When I asked Greg Bimm, band director at Marian Catholic High School in south suburban Chicago Heights, for an interview, he wrote back to say he was swamped.
“I visited your online interview and think the questions are good, balanced and sincere. I do not have time to answer each sufficiently in writing,” he wrote.
That was because the president-elect of the Rose Parade was visiting the campus at the time. (As we reported a couple months ago, the band will march in Pasadena, Calif., this New Year’s.) And plus, Mr. Bimm was still writing drill, spending many hours arranging music, and covering logistics to move a couple hundred students, members of the Marian Band, around the country.
Turns out, his time spent working on his own band rather than talking to me paid off. The Marian Band was named champion in Class 3A today at the State of Illinois Invitational Marching Band Championships at Illinois State University in Normal. They also won every single caption award given out in Class 3A at the festival, including trophies for best music, best visual performance, best general effect, and best crowd appeal.
The Marian Catholic band holds the distinction of being the only band—ever, from anywhere—to be named Grand National Champion by the Bands of America organization seven times. No other band is even close. And I’ll be watching their show this year from the club level in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 12-14 (Section 440, Row 3, Seat 14 for the finals on Saturday night, if anyone wants to stop by).
Limestone High School from Bartonville, just west of Peoria, finished in second place in Class 3A, and Lemont High School from Chicago’s western suburbs finished third.
With their show entitled “The Speed of Sound,” Limestone Community was named grand champion at the Geneseo Maple Leaf Classic, where they proved their ability to combine all elements of a marching band performance: the music and the visuals.
Lemont has for years entertained audiences, and director Matt Doherty once told me that students in the band were very enthusiastic about the program. “Kids just get it in their heads that this is a fun organization to be a part of,” he told me following his band’s performance here in 2004. About 160 students march—which is not unusually high or anything, given the school’s enrollment of 1527—but you will notice a real enjoyment in most of their faces while they’re on the field, a real dedication to the show. That is something special about Lemont.
Drum majors this year are Jordan Fandrey and Kaitlyn Carver. Technically, they steer the show, but you find it hard to take your eyes off any of the marchers on the field because of that look they have, a special understanding that what they put on the field is something unique.