Bands from three schools in north-suburban Gurnee, Illinois, will join forces tomorrow at 7 PM, putting their marching band performance excellence on display to help raise money for a fellow student who was recently diagnosed with two brain tumors.
For an annual fundraiser known as “Fill the Drum,” marching bands from Viking Middle School in District 56, Woodland Middle School in District 50, and Warren Township High School in District 121 invite students and community members to an evening showcase performance by all three bands. The event carries no admission charge, so the bands ask attendees to make a freewill cash donation to, literally, fill up drums with money.
According to Jennifer Tempest Bova, public information specialist for Woodland Community Consolidated School District 50, the three districts collaborate on many endeavors. They each contribute to this annual fundraiser, she said, “in an effort to support one another and bring the community together.”
The devastation brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, was the first opportunity to convert what had been a simple halftime performance by two middle school bands to the fundraiser it is today.
The three bands sent about $10,000 to hurricane relief efforts through the American Red Cross right after Katrina and have in the years since sent slightly lesser amounts to people who lost their homes during the 2008 Iowa floods, who suffer from leukemia, who died from Alzheimer’s, and even who go hungry, making a donation in two of the years to the Warren Food Pantry.
Wednesday night, the Gurnee community continues that spirit of charity and excellence in raising money for the family of Taina Salas, a former Viking student who’s now a freshman at Warren Township High School. Taina was diagnosed with two brain tumors and is currently at home resting in preparation for surgery.
Before Katrina, the showcase provided an opportunity for the two middle school bands to perform at a junior varsity football game at Warren Township. But with the special need to provide tickets for people who just wanted to see the band and had no real interest in the junior varsity game, the showcase quickly became a separate event at the high school, apart from the football program.
The Woodland Middle School band
Now in her 30th year as a band director, 17 of them at Woodland, Elise Matusek leads a band program of 174 students. That’s a bit large for a middle school in the US, but District 50 is the fifth-largest K-8 district in the state in terms of student population. “I love what I’m doing,” she said. “This is a fantastic program, and it feeds a fantastic program.”
About 3 to 5 percent of Woodland’s students live within the boundaries for Grayslake Central High School; the remainder will attend Warren Township, where Chris Jenkins leads the Marching Blue Devils. Their show this year, entitled “Arachnophobia,” will be presented in competition this Saturday at the Chicagoland Marching Band Festival in Wheeling, on September 26 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and on October 17 at Illinois State University, Normal.
Ms Matusek said she and her students were “honored to be part of this event that will help the Salas Family.” When Voxitatis talked with her this afternoon, she was finishing up putting colored covering on the marching tubas the band would use in their performance. “Our students are eagerly building their show,” she said.
If you want to help but can’t attend the event to throw cash into the bass and snare drums, donations can be mailed (and made payable) to the Warren Band Boosters Inc, 500 North O’Plaine Road, Gurnee, IL 60031. Attach a note saying it’s for “Fill the Drum.”