movement one opens with a saxophone quartet, which front ensemble accompanies. There is a build until a full tutti hit with impact percussion providing effect (bass drums/gong in the pit). There is a small woodwind feature, before an extended drum break and a 3/4 time full ensemble hit. The opener ends with the band parked down front and a loud fortissimo ending. Movement two opens with smooth, soft melodic ideas from the front ensemble. The band does a combination of double time and “straight” time marching until the woodwinds play melodic stuff. There is a big impact section, where the color guard brings new color to the show with big flags. The end of the ballad builds and segues right into the closer, which is fast. The closer is quick and features a couple of short percussion breaks and ends with lots of energy. More to come about our closer…

IMO: How do you arrive at your show themes and musical selections?

BW: Each year around the first of March, I begin listening to ideas. We’ve yet to really do a “custom” show, but I try to find things that sound somewhat original. I play a few samples for the kids the last few minutes of our concert band rehearsals, then if there’s a couple we like, I do a vote. I also consult the staff members that help us. Finally, the music has to be a good fit: Do we have someone who can cover that solo? Is the percussion going to be able to handle a break that long? Those kinds of questions have to be answered too. And, it can’t be too easy or too hard. I always try to challenge the kids when picking marching band music, otherwise the stronger players get really bored fast.

IMO: What are some things to look for in your show?

BW: I think you’ll see a lot of energy. This show really is pushing us early on. The opening tempo is 168, right now we’re rehearsing it at 160. We’ll see if we can march it at tempo. This show really gives our color guard an opportunity to shine as well.

IMO:What is the instrumentation/guard breakdown for 2009? (pit/winds/brass)

BW: As of now, we have 16 guard, 16 percussion, 3 drum majors, and I think 73 winds.

IMO: About how big is the preferred size for your band? Why?

BW: I think our band size is great where it is now. Of course, I would welcome more growth, and we have a booming junior high program, so I think we may grow a little more. We have around 900 in our high school, so we are doing well getting kids into the program. Our instrumentation is very good, and as long as we have kids that want to work and good instrumentation, I’m happy.

IMO: Is your band volunteer or mandatory for students enrolled in concert band programs?

BW: The marching band is volunteer here. We have around 100 students in the concert band, so we really don’t have the numbers to go volunteer. I’d like to think that most of the kids would want to march anyways. I don’t go overboard with rehearsals, so it’s pretty doable for kids with jobs, in sports, in drama stuff, etc.

IMO: What is your rehearsal schedule like from beginning of the season to the end of the season?

BW: We do a full week of camp the last week of July,  then practice Tuesday and Thursday evenings until school starts. When school begins in mid August, it changes. Sometimes we have two night rehearsals a week (like the week before our first home game or early contests). But, there is one 2.5 hour rehearsal other weeks. I have a LOT of kids that play sports, so I try to make marching band as easy on them as possible.

IMO: What does your competition schedule look like?

BW: This year we’ll go to the Mozingo Percussion Contest in St. Charles, MO (great early chance to get a tape, plus we go down early and rehearse in the lot for a few hours before). Contests include O’Fallon on 9/12, Edwardsville on 9/19, EIU on 9/26, U of I on 10/17, and Mahomet-Seymour on 10/24. We host our own invitational on 10/10.

IMO: What do you look for when you choose a competition for your band to attend?

BW: Initially, I check when the competition ends. With our school size and band size, we usually perform in the middle of a contest. With lots of kids in sports, some of them have meets/games on Saturday mornings, especially soccer, cross country, golf, and girls tennis. If we can march after 4pm or so, that is a huge plus for me. That way we don’t have to deal with holes and kids having to choose between their sport and marching band. I also look at the quality of lineup. We like to go to contests where my kids will see great bands. Band size and school size doesn’t really make too much of a difference to us, as we’d most likely end up in the same bracket or class. Finally, the judging panel makes a difference too. I don’t care too much about the sheets, but we do like to get comments that will help us down the road.

IMO: What are some of your favorite memories from being a director at the bands that you’ve directed?

BW: The memories are very good, especially since the band has grown and improved each year that I’ve been here. We placed 4th in Class A at U of I in 2007, and that made for a great trip home. I always enjoy it when the kids realize how the hard work pays off. It always takes until that first contest for the new members (and their parents) to realize what it’s all about. The kids always seem to work harder after that first contest.

Illinois Marching Online would like to thank Brad Wallace for his time answering the questions, and would like to wish Effingham High School good luck the rest of the season.

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