2011 Directors’ Feature: Peotone High School
Filed under: — Dan Balash @ 9:50 am

This is the first of three directors’ features this week: Peotone, Morton, and Effingham.  Peotone is a town 40 miles south of Chicago, with a population of  about 3,200.  Peotone High School (the Blue Devils) has an enrollment of about 670.  Today, we talk with Adam Rusek, director of bands at Peotone High School.

Illinois Marching Online: What is your prior directing experience?

Adam Rusek: I started my professional teaching in Yorkville working with the elementary schools there as well as the Marching Band and percussion class at Yorkville High School. Currently, I am in my fourth year at Peotone High School. Additionally, I have worked with various local groups’ percussion sections previously and currently.


IMO: What is your 2011 show, and what are the musical selections?

AR: The Peotone High School show this year is entitled “Luck” and features an opening quote from Four Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold, and then includes Dargason by Gustav Holst, Loch Lomond by Frank Ticheli, Irish Tune from County Derry by Percy Grainger, and Kirkpatrick Fanfare by Andrew Boysen Jr.


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

AR: Since I arrived in Peotone, I have been working to improve the musicality of the band, both in marching and concert venues. Because the marching band rehearses as the fall component of the concert band, I do not want to forgo quality educational material and so this year’s show is a compilation of classic concert band pieces. I am fortunate in that our choir director is a former wind player as well, so she is wonderful in terms of being a sounding board for my ideas. For this show, and nearly all other things music and life related, I relied on the late Steve Nedzel to be a guiding hand and open ear.

This show has been a labor of love as not only did I write the drill, this has been my first attempt at arranging the music for a full competition show. Each year that I write the drill, I hope to incorporate new and exciting ideas for the students so that they can continue to be pushed in a forward manner.


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

AR: There are a large number of solos and small ensemble moments throughout the show, but the main point to listen for are the underlying melodies hidden within the main tune. Parents and audiences that are unfamiliar with these pieces will hear Greensleeves throughout the first movement, and then Danny Boy for the rest of the show. The pieces that I chose for the show were done so in mind that the students will be able to perform these difference themes and attack them in different manners based on where we are in the show.


IMO: What is the instrumentation/guard breakdown for 2011? Is marching band volunteer or mandatory?

AR: This year we are marching 10 flutes, 7 clarinets, 3 alto saxophones, 6 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 euphoniums, 1 sousaphone, 7 in the pit, and 7 flags. The band is mandatory as we rehearse during the school day.


IMO: What is your rehearsal schedule like for the season? Is band camp on campus, or do you go away?

AR: We have traditionally rehearsed only once per day during the school day, however this year we are adding rehearsals to the schedule as our goal is to continue to build this program. In addition to rehearsing during the school day, we are going to have one rehearsal after school each week.

Throughout the summer, we rehearsed in winds or percussion/flag sectionals for music as well as meeting as a full band for marching rehearsals. Tuesdays were the wind sectional day, on Thursdays the percussion and flags met, with a full group meeting on Wednesdays where we solely worked on marching technique. The second to last week of July, the entire band met from 8-5:30 to finally start working on the drill and putting the music on the field. This entire process happened at Peotone High School.


IMO: What does your 2011 competition schedule look like?

AR: We traveled to the Dwight Harvest Days Competition and the St. Rita Contest.


IMO: Who is on your staff?

AR: We have been very fortunate this year to add a color guard instructor this year for band camp and for sectionals throughout the summer and fall. Sara Reis has been instrumental in helping our flags clean and polish technique that previously would go without a discerning eye. For our summer music sectionals, two alumni of Peotone High School came back to work with our brass.


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

AR: I think most people would love to have that giant band with perfect instrumentation; however few can actually achieve this. Because our band is small, we are able to have a family atmosphere where the students can lean on each other and myself for nearly anything. If we were a much larger band, I would be afraid that some of the familial nature of our band might disappear.


IMO: What are some of your favorite memories from the bands you have directed?

AR: I can’t say that I have one individual memory of any of my bands, but more so memories of the great students that I have been fortunate to work with. Bus rides to and from events and competitions always lead to great memories, such as the students having impromptu dance parties, or learning about some of their special and hidden talents. Myself, I have many personal quirks that my students are able to laugh at and have fun with, which often ends up giving me a few good memories to take home each night.


IMO: What are you most excited for this year?

AR: Gettingg out and performing. This is only our second year of competition and the students are anxious to get out and perform a much more difficult show in front of judges. Additionally, I am excited to see how our guard performs as they are being challenged in new ways by our instructor, Ms. Sara Reis, who has done a great job with the section and is ever raising the bar for their expectations.


IMO: This is your second year of competition. What has the journey from performing in exhibition to competing been like?

AR: I have been fortunate that, for the most part, our band and families have been eager to buy in to the competition circuit. When I arrived in Peotone, the band did not compete and did not perform much outside of the community. To show them what all is out “there” in the band world, I started to bring the Marching Blue Devils to the Lincoln-Way Show so that they can see what some of the quality programs in our area are doing. After two years of attending this show, and with much thanks to Eric and Clif for letting us perform in exhibition, I knew it was time to break out on our own. Last year we performed at Dwight for the first time in competition, and it was something special to hear our band announced as a place winner. We are not done, though. This year we are continuing to make tweaks to the uniform to sharpen our overall look, and we are venturing in to the world of on-field props and a pit. The students believe, and it is my goal that over time, we can make a name for the Peotone High School band program.


Illinois Marching Online thanks Adam Rusek for his time answering the questions, and wishes the Marching Blue Devils the best of luck in the future.
(full article)