Unit 5’s two high school marching bands will merge into one competitive group next year.
The Normal Marching Band will feature students from both Normal Community and Normal West high schools. The change was not financially driven, said Ryan Budzinski, one of three high school band directors in Unit 5 who will work together with the newly combined group.
The change will give students a better musical experience by focusing student, financial, and staff resources on one band, Budzinski said. There may be some cost savings because the band will only have to develop one show for competitions, he said.
“Resource utilization is an added benefit, but it’s entirely to help develop a better student experience,” Budzinski told GLT. “It really should enhance what we’re able to provide for band students in Unit 5.”
The Normal Marching Band will perform together at the annual Ironmen-Wildcats football game, Budzinski said. Smaller school-based bands will perform at halftime for home games at Normal West and Normal Community, he added.
A centralized practice location is still being worked out. Parents and students have been supportive of the idea, Budzinski said.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The questions that the students and parents have asked have been very thoughtful and insightful," he said.
The change will allow Budzinski and the two other band directors to “divide and conquer” with the band. During a given practice, for example, one of them can focus on music, another on marching, and the third on visual design, he said.
“It spreads out the workload and allows each of us to dig in a little deeper,” he said.
Unit 5 is not the first school district to merge its high school marching bands. The Lincoln-Way school district in northern Illinois merged its three bands into one in 2016.
There are no plans to limit student participation in Unit 5 bands, Budzinski said.
An informational meeting about the Normal Marching Band is planned for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the NCHS auditorium. Registration will be March 12.
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