North Shore Honor Band Celebrates 20 Years of Student Music

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Susanna Noble, Staff Writer

At the start of the first rehearsal, Dr. James Hile of Elmhurst College, the director of the junior and senior band, stood on the podium, all eyes watching expectantly.

“He had us reach our hands as high as we could; once we all had put our hands up, he told us to raise them an inch higher, and everyone’s hand moved,” said junior bass player Jack LaVanway.

Hile explained to the band that the one-inch difference is the same as the difference between a good performance and a great one.

The North Shore Honor Band (NSHB) includes students from 10 different schools in the Northern Suburban area: Niles North, Niles West, New Trier, Evanston Township, Deerfield, Highland Park, Stevenson, Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South, and Lake Forest.

Hile played a key role in the founding of the North Shore Honor Band 20 years ago and was brought back to see how this musical event has grown.

“Being conducted by Dr. Hile was a great experience. My favorite [piece] to play was Apollo Unleashed by Ticheli. It was the most challenging by far, but very fun to listen to and it felt great to be able to play it with such an advanced group,” said senior percussionist Robert Hammond.

This past November, band directors at each school were asked to nominate students to participate in this event. This year, 18 students from LFHS were accepted into NSHB, some for the 4th year in a row.

“I have participated all four of my years. I enjoy learning from different conductors and musicians and being around other people who enjoy music,” said senior horn player Katherine Jemian.

Many who participated for the first time this year said they are looking forward to next year.

“I would love to participate in NSHB again because I felt like it was a very rewarding experience to play with other musicians my age that have a similar interest and passion for music as me,” said trombone player Margaret Jemian.

The students receive their parts in four to five pieces about a month before the concert and are given the opportunity to learn their music to the best of their ability and listen to recordings so they can understand how their part fits in the music. Most of the music given to the students is unfamiliar to the participants and stretches beyond high school repertoire both musically and technically.

“The director treats you like a professional, and it’s your job to act like it by knowing the music,” said junior trombone Evan Jasica. “The fact that we have the opportunity to come together and play challenging music is a privilege, and a lot of fun.”

NSHB mimics that of a professional experience. The bands rehearse Friday night for three hours, again the entire next morning, and for a short amount of time Saturday afternoon before the concert.

“This is the part that amazes everyone in the band: what we accomplish in NSHB in such a small time frame is incredible. Even if members have already learned the music or are still in the process, the preparation we receive during rehearsals is rigorous but effective, and the end product is a treat for everyone,” said junior trumpet player Mark Smirnov.

Working with some of the best directors in the area is such a rewarding experience for all of the players as it broadens their musical perspectives and knowledge.

“I would love to do NSHB again because it was nothing that I have experienced before and [even after one rehearsal] I felt as if our group had been performing for years,” said freshman oboe player Emilia Miller.