2009 Director’s Feature-Prospect High School
Filed under: — Dan Balash @ 7:00 am

This is the 3rd in a series of 14 director’s features for the 2009 season.  Prospect High School is located in Mt.  Prospect, IL, located about 20 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.  Here is an interesting bit of information about the school: David Morrison is the former director of bands, having retired several years ago.  His daughter is Jennifer Morrison, who plays Dr. Cameron on the television show “House.”

Prospect is a school of about 2,200.  Today we talk with Chris Barnum, director of bands at Prospect.

Illinois Marching Online: What is your prior directing experience?

Chris Barnum: Prospect is my first band job.

IMO: Who is on your staff?

CB: We are fortunate to have a very talented instructional staff. Most were performing members, and later instructional staff members, of The Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps, and all of them bring a wealth of expertise to the Prospect Band. Whether they are able to work with Prospect all season, or only during band camp, they bring a great skill set:  Winds – Chris Alexander, Evan Kuite, Steve Pyter, Scott Seal.  Percussion – Matt Janus, Bret Kuhn, Dave Schmuck. Color Guard – Christina Barnum, Lauren Bilbrey, Brady Sanders

We’re also fortunate to have an exceptional design team. Drew Shanefield and Bret Kuhn write our musical program, and the visual program is created by Pete Weber and Matt Perez. They bring countless years of experience with some of the very best groups in the activity, and it’s always exciting to work with them.

IMO: What is your 2009 show about?

CB: Our 2009 show is called “Rhapsody in Red, White, and Blue.” There are three movements. The first (Red) is Libertango by Astor Piazzolla, the second movement (White) is Cloudburst by Eric Whitacre, and the third (Blue) is Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin.

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

CB: The process has been a little different each year, but in general, the show design is a collaborative effort between our designers and myself. As I mentioned before, we’re fortunate to have an extremely talented and experienced design team, and each member brings great music and interesting concepts to the table each year. Once we’ve chosen a direction, the entire staff works together toward the goal that the main idea is realized in every detail that is added throughout the season.

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

CB: Rhapsody in Blue is the musical thread that holds the entire show together. As you hear Astor Piazolla’s Libertango or Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst, you’ll be able to hear the creative ways in which our designers superimposed themes from Rhapsody in Blue. Often, the references will be easy to hear, but at other moments, we will ask a little more out of the audience. We hope the character of the three different movements comes across through both musical and visual ideas.

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

CB: 4 drum majors, 107 winds, 12 battery, 11 front ensemble, 32 color guard

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

CB: We’ve been in the 170 – 180 range the last few years, and that has worked out well for us. It’s big enough for us to present our show with the right quality and excitement without being too large to manage.

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

CB: All students in the band program are a part of the marching band as well as the concert program.

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

CB:We have a band camp for two weeks when school lets out in June leading up to the Fourth of July. After our Fourth of July parades, we take a break until the second week of August when we start our next camp. During the school year, we rehearse Monday and Thursday evenings, and usually have a couple of Saturday rehearsals when we don’t have competitions.

IMO: What does your competition schedule look like?

CB: 9/12 Lake Park Lancer Joust, 9/26 Bands of America – Louisville, KY, 10/3 Knight of Champions at Prospect (exhibition), 10/17 University of Illinois, 10/24 Illinois State University.

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

CB: I look for competitions that will offer the best possible experience for our kids. That means we look for shows with the best venues, the best adjudicators, and the best bands. And while it’s tough to find all of those aspects in a single show, we try to pick the show whose balance of those criteria will provide the best weekend for our students.

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

CB: One of my favorite moments was just after we came off the field in finals at the St. Louis Super Regional in 2007. The band had a really wonderful performance, and they knew it. There was a real electricity in the air and when the band was told to relax, the cheering, high fiving, and hugs began. It was one of those nights that was a success long before the awards ceremony. We also performed in the London New Year’s Day Parade at the start of this year, which was a special experience for the students.

Illinois Marching Online would like to thank Chris Barnum for his time answering the questions, and would like to wish Prospect the best of luck this season.

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