IHSA to survey Illinois schools about a statewide marching band championship

As we reported, the IHSA’s assistant executive director, Matt Troha, told Voxitatis in an email on July 30 that the association will ask its 794 member schools sometime during November if they have a marching band program and might be interested in participating in a state championship series sanctioned by the IHSA.

If more than 10 percent of the schools would participate, the IHSA executive board would presumably move forward with planning a state series in marching band. This would entail forming “advisory committees” as needed, Mr Troha said. These committees would eventually formulate the details about what a state series in marching band would look like and how it would work.

In advance of the IHSA’s survey—and with the encouragement of Dan Balash at Illinois Marching Online—we developed a survey of our own. A few more than a dozen people have responded, mostly students. We have about a 75 percent favorability rating for creating a state championship for marching band in Illinois, but the number of responses is still too low.

Among respondents, every single student has so far been in favor of a state championship. About half the directors said they would participate, though almost all of them expressed reservations about the IHSA running it. They point out that the IHSA, which is very good at setting up state champions in athletics, has completely botched the solo and ensemble contests in Illinois. The reasoning goes, therefore, that IHSA cannot be expected to do a better job with a state series in marching band.

Although that may be true, it is not easy to imagine any other organization in the state with the clout of IHSA. With very, very few exceptions, every high school in the state of Illinois is a member of the IHSA. The IHSA is not evil, and the association certainly doesn’t set out to do a bad job on any of its state series. We expect that music teachers would be heavily involved in the advisory committees, and the IHSA should take its cues from those committees.

There are problems and issues that will need to be cleared before a marching band state championship can be a reality, but now is not the time to discuss the problems we all can see down the road. The point of a true state championship is inclusion: if the rules or the formats would keep too many schools out of the process and it would be little more than a contest among the big-money schools anyway, there’s no point in going through all the work it will take to develop a state series.

Plenty of multi-band festivals, with their associated entry fees, paid by our schools, already exist in Illinois, and the entry fees would certainly be threatened if these contests were incorporated into a state-sanctioned tournament. No school could be barred from participation on the basis of their ability to pay an entry fee. Let bad marching, poor music execution, and a disrespectful attitude exclude schools from the championship series, but never money.

On the other hand, if the rules and formats promoted the inclusion of more schools than currently participate in marching band, which is a strong leadership activity and a strong character-building activity, in addition to exposing students to music they would otherwise never hear and excellent music programs they would otherwise not be aware of, it’s worth every ounce of our passion. And then, we eventually have to come to the conclusion that no organization has the legitimacy to include schools in Illinois like the IHSA.

If you haven’t already done so, please take our survey, here. You don’t have to give your name, but Voxitatis would definitely like to contact you by email if you provide that information at the end of the survey. But really, we just want to see your vote and your explanation for what an official marching band state championship could do for the students of Illinois.

About the Author

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