The Illinois State University Wind Symphony recently returned from their first-ever tour of Illinois high schools.

The tour took place from February 4–6. In that short time frame, the band of 55 Illinois State students visited five different high schools in Joliet, Libertyville, Downers Grove, Palatine and Tinley Park. The wind symphony performed for music students and speak with them about the benefits of being a Redbird and studying music at Illinois State University.

Additionally, 14 music faculty came on tour and held teaching sessions with the high school students. The faculty member would take the students who played their instrument of expertise and give them practical tips on how to become better musicians.

“It was wonderful to interact with the high school students in an educational setting,” said associate professor Andy Rummel.

Illinois State University Director of Bands Anthony Marinello described the trip as an outreach tour and stressed that it is important for regional band directors to know the ins and outs of a collegiate music program.

“A lot of band directors decide whether or not they are going to recommend your school to a prospective music student based on their respect for the band, their respect for the program and what is happening there,” Marinello said. “This is a way for us to show what makes us different from other schools their students may be applying to.”

The tour also gave Illinois State music an opportunity to show off its brand, which is the individualized attention every student receives.

“Many universities that you might attend have faculty members that are often out of town for other commitments, but the faculty at Illinois State love what they do and are very available,” said Bryce Bowlin, a second-year graduate student who plays euphonium in the Wind Symphony.

The trip wasn’t just about creating new contacts. It was also about deepening ties that exist already. Three of the schools have Illinois State alumni as instructors, including Gregory Hensel ’12, who is the band director at Downers Grove South High School.

“My students absolutely loved the performance,” Hensel said. “The variety of literature and ability to hear from every member of the applied faculty was musically motivating and inspiring.”

The successful tour is an initiative that Marinello wants to continue to expand upon in the future.

“Our goal is to do this kind of thing every year,” he said. “Next year we want to go into St. Louis and southern Illinois where there are some really good band programs. We are already in contact with different band directors about that. The year after we might go into Indiana. There are some good band programs there that we have very little contact with.”

For music students who have decided to become Redbirds, Hansel says it is important to take advantage of the many opportunities available.

“Music is important. Practicing and being good at what you do is important,” he said. “At the end of the day, I always stress to my own students that they need to get involved and meet as many people as they can.”