Tag Archives: Aaron Puckett

Marching Knights represent family, unity

KANELAND—John Briggs, clarinet section leader of the Kaneland High School Marching Knights, gave a pep talk to his bandmates on a recent chilly evening during band rehearsal on the track of Kaneland’s Peterson Field.

The speech followed several warm-up exercises on the football field, involving the shouting of numbers, as well as count-down exercises like calf raises and quad stretches.

“I’ve seen so many people step up their game,” Briggs said to his bandmates. “I would hate to see such great talent go to waste. Let’s leave a good mark at Sandwich.”

After more encouraging words from another fellow bandmate, the band cheered and the group hit the football field, proceeding to play a scale and then a slow chorale.

The Marching Knights’ hard work paid off, as they competed at the Sandwich Music Festival at Sandwich High School and finished in second place in their Class AAA and fourth place overall out of 14 total bands.

The band also received a Best Music award and Best Drum Majors in their class.

Kaneland High School band director Aaron Puckett can pinpoint what makes this year’s Marching Knights band great.

“This band has really captured some of the things that we try to communicate to our students about pride and passion and who and what they are,” Puckett said. “Our student leaders have done a really excellent job communicating that mission and that goal. And it really has shown through in many ways in their performances.”

The band, consisting of 94 students ranging from freshmen to seniors, started marching practice last summer and rehearsed over two weeks of daily rehearsals.

By the end of August the group gets together to practice twice a school week. During school time, before mid-September, they practice tunes for marching. School fields and parking lots are where the band perfects its moves.

The Marching Knights make their way to four parades each year and up to five marching competitions in Illinois.

KHS senior Alex Speckman plays mellophone and is a section leader for trumpets and mellophones. He said that being in the marching band feels good to see how the band comes together for a seven-and-a-half-minute show.

“All of the hard work, and it’s difficult work, definitely,” Speckman said. “You get frustrated it’s not coming together. But when you finally get to see it—you finally realize and get the crowds’ reaction—it feels good.”

Spencer said he likes that the band has unity.

“There’s a whole group of us that can come together no matter how old you are, and you just can just know that you’re a part of this group,” he said. “And that is something cool to be a part of. And we all know that.”

During a recent band rehearsal, Puckett and Rebecca Andersen, assistant director for marching band at KHS and director at Kaneland Harter Middle School, stood above the bleachers, speaking directions in a microphone that boomed in speakers.

The band played “The Firebird Suite,” a classical piece by Igor Stravinsky, adapted for marching band. The brightly lit football field was the band’s grassy stage. The spooky intro started and the band leaned to one side.

“Here we go. Set,” Puckett yelled.

The band faced back. Some faced front. They leaned to a side, then they moved in unison.

“Stop here,” Puckett said, letting the group know to watch.

“Roll your feet,” Andersen added. “Reset to that hold.

And so practice continued. Color guard tossed flags. Many students, dressed in sweaters and jeans, played memorized notes and worked as a team, speaking proudly as a unit.

When Puckett said, “Hey band,” they replied, “Hey what?” When he said, “Knights,” they all said, “With pride.”

KHS junior Rachel Urich, a flute player, said she has learned lessons like leadership and patience from being in the Marching Knights.

“I feel confident that I can actually do this,” Urich said. “And I have something that I love.”

KHS junior Kristin Lipinis plays clarinet in the Marching Knights, called the group a “big band family.”

“I feel very proud to be in a marching band,” she said.

Kaneland to perform ‘Les Miserables’

Photo: Cast members rehearse the “Innkeeper’s Song” from the Les Miserables School Edition. Directed by April Rames, performances will be Friday through Sunday, March 16, 17 and 18 in the Kaneland High School Auditorium. Photo Courtesy of April Rames

‘Les Miserables’
Performances are Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 17, at 7 p.m.
and Sunday, March 18, at 2 p.m.
Kaneland High School Auditorium
46W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park.
For tickets:
e-mail: KHSTIX@gmail.com
or visit www.kaneland.org/d302

by Lynn Meredith
KANELAND—Kaneland High School’s top-notch vocalists will get a chance to strut their stuff on March 16, 17 and 18 when the auditorium fills with the familiar sounds of the musical “Les Miserables.” A cast of 48 singers, orchestra of 15 musicians and tech crew of six will present the musical under the dramatic direction of April Rames, the vocal direction of Bryan Kunstman, the conducting of Aaron Puckett and the choreography of Paula Franz.

“We announced the show last May, and since then the students have been very excited,” Rames said. “We had a very strong turnout this year. It’s the first year we had to not cast some people. Usually we are looking for people.”

