What happened to the marching band?

Anti-war sentiments led to end of program in the 70’s

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As football advanced into the first round of the state playoffs, students may have noticed that, unlike most schools in the area, New Trier does not have a marching band.

Throughout most of the early and mid 20th century, New Trier had a marching band that performed at football games and other whole school events. Despite this history, the school decided to shut the program down in the early ‘70s.

Pep Band Sponsor Matthew Temple said the school chose this course of action because “the community felt like the marching band was too pro-militia.”

Modern marching bands evolved from the traditional military bands of the 19th century.

Through military style uniforms and commands such as “forward march,” bands today preserve many features from this early military past.

During the Vietnam War, which was one of the most controversial American conflicts, anything military-associated was heavily scrutinized.

It is no surprise that the school thought the marching band was too militaristic.

One might expect the controversy of the Vietnam War to have resulted in a mass elimination of the American marching band. Yet, New Trier stands out among high schools and colleges for getting rid of its marching band.

“People complained a lot about the noise of a marching band rehearsing outside at 8 o’clock in the morning,” said Music Department Chair David Ladd, pointing to the close proximity of the Winnetka campus to local residences.

For a number of reasons, New Trier has been without a marching band since the ‘70s. The biggest administrative push to have a marching band again occurred when the school was advertising for his position, Temple said.

“The administration was really hopeful that they could start a marching band again, but the further they discussed it with the music department, they determined that it was not going to be a feasible idea.”

The administration identified the current structure of the music program as the most important reason for why starting a marching band was not the best idea.

Unlike most schools, New Trier’s jazz, concert band, and orchestra programs take place during the school day.

Once the day is over, most musical Trevians are involved in a sport or other extracurricular activity.

“If we started a marching band that rehearsed primarily after school, I don’t know if enough kids would be available to do it,” said Temple.

The schedule of sophomore jazz band member and cross country runner Lincoln Crowe reflected on this logistical reality.

“I think [a marching band] would be a good experience, but most New Trier students and faculty don’t have any more time to spend on a marching band without sacrificing something else in their day,” said Crowe.

The obvious solution to this issue would be making marching band a class, but this solution has its problems too. Over the years, the department’s current curricular programs have enjoyed much success, and it would be hard to cut back on any of them in order to create a curricular marching band.

“We have a huge, really vibrant jazz program and so that is sort of our marching band,” said Ladd.

Some community members feel that the department’s curricular emphasis on the jazz, concert band, nd orchestra programs reflects musical elitism.

Senior Allen Saakov said that he believes the music department feels “we’re above a marching band.”

In 2007, New Trier was named the National Grammy Signature School, an award given to the best high school music department in the nation. From Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House, New Trier musicians have performed at prestigious venues across the world. Critics have good reason to believe an elitist attitude may play a role in the music department’s decisions.

However, the department strongly refutes these criticisms. They point to the above reasons forwy they do not field a marching band and emphasize that they have an extracurricular Pep Band, which performs at home football games, pep rallies, and basketball games.

Temple said that most fans are more interested in the atmosphere than a marching band. “They don’t really care so much whether people are marching on the field. They just want music that is adding to the festive atmosphere.”

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