Cooper Middle School’s Symphonic Winds will make its triumphant return to the Illinois SuperState Concert Band Festival on Friday, May 5, after being chosen for the state-wide competition for the second consecutive year.
Last year’s appearance marked the first time a band in CCSD21 competed in the prestigious festival, which is traditionally held at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Out of the hundreds to apply, Cooper will be one of eight middle school bands to appear in the Krannert Center for Performing Arts.
“It really is a huge honor to be invited,” said Anthony Valenti, co-band director at Cooper.
The band submitted a trio of pieces recorded over several sessions in February: “Allied Honor March,” “Legend of the Drop Bear” and “The Last to Defend.” Cindy Severino, co-band director, said the entire process of recording was “a good learning experience,” as it taught the students the fundamentals of recording, how to prepare and proper etiquette and behavior during the session itself.
The recordings were then sent to judges across the country, who selected eight bands out of the hundreds received. It wasn’t until the Friday of spring break that Severino and Valenti learned of their admittance.
“We wish we had filmed [telling the kids],” Valenti said. “They all went nuts. We were half into the countdown and realized we should’ve had the camera going.”
Severino said she’s seen an emergence of leadership among the eighth graders, as well, as they experienced this festival last year; it will be a new experience for the seventh graders and the few sixth graders in the band.
“Everyone’s quite nervous, because they know the bands they’re competing against are top-notch,” she adds. “These leadership skills are essentially like ‘we can’t be messing around, we need to work hard.’”
Cooper had not attempted SuperState before last year, as there were “always a number of conflicts involved.” They decided last year to “go for it” and were chosen.
“Now that you start trying to go and trying to make it, now it’s ‘let’s see if we can do this again,’ so it’s become kind of a tradition,” Severino added.
One band from each division is chosen as that year’s honor band, which are then chosen to return the following year for a feature performance. While that honor is ultimately the goal, the fact the band was chosen to perform is an “absolute honor,” Valenti mentions.
The SuperState selection is one of many accolades the band has received this year. It also recently received its fourth consecutive perfect score for the Northern Illinois Music Conference (NIMCon) Band Festival.
“These kids are definitely working harder than they ever have, know what it takes to get there and will try to become the best band there,” Severino said.