2011 Directors’ Feature: Eureka High School
Filed under: — Dan Balash @ 9:44 am

The next to last Directors’ Feature of the 2011 season is on Eureka High School.  Today, we talk with Todd Stalter, director of bands at Eureka.


Illinois Marching Online: What is your prior directing experience?

Todd Stalter: This is my 21st year at Eureka High School. Before that, I spent two years as a part-time instrumental instructor at Lincoln College in Lincoln, IL, while I was working on my master’s degree.


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

TS: Our 2011 show is called “Altered States,” and is a musical and visual exploration of different states of the conscious mind: “Delerium,” “Daydream,” “Ecstasy,” and “Mania.”


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

TS: Thinking up original show concepts is tough and very time consuming.  Since I am the one composing the music, I need to find something that gives off a certain creative “spark,” which could be a recently completed composition, a picture, or a quirky turn of phrase or word that suggests something evocative musically or visually. It took longer for me to come up with the concept and framework this year, because there are many different conscious mental states to choose from, yet only a few that seemed to be appropriate to set musically. In fact, when presenting the concept to the students, I used some pictures to visually represent the states of mind we would be exploring. However, the actual composition of the music, once I got started, was a faster process than in years past. It is never completely done, though.  I am always tinkering around with stuff.


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

TS: Well, the drill isn’t finished yet (editor’s note: this interview was done in August.), so visually there are still a lot of unknowns at this point. I think we are doing more with body movement, and exploring ways to integrate those types of things in the drill without watering down the drill’s demand or visual appeal. The Color Guard is varying their visual presentation by using sabers and chain flags. Musically, we are just trying to portray the ideas contained in the titles, and hopefully we will do a good job with that, and people will enjoy listening to it.


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

TS: Our marching band is mandatory in the sense that it is the only curriculum for the 1st nine weeks, so all students in band are in the marching band. We are a bit smaller this year than last, but our school size is smaller as well…this is the first year since I’ve been teaching at EHS that enrollment has been below 500 students. I think when everything shakes out we will be around 75 members strong.


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

TS: We have voluntary rehearsals during June and July, but Band Camp is mandatory, that runs during the 1st week of August, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We stay in Eureka for our camp, to keep costs down for our students, and also to give them the flexibility to work at night if they need to. During the school year we only rehearse during 4th hour band period, and then on the Saturday mornings of shows, usually including one additional Saturday rehearsal. I try to balance out Band with the other activities our students are involved in, so that they feel free to participate in sports and other clubs and get the most out of their high school experience. Of course, I could be exclusive and demand that they be in marching band and nothing else, but then our numbers would suffer greatly, and I would be excluding a lot of students.  Music education is for everyone, not just those kids who can make the time for it, or can pass an audition. Kids are stretched for time more than ever these days, and I think that monopolizing that time, considering our limited resource of students, is not an approach that would be good for our particular situation. What works for one school, or one community, doesn’t necessarily work for others.


IMO: What does your 2011 competition schedule look like?

TS: We were at Morton and Washington on September 17th, at Pontiac on September 24th, at Naperville Central on October 1st, the ISU Homecoming Parade on October 15th, the U of I on October 22nd, and at ISU on October 29th.


IMO: Who is on your staff?

TS: Denise Yonker, the band director at Eureka Middle School, is my assistant. Shane Rocke, a Eureka alum and teacher in Morton is our Drumline Instructor. Marissa McClure-Mitchell, another alum, helps out with the frontline percussion during Band Camp. Kari Marino, who teaches in St. Joseph, is our Color Guard instructor.


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

TS: I don’t really have a preferred size.  Naturally, I would like to see the band bigger than what we have this year, but we will teach anyone who is interested, regardless of ability. All they need is a desire to learn and work hard, and we’ll go from there. It’s not the size of the band that counts; it’s what they do on the field that matters.


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

TS: I have a lot of great memories, as I have been fortunate to teach some amazing kids whose dedication have helped create some great experiences for all of us who are involved in the Eureka band program. Some recent ones that stand out are last year, when we went to Downers Grove and placed 3rd overall, even though we were in the middle class of bands; it was great to see the kids give such a great performance that night, and to be recognized as being an outstanding group. Also last year, finishing “not last” at ISU Finals was a proud moment for me personally, and sharing it with that particular group of kids was very special. Mostly, my favorite things are watching kids improve in their musicianship and dedication to the group, and become leaders and inspire other kids in the program.


IMO: What are you most excited for this year?

TS: We have a lot of kids who joined band this year with no musical experience whatsoever. Our drumline is almost completely rebuilt as only four students are returning on the same instrument as last year, and the entire frontline percussion is playing something different than last year. It has been neat to see and hear their improvement, and to watch our staff teach them and get them excited about learning music, and I am looking forward to watching them grow as the year progresses.


Illinois Marching Online thanks Mr. Stalter for his time answering the questions, and wishes Eureka the best of luck at Illinois State University this upcoming weekend.


(full article)