Sunday, August 14, 2022

IHSA drops state marching band championship, it seems


Repeated attempts to contact the Illinois High School Association regarding a state series in marching band have not been answered, and given that marching band was not mentioned in the published minutes of the association’s Music Advisory Committee’s May 1 meeting, we must assume the IHSA will not sanction or sponsor a marching band championship for the state of Illinois.

We attempted to reach Matt Troha, who is the assistant executive director and the person who last July told Voxitatis that the association would conduct a survey to gauge the interest of the association’s member schools, about 800 of them, in participating in a state championship series for marching band. He has not answered our emails for the last two months.

We then attempted to contact Susie Knoblauch directly, who is also an assistant executive director at IHSA and the one in charge of music. Those emails were also unanswered, and with that, we are dropping our coverage of an IHSA-sanctioned marching band championship in Illinois.

As Voxitatis reported, IHSA had published a record of discussing a state series for marching band at the Music Advisory Committee’s May 2012 meeting. Following up on the publication of those minutes, Voxitatis contacted Mr Troha, who said such a series might be in the works if enough member schools showed an interest on a survey that was to be conducted in November.

Yet several directors throughout the state have told Voxitatis that they didn’t believe such a question was ever asked by the IHSA, and a perusal of the questions that IHSA members voted on in November shows that no question was asked about marching band.

I believe we covered the idea of a marching band state championship about as well as such an event could be covered. Good reasons for, good reasons against, and strong supportive arguments on both sides were reported, and it is now my strong opinion that what Illinois has in terms of multiple festivals throughout the marching band season is working just fine, despite a wide variance in how contests are adjudicated.

The goal of such festivals only has a little bit to do with judges’ scores, so scoring bias isn’t really that big a deal. And competition, while turning some musicians away, more often works to encourage students to reach higher levels of performance excellence, as long as that competition doesn’t force students to set unrealistic goals in terms of musical aesthetics or contest outcomes.

But in the end, these festivals are about exposing students to music and marching they might not hear or see without the festivals. This is one way they learn, build camaraderie and friendships that last a lifetime, and grow as musicians. Better to let music directors decide how to maximize student gains from this activity than to have the association dictate where and when the bands perform.

Furthermore, the wide variety of music selected by Illinois’s national-class marching bands and the leadership shown by student musicians in performing that repertoire is something more valuable than any score or state championship trophy can ever show.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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