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

Today is a double feature of bands.  First, is Henry D. Jacobs High School located in Algonquin, Illinois.  They are currently a non-competitive band with aspirations of becoming competitive next year.  We talk with Jake Stouffer, assistant director of bands at Jacobs.

Illinois Marching Online: What is your prior directing experience?

Jake Stouffer: I have previously served as the director at Richmond-Burton HS in Richmond, IL for four years. I was a member of both the EIU and WIU marching bands, and served as a trumpet and mellophone section leader and drum major. I have marched with the Troopers and Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps. This is my first year on staff at Jacobs HS.

IMO: What is your 2009 show about?

JS: Our show is West Side Story, as arranged by Tom Wallace. We are exploring the show as a full concept “behind the scenes.” By that, I mean that we are beginning to educate our students as to what conceptual items can be drawn out of the music and the musical, and how this can be portrayed in our own sound or on the field.

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

JS: I work with an AMAZING director, Mr. Anthony Gnutek. He has been starting the process of getting these kids back on the field in a successful way. Our mindset is that we present a challenging musical and visual program that the audience will relate to or recognize, and that we can use to build quality and pride in our program. We aim for sophistication AND entertainment, which as many directors know is incredibly challenging.

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

JS: Well, we have a GREAT sounding band that drives the focus of what we do. Since we don’t compete, (yet) we drive our show with a lot of close band pass throughs, intense color guard work, and a VERY full band sound. The show needs to look flashy from the audience perspective, whether they are sitting in the first row or the thirtieth.

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

JS: We have 18 Guard, 24 Percussion, and 87 winds.

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

JS: We do a week-long band camp, plus Thursday night rehearsals for 3 hours during the season. We also do a few rehearsals between camp and school to keep the material as fresh as possible. As with many programs, we are facing a large number of kids who participate in other activities, so our goal is to keep the schedule maintainable for them.

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

JS:It is a mandatory component for all band members, with the exception of the volunteer color guard. The band is on a block schedule, and we meet in 4 different percussion and band classes. Thursday nights become a necessity to make our program happen!

IMO: Who is on your staff?

JS: We have an absolutely WONDERFUL staff. Of course, nothing happens for us without the band parent volunteers that take great care of the kids and directors! Our color guard staff consists of Brett Stickrod, who has marched in The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps and is currently the guard instructor at NIU. He is assisted by Elysia Bessenhofer, a HDJ alum. The drumline is led by Mr. Rick Palese and Mr. Kevin Donka. And my partner in crime is Mr. Anthony Gnutek, a former member of the Lake Park marching program and Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps. He is a 13-year teaching vet and has been AMAZING in helping me to come in and transition into the role that I have.

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

JS: Well, this is an adjustment for me. I had a great band ranging between 60 and 90 at Richmond-Burton. This band is also great size, so I guess I don’t have an ideal size.

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

JS: Oh, geez. First of all, Richmond-Burton was a great place for me to start my teaching career. I tell people all the time that I had so many great memories there, and my friends will tell you that I like to gush about them. So, I’ll try and keep the list short. There was our first rehearsal in the rain under the stadium lights, our first marching band competition at Marengo when we did NOT finish last, our first place finish at Marengo 4 years later, the RB band being accepted (though ultimately unable to perform) to the U of I Superstate festival in 2007, the joy of seeing my first group of freshmen graduate, and the list goes on. At Jacobs, I have been overjoyed to come in and find kids ready to create good music and start down our own path of memories! And Richmond-Burton is now in the hands of a GREAT director in Mr. Jeremy Figlewicz. That guy is GOOD!

IMO: You mentioned that your band is developing, with plans to compete next year? What’s that been like? What are the goals for the band? What are the steps you’ve taken?

JS: There are a TON of steps that we are taking. This year, we are starting a Winter Guard and going out on the Midwest Color Guard Circuit with them. This coming spring, we will be sitting down as a design staff and finding a good show to put on the field and be successful with. We will also be developing and cultivating the minds of our student leaders, and educating them in the methods we want them to use in our daily rehearsals. There is an increased energy about marching band at the middle school level, and we are pushing that by getting our kids out to talk to them about the activity. And finally, we are scheduling almost a full year or two in advance, to make sure that we can be as flexible with student and family schedules as possible. I don’t think our goal is ultimately going to be BOA/MFA Regionals or Grand Nationals, but we think that our program has a lot of potential to grow into a very, very good competitive marching band in a short period of time!

Illinois Marching Online would like to thank Mr. Stouffer for his time answering the questions, and hopefully will see them competitively for the first time next season.

(full article)