LHS Wind Ensemble wins SuperState title


Photo courtesy of Mr. Adam Gohr

On Saturday May 5, the LHS Wind Ensemble performed at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and took home the SuperState title.

On May 5, LHS’s Wind Ensemble participated in the Illinois SuperState Concert Band Festival and was named the 2018 Class 3A Honor Band, winning the SuperState competition.

This annual competition is held at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. High school bands from all over the state submit an application and recording of their band at the end of February. Mr. Adam Gohr, LHS music teacher and band director, believes that more than 150 bands submitted their recording as a tryout.

From there, six bands are chosen per class, which, according to Mr. Gohr, is dictated by school size, and notified at the end of March of their acceptance. This year, the other five bands in the 3A class were Batavia High School, O’Fallon Township High School, Vernon Hills High School, Victor J. Andrew High School and Wheeling High School.

“We’ve been lucky at Libertyville. I mean, we’re fortunate in a lot of ways, but [the Wind Ensemble has] been going since 1992. This is the 27th year we’ve [gone to] SuperState,” Mr. Gohr said. “…It’s the first [Honor Band title] we’ve won in the five years I’ve been here, but the 10th [title] overall. We’ve been close, but this was the first time we’ve managed to bring it home. And the kids worked really hard, really really hard.”

Although Libertyville has made it to SuperState for many years, the title has not been won since 2013. Junior Annalisa Waddick, who plays the trumpet and has been a member of the ensemble for three years, described the palpable difference between the sets she has been a part of.

“The best way I can describe the difference is that in past years, there have been parts that were flat-out bad, and we realized it. This year – while not everything was perfect by any means – there were also no parts that completely unraveled,” she said over email. “In terms of winning, it was different because the other years we played our hearts out as well but had to listen to another band be crowned winner, versus this year we played our hearts out and saw all our hard work really, really pay off.”

Wind Ensemble is the top of the four performing bands at LHS, containing 50 students across all grade levels. According to Mr. Gohr, placement in this band is “all ability based; it is the 50 best kids on wind and percussion instruments in the building.” Senior Ainslie Lounsbury, who plays the flute and piccolo, is one of these students and has been a member of the ensemble for two years.

“As we were performing on Saturday, I was completely overcome with emotion, especially during the Interlude from ‘Year of the Dragon.’ I actually had tears in my eyes throughout the performance. Being a senior, it was especially emotional, as I knew that it would be my last performance as a member of the Libertyville band program,” she said over email. “Although I was focused throughout, the performance really gave me the opportunity to reflect upon my last nine years of growth as a musician and a person. Having the chance to perform with my band family one last time was really special for me.”

At the end of the day, after all the high school bands had performed, U of I’s top band plays while the judges confer. Then, the band directors are called on stage and the winners are announced.

“It was a thrill. This is my 20th year teaching, and it was one of the biggest thrills I’ve had. I mean, I’m lucky. I get to stand at the front of the ensemble and take the bow and get my name on the program. There’s 50 kids out there doing unbelievably hard work and I just wave a stick around. So for me, it was such a thrill, not just for myself, but for all of those kids. It’s nice to see a more tangible reward for them,” Mr. Gohr said.

Lounsbury described the feeling from the point of a student, being in the stands rather than on stage: “As soon as we heard the ‘L,’ we all stood up and started screaming and hugging each other…Many of us were crying, including myself, we just couldn’t believe it! I’m so proud to have been part of the ensemble that could finally accomplish the goal we had been working towards since I walked in the door as a freshman.”

In 2019, all of the Honor Bands are invited to return, not to compete, but to perform for the audience. An audition is not required, which is why returning is considered such an honor. Ensembles are not able to win two years in a row, however, LHS’s Wind Ensemble does not plan to slack off.

“Our goal next year is the same goal as it’s always been: [to] be the best band we can be, including performing down at UIUC,” Waddick said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re competing or not. We want to work hard and put on a powerful performance every time we play, [at] every concert, whether it be as Honor Band or in the gym playing in the fall.”