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The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


South Wind Ensemble performs at SuperState

Liam Wells
The DGS Wind Ensemble performs at SuperState, an extremely high honor for a high school musical group.

“Please welcome the Downers Grove South High School Wind Ensemble,” the Illinois Wind Symphony Associate Director exclaims. Applause fills the concert hall. All eyes are now focused on Director Aaron Kennedy, awaiting a countoff.

Kennedy lifts his baton in the air, cueing the ensemble to prepare their instruments and ready themselves for the first piece of the night, “Kaleidoscope Eyes.”

The lights dim, and the judges look down from a balcony above with patience, waiting to start assessing the band’s musical talent.

With four grand swipes through the air, Kennedy signals the ensemble to begin “Kaleidoscope Eyes.” The woodwinds take a deep breath and deliver the first notes of the piece.

They had made it to SuperState.

It all started two years ago when Kennedy was hired as the DGS band director. Kennedy had one major goal for the concert band when the 2022 school year started. This goal was to get the band to a high enough level musically that they could compete in the Illinois SuperState Concert Band Festival.

When the band did not make it into the festival in 2022, Kennedy focused even more of his efforts on finding music and resources that would help his band the next year.

The following year on one chilly December afternoon, the DGS Wind Ensemble, cold and groggy as ever, gathered in the Performing Arts Center. The ensemble hoped to submit a recording of their music as part of the entry process. Despite the horrid weather and mild sicknesses that were going around, the group still managed to pull off at least one good run-through of their music.

If all went well then the band would enter the competition and play at Krannert Center in May of 2024.

Fast forward to March 22, 2024. It was spring break when a Google Classroom notification went out.

“CONGRATULATIONS! The DGS Wind Ensemble made it into the University of Illinois SuperState!” it read. Members of the ensemble who read the notification were stoked with excitement similar to their band director.

Senior baritone saxophone player Declan Edman shared his level of excitement towards making it into SuperState.

“When I found out we made it to SuperState I was really excited. We worked for months on our audition pieces and our hard work paid off. I was really looking forward to ending the year on such a high note,” Edman said.

At this point, the Ensemble had already started practicing a new set of music that they would be destined to perform in May.

Their line-up included “La Procession” and “Kaleidoscope Eyes.” “Kaleidoscope Eyes” is a piece with a focus on almost alien-like sounds that shift throughout the piece, written by the widely favored composer Katalin Copley. The dramatic and ceremonious “La Procession” is a classic Spanish concert song that at one point was in the repertoire of the famed UIC Symphony.

After two more months of consistent practice and three clinics with esteemed college directors, The DGS musicians had finally perfected their two college-level pieces. It was time for them to perform.

The bus ride to UIUC was relatively long, traveling over 100 miles from Downers Grove to reach Urbana. By the time they got to the loading dock, the musicians were feeling the pressure of going on to the stage.

Sophomore second chair clarinetist Sam Brezinski described the stress she felt getting on stage.

“I was really nervous because I wanted the entire band to sound good but also make sure I played my best for myself because we all worked super hard on our music. The stage was a little bit scary because the concert hall was so big and the sound was a lot different from the auditorium at DGS. However, we adjusted very quickly to the new sound and we sounded great and even got a standing ovation which was super cool,” Brezinski said.

Performing at the Krannert Hall and in a state-level competition was a new experience for everyone in the Wind Ensemble. The DGS musicians did not make the honor band, which is the equivalent of a first-place award. Nonetheless, it will be one of the most memorable highlights that members of the DGS Ensemble will have.

Junior first chair alto saxophonist Hailey Aldrich expands on the Ensemble’s collective experience.

“Overall I think we had an amazing performance. We put so much into preparing those pieces and the hard work paid off. That performance was one of those moments where I was very proud to be representing the Downers Grove South Wind Ensemble,” Aldrich said.

Aldrich described the final moment of their performance.

“It was amazing, the last chord ringing through Krannert Hall, the whole hall was so quiet that we could hear the chord until the very last notes faded away. It’s a moment I think that all musicians yearn to hear at their concerts, that magical last note. I think a lot of us realized this as we sat in collective awe listening to the sounds that all of us, including our director Mr. Kennedy, had created,” Aldrich said.

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