July 1, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Marching Spartans to perform at U of I

After last marching band season band director Chuck Hess began searching for a new a show.

He wanted a show that would expand the student’s level of performance musically and visually. He wanted a show that was exciting for the students to perform and for the audience to watch.

He found it in“Decomposers.”

Hess was intrigued by the music and searched the internet to see if any schools had performed the show recently. A school in Florida had performed the show recently.

“Once I saw their performance I knew that this was the show for us this year,” he said.

The Marching Spartans will perform at the IIllinois Marching Band Championships at the University of Illinois on Saturday. They are scheduled to perform at 8:30 a.m.

Hess said he worked with color guard coach, Kyle Ayers, to develop a storyline to fine tune the other elements needed for the program. 

“All in all it has been a very successful show for the band,” he said.

In the show, Beethoven and Mozart are brought back to life and the audience is taken to the composer’s graveyard.

Hess said he has several favorite parts of the show.

“The first is the woodwind feature in the first movement of the show,” he said.   “It’s very difficult and exposed and the kids do a great job with it.”

Hess’ second favorite part is the “Great Gate” in the second movement. 

“I really love how the drill design came together with the students “waltzing” around each other,” he said.

Hess also likes when the band dances together in the third movement.

“It’s just plain fun,” he said.

Tonya Johnson’s son Tyson is the Spartans’ drum major.

Johnson said watching her son this season has been amazing.

“Watching how hard the band, color guard and Mr. Hess have worked this season makes us so proud to be a part of it all,” she said.

Heidi Hewkin said watching her daughter Maya has been a great experience.

“Being able to watch Maya march this season has been an amazing experience,” she said. .”I was in marching band during high school, too; and being able to watch her brings back some of the best memories for me.”

Both mothers agree that marching band has been a positive activity for their children.

“Marching band for Tyson this season has been an experience like no other for him,” Johnson said. “Since becoming drum major it has been wonderful watching him mature, become more self-confident, and hone his leadership skills. He takes so much pride in the band and talks a lot about and how he has noticed that the hard work they put into their show also transfers to hard work in the classroom.”

Hewkin said marching band has helped her daughter stay focused and disciplined.

“She is a freshman this year, so we’re talking a new school, new schedule and a new way of life, to be quite honest,” Hewkin said.

Hewkin said the kids devote many hours to band including a mandatory two week camp in August, 7 a.m. practices before school, football game performances and and competitions on the weekends.

“She’s really had to learn how to manage her time; to find time for all that band entails, as well as keeping on top of her studies for her other classes,” Hewkin said.

Hess said the students have grown to meet the demands of the show.

“The biggest challenge they now face is showing up every day and deciding to improve on what they accomplished the day before,” he said. “Excellence in performance is not a switch you turn on and off as you please.  This is a life skill that I hope they take with them into all areas of their lives when they leave SJO.”

Hess said he was initially concerned the may be pushing the students too far but that has not been the case.

“To the contrary they have embraced everything that we threw at them.  They’re already wondering what we’re going to do next year to top this show,” he said.

Hess said the band has heard nothing but positive comments about their show and that has brought out the best in the kids.


“ I think it’s been fun for the kids to be in a band where everyone loves your show,” he said.

Johnson and Hewkin said they love the performance.

“The show itself is incredible to watch, but ultimately seeing all of their hard work pay off and how proud they are of themselves is the most rewarding part of the whole thing,” Johnson said.

Hewkin agreed.

“This show is incredible,” she said. “Seeing these kids go out there and put their hearts and souls into this performance has been a wonderful experience and .they take so much pride in performing. I have loved every second of it; and each week, it gets better.”

If it is raining the band will perform inside the Irwin Indoor Football Facility, which is at the corner of 4th and Peabody.
Tickets can be purchased outside of the stadium in the ticket booths located along Kirby Avenue near the South Tunnel of Memorial Stadium.

Adults are $10, $5 if the contest is moved inside. Students are $5 and kids 5 and under are free.

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