Tuesday, July 7, 2020
US flag

Time to call it a band. And a school.

It’s ironic, in a way. Members of the Lincoln-Way North Marching Phoenix are hanging up their band shirts, while I head to Indianapolis for the 40th running of the Bands of America Grand National Championships. It’s not really a tournament championship per se, but it’s certainly one of the largest marching spectacles anyone in America ever developed.


Lincoln-Way North had a great run at Bands of America but will not be at this year’s Grand Nationals.

We’ve nearly loaded all data for SLICE Project 40: The Database of Champions, and bands from Illinois are well represented among the champions of Bands of America. There’s even a strong showing from Lincoln-Way North, despite having only been a school since 2008.


The theme from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major

The band this year was directed by Kirk Hickman and Justin Barnish. Their show, “Pastoral,” was a clear reference to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No 6, but the show also included the sixth symphony of Jean Sibelius and the Irish tune “Danny Boy,” both of which support the theme.

Sibelius completed his sixth symphony in 1923 and found it refreshing, at least compared to the elaborate and often complex interweaving of orchestral voices espoused by contemporary composers like Igor Stravinsky. Sibelius wrote about the symphony some 20 years later that it “always reminds me of the scent of the first snow.” In a remark published in 1955, he said, “Rage and passion … are utterly essential in it, but it is supported by undercurrents deep under the surface of the music.”

So as the Chicago area experiences its first sub-freezing temperatures of the fall and the Bands of America organization finishes its 40th year of providing positive, life-changing experiences through music for thousands of students across the country, we bid farewell to the marching band of Lincoln-Way North High School in the south suburbs.

At Illinois State University, the band won first place in Class 4A last month, as it had in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Illinois has no state championship for marching band per se, but ISU is about as close as any one-day event can be to a state championship, because the bands tend to self-select. LWN has won its enrollment class, though, several times and from the school’s beginning, at what is certainly one of the state’s largest and most watched marching events.

The band has brought back to Frankfort, Illinois, some 13 championship trophies from Bands of America. They were never named grand champion at a Bands of America contest—or at any contest we know about—but the trophy case is full nonetheless.


  • At Dayton, Ohio, September 27, 2014
    • Outstanding Visuals, Class 3A
  • At Kettering, Ohio, September 21, 2013
    • 3rd Place over all
    • 1st Place, Class 3A
    • Outstanding Music, Class 3A
    • Outstanding Visuals, Class 3A
    • Outstanding General Effect, Class 3A
  • At Akron, October 10, 2012
    • 3rd Place over all
    • 2nd Place, Class 3A


  • At Pontiac, Michigan, October 8, 2011
    • 3rd Place, Class 3A
  • At Louisville, September 25, 2010
    • 1st Place, Class 3A
    • Outstanding Visuals, Class 3A
    • Outstanding General Effect, Class 3A
  • At Ypsilanti, October 10, 2009
    • 2nd Place, Class 3A


Barring what I would call a fiscal miracle, the school is expected to close at the end of this school year, its eighth.

During an assembly to welcome back students in August, Lincoln-Way North Principal Mark Cohen continued a tradition that had begun: he set fire, for the last time, to a list of accomplishments at the school the previous year, the Daily Southtown reported.

In one sense, this post is an education writer’s way of burning the accomplishments of the past and moving on. It’s a catharsis, really.

“It was therapeutic … to put the past behind us,” Mr Cohen was quoted as saying. “You can’t continue to focus on the negative. This is a tough situation; there’s no getting around it … but our kids are tougher.”

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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