With 60 students vying for the singing roles, the competition was tough, but directors Kunstman and Rames knew they had a talented group of vocalists from which to choose. With a musical as challenging as “Les Mis” they needed to make sure they had the talent this all-sung musical would need. Even though the cast is evenly split between men’s and women’s roles, the show requires more male leads than usual and a strong male chorus.

“We don’t pre-cast, but we have to ask ourselves if we have enough men, if we have enough strong male singers,” Rames said. “We have six to seven large male roles, a strong male chorus of revolutionaries and a lot of featured solos who are not leads.”

Tucker DeBolt has been cast in the role of the redeemed petty thief Jean Valjean. The relentless Inspector Javert will be played by Eric Eichelberger. Maggie Wallace will take the stage as the tragic Fantine, while Anna Novotny acts as her daughter Cosette.

Inn keeper and thief Thenardier is played by Brian Edwards, with Kathryn Lanute as his unscrupulous wife Madame Thenardier and Jordyn Withey as their daughter Eponine. Jake Rosko and Alec Kovach have been cast as student revolutionaries Marius and Enjolras. Nearly 40 other students will also be on stage in various supporting roles and the chorus.

While this version is similar to the original productions in London and on Broadway, it is called the “School Edition.” The original production ran three hours, and the school edition runs two hours. The story is the same, but there may be fewer verses or featured solos. Nevertheless, the Kaneland vocalists are measuring up to the demands of the musical.

“The students are familiar with the show, so it’s come fairly easily to learn. There are some adaptations in vocal ranges, rhythms and emotional demands, but it’s not been that much of a stretch for the talented singers to glam onto,” Kunstman said. “We are blessed to have very talented students.”

Most of the students are in choir or have a love of singing. The musical is not quite an operetta, said Kunstman. It’s close to opera, but not in style. There is no spoken dialogue in the show. Instead, it features recitatives and arias with flourishes of runs and lines.

“It has musical theatre songs but borrows tools from opera,” Kunstman explained.

Like the original productions, Kaneland’s version will stick to a minimalist style in its sets and props. It won’t, however, have the signature revolving stage of the original set design because it would be cost prohibitive. Instead, Rames has had to be creative in making set changes while the action continues. With over 40 singers on stage at a time, she has had to plot out ahead of time the areas of the stage where everyone will be in a given scene.

“We are going to change the scene quietly on one part of the stage while someone is (acting) down stage, for example,” Rames said. “There are not a ton of props—guns and letters. We’ll use pantamine (of other props) to get the idea across.”

The set will have two small painted backdrops, platforms and suggestions of a garden or a city street by key set pieces. All Dressed Up, in Batavia, will provide many of the costumes, along with some from the theatre department’s own stock and some pulled together with the help of parent volunteers.

The cast is rehearsing five days a week putting music, action and choreographed movement together. The directors note that rehearsals have been running smoothly and that ticket sales are ahead of previous years. The appeal of a show that is familiar makes it enticing for students to become involved in and audiences to come to see, Kunstman said.

“It’s one of my favorite shows. The students are working very hard to make it a success,” he said.

Marching band comes home #1

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—The Kaneland High School marching band’s hard work this summer paid off on Sept. 26, when it took first place in its class, as well as best percussion, best color guard and best overall effect in a marching band competition held in Rockford.

The seventh annual Phantom Regiment Band Fest featured a total of 10 bands in the northern Illinois area. Not only did the Kaneland band win recognition in its class by size, but Kaneland came home with the second-highest score overall.

Band teacher Aaron Puckett said the group did an excellent job during the competition and had worked hard to put their show together. They have been practicing for the past four months.

“This is definitely noteworthy,” Puckett said. “It was a big boost to the esprit de corps.”

According to Puckett, most of the 81 members joined the band in fifth grade, the first time it is offered to students as a class. He said that most of the students also take private lessons on their instruments, in addition to practicing with the band during the week.

The band plays during half times for football games, in parades for village festivals and in several marching band competitions during the year.

This is the first time the band has won a first place award, he said.

“It’s really fantastic,” High School senior and drum major Chelsea Robert said. “To win the first competition of the season is a big boost. The band’s really motivated this year.”

Robert, who played saxophone in the band for the past six years, said the marching band is like one big family.

“Everybody contributes to something really big,” she said.

She said that marching while playing an instrument is probably the hardest part.

“It’s very much a sport,” she said. “We train, compete, practice. There’s a million things you have to think about.”

Robert said the color guard adds a good visual element to the music. High School junior Brock Feece, also a drum major, said the band is playing well-written music this year.

Feece said the band members have stepped up their game this year.

“It’s exciting to see it pay off,” he said.

The band plays in two more competitions this year; one in Marengo the weekend of Oct. 10 and11, and the Illinois State University High School Marching Band Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Photo: Kaneland marching band members practice for their next competition in Marengo on Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo by Susan O’Neill