2011 Directors’ Feature: Morton High School
Filed under: — Dan Balash @ 10:35 am

Morton High School is next in our Directors’ Feature.  We originally featured Morton in a 2009 Directors’ Feature, which you can view here.   Today, we talk again with Jeff Neavor, director of bands at Morton.


Illinois Marching Online:What is your prior directing experience?

Jeff Neavor: I was the director at Hartsburg-Emden right after college from 1997-2001. This is my 11th season at Morton High School.



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

JN: Our show this year is called The Hunger Games. The music is based on Celestial Night by Richard Danielpour and Fix You by Coldplay. Craig Fitzpatrick has done a wonderful job with the arrangements again, and Bob Hornsby’s battery book is fantastic.


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

JN: Several months of meetings and the use of a secured website where the staff throws out ideas; concepts or music. It used to be a coffee table with post-it notes, but now it’s a digital table. Ideas that we’ve discussed before stay on the table and we all discuss online. We then have a series of meetings, with a big retreat during the All-State convention. Several of our shows have come out of a mixture of separate concepts that somehow melded together into one.


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

JN: It is impossible to tell an entire book in nine minutes. So we’ve tried to tell a story that everyone can appreciate, even those that know nothing of the books. True fans of the book will enjoy the show on another level. Our show begins with the signal for the start of the Games and you’ll see a mad dash as it’s a last man standing situation. A primal drum feel accompanies this in the show, and Craig utilizes the tense music from Celestial Night. Right away the main male character pushes the main female role out of the madness. While there can be only one Victor, in the book, the male character protects the girl later in the Games and is injured in the process. This happens in our show at the end of Part 1. She brings him back to health during the ballad, and this is where the story changes from every man for themselves to two people standing against the rest. The song Fix You is a recurring theme that is presented throughout the show, and represents the relationship between the two characters, Peeta and Katniss. How does it end? There can be only one Victor. You’ll have to see the show to find out.

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

JN: 46 Brass, 40 Woodwinds, 10 Battery, 11 Front Ensemble, 19 Guard, 3 Drum Majors. 129 total. The band is volunteer.


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

JN: Monday sectionals after school, Tuesday 6:30-9pm, and Thursdays 3:15-5pm. We go to Northern Illinois University for band camp.
IMO: What does your 2011 competition schedule look like?

JN: Sept. 17 – Home show, Sept. 24 – Chicagoland – Wheeling, Oct. 8 – Metamora Field Show, Oct. 22 – U of I, Oct. 29 – ISU, Nov. 10-12-Grand Nationals.

We were supposed to be at Limestone on Oct. 1, and off for Homecoming on Oct. 15, but they moved the date of our Homecoming after the season was set.


IMO: Who is on your staff?

JN: Craig Fitzpatrick – Assistant Director/Brass/Arranger, Katrina Fitzpatrick – Woodwinds, Bob Hornsby – Battery, Ben Dralle – Front Ensemble, and Ronni Stalter, Anna Clarke, and Katy Lampe – Guard.

We are also have very fortunate to have several alumni and local music ed students that donate their support during the season. Sarah Brown helps with the woodwinds. Andrew Howell, Matt Foster, Kate Zdanowski and other alumni have helped the brass. Jacob Garber, Nathan Hill, and other alumni have helped the percussion. Mark Donahue has helped with visual. I’m sure I’ve missed people that have stopped in. Each week alumni drop in to support the program.


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

JN: I don’t know if I have a preferred size. I like the size we are this year. I would love a guard of 32, but I don’t know how much larger we could be with the facilities we are provided.


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

JN: “First times” are great. I don’t mean first place finishes; those fade from memories. I mean the first time something happens. The first time I hear and see the kids really perform well each season is amazing. The first grand championship. The first finals at ISU. The first BOA Finals. Marching past the President. The first Semi-Finals at Grand Nationals. Those are special. But I think my absolute favorite memories are talking to the band in the tunnel at ISU, and seeing the emotion in their last performance each season. Scores and trophies come and go, but those memories last forever.


IMO: What are you most excited for this year?

JN: I’m excited to the see the final product at Indy. It’s always such a different product by the end of the season, and I’m excited to watch that transformation. That’s the magic that brings us back year after year.


IMO: Last time we talked, we talked about the plan instituted after the 2002 Bands of America St. Louis Regional. (You can view the original plan in the 2009 directors’ feature, linked above.) Now, you’ve made Grand National Semifinals, placing 3rd in class. What’s next? Where do you go from here?


JN: Our new goals aren’t about placements. We always strive to be better than the year before. That’s the only thing that is within your control in this activity. But we’ve worked to get our concert bands performing at the level of the marching band, and the kids are responding. That’s the key to our growth in the future. When we have a top level concert band, with well-designed shows, we should be breaking 80.00 at Grand Nationals with consistency. We should be making the top 32 at Nationals at that point. So that’s the next goal. The Symphonic Band played at SuperState in May, and will perform at the IMEA convention in January. So we’ve started the next phase of the journey.

Illinois Marching Online thanks Jeff Neavor for his time answering the questions, and wishes Morton the best of luck with the rest of the year!

We have provided a YouTube video of the show below:

(full article)