District 153 band performs.
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District 153 musicians premiere two new works at band concert

It was a first! The District 153 bands gave world premiere performances of two pieces written by area composer Heather Hoefle during the bands’ concert May 3 at James Hart School. “Squirrel Monkeys” and “Middle Schooled” were the two new pieces written by Hoefle, a band director for the district’s 5th and 6th grade bands. 

The fifth grade band gave it’s first in-person performance during the District 153 bands concert May 3. (Provided photo)

“Both were audience favorites by students and parents alike,” said Matthew Johnson, Hart School band director. In addition to the new pieces, students performed works by Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Nathan Daughtrey and Carol Brittin Chambers, among others. This was the first concert the bands had given at the Homewood school in three years. The 2020 concert was canceled when schools shut down for COVID-19 and the 2021 concert was given at Irwin Park, a COVID-19 safe environment.  Johnson said the program featured the Churchill 5th Grade Band and James Hart 6th Grade Jazz and Symphonic Bands.

The District 153 Symphonic Band, directed by teacher Matthew Johnson, performed at the Illinois Grade School Music Association State Festival this spring earning a superior rating, the highest ranking possible. (Provided photo)
The District 153 Symphonic Band, directed by teacher Matthew Johnson, performed at the
Illinois Grade School Music Association State Festival this spring earning a superior rating,
the highest ranking possible. (Provided photo)

April was a busy month for the 7th and 8th grade Symphonic Band. Musicians were given a band clinic with Greg Bimm, director of bands at Marian Catholic High School, that focused on musical artistry and leadership. The event was sponsored by the South Suburban Junior High School Association Conference. 

Composer Carol Brittin Chambers held a virtual day-long clinic for the young musicians, who got tips on refining her work “Softly Speaks the Night” that was on their concert schedule. She critiqued their performance and answered several students’ questions about the song and composing. The Symphonic Band entered the Illinois Grade School Music Association State Festival after qualifying at the district contest in March. Johnson said the students “gave an inspired performance for a supportive audience and adjudication panel.” 

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For their outstanding efforts, the band won a superior rating, the highest possible rating, from the three-judge panel. It was the second time District 153 musicians came away with the top ranking. The first was in 2017. As part of the state festival, the symphonic band had a clinic with Professor Phillip Hash of Illinois State University. 

The Hart Jazz Band performs on Saturday, May 14, at the Music in the Parks Festival at Six Flags Great America. The Symphonic Band will conclude its year as usual on Memorial Day, but with a different format this year, Johnson said. Rather than the band marching in, the musicians are joining forces with the Flossmoor’s Parker Junior High Bands to put on a concert of patriotic music at the Homewood Veterans Memorial at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 30.

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