Though most members of the Proviso High School band are unlikely to have the sounds of the Beach Boys blaring through their headphones during the bus ride to Memphis for the upcoming Liberty Bowl, the generation gap does not dampen the students’ excitement as they prepare to perform with the 1960s pop band during the half time show.

“My parents listen to oldies,” said Proviso sophomore and Forest Park resident Amy Maginnis, whose twin brother Matt also plays with the band. Maginnis, who began her musical career in 4th grade, said she most looks forward to comparing the Proviso band to the 19 others that will join them on the field.

“When children get into music they become connoisseurs of all types of music … the Beach Boys is different for them, it’s a departure from what we normally do, but we’re glad to do it,” said Proviso East band director Reginald Wright, a South Carolina native in his 13th year at Proviso.

To many students, the band represents much more than an outlet for musical growth. It’s where they make most of their friends, learn life lessons in discipline and camaraderie, and most importantly, gain the means to pursue their ambitions for the future.

“Percentage wise, 80 percent (of band students) get scholarships. Some of them major in music, but the majority use that money to earn degrees in something else,” said Wright. In just the past week, representatives from South Carolina State University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Tennessee and Hampton University in Virginia have visited the school.

The Liberty Bowl trip will most likely even further enhance awareness of the band among recruiters, as there will be ample opportunity for the young musicians to showcase their talents. Upon arriving in Memphis Dec. 29, the Proviso jazz band will participate in a competition with other bands from around the country. After a practice day Dec. 30, the full marching band will perform at a parade in downtown Memphis before the bowl game then back up the Beach Boys during the half time show.

This year’s Liberty Bowl, sponsored by Auto Zone, will feature a match up of Tulsa vs. Fresno State.

Putting rivalries aside

Though the Proviso East and West bands have in the past been driven to outdo each other, the 300 band members in the district now face the challenge of putting competition aside and working as a team. They’ve performed together at occasional events in the past, but this will be their first out of town trip as one united Proviso band.

“It’s a lot of work preparing,” said Proviso West Senior Ashley Olds. “There’s always been a rivalry.” The band members will all wear neutral black and white uniforms, purchased specifically for the trip, instead of their usual Proviso East blues and Proviso West reds.

Though the uniforms were purchased by the cash-strapped district, Proviso could not afford to pay the travel expenses of the several low-income band members. According to Wright, the band members found time between practices to raise funds, selling items including candy and Krispy Kreme donuts. Several donors from the business community also stepped up to the plate, while The Proviso Township board of trustees agreed to chip in $10,000 to help with the expenses at its last meeting.

According to Proviso East sophomore and Forest Park resident Dominique Brady, the two rival bands are now focused on a common goal. “We’re just looking to have fun and to show everybody that we are the number one band, and that we come from a good school,” she said.

Brady, who transferred to Proviso from Trinity High School after her freshman year, credits Wright with bringing her musical talents, along with the rest of the band, to the next level. “He’ll help us when we need held. He pushes us to do what we’re capable of doing,” she said.

A tight-knit group

According to Wright, graduation rarely marks the end of his interaction with his students. “I have a long relationship with the students, almost lifelong. They all call or come back to school to see how the band is doing … it’s like a large family,” he said.

Proviso West director Samuel Atcher agreed, describing his role in students’ lives as similar to that of “a third parent.”

The band’s music is a combination of contemporary radio hits, classic tunes from the 70s and 80s and marching band compositions. The band will back up the Beach Boys for songs including “Surfin USA” and “True to Your School.”

According to Atcher, the kids most enjoy playing the hit songs they are most familiar with, but said that newer songs often don’t have the same staying power in the bands repertoire. “A lot of times, you play it once and it’s done … most of the 70s and 80s music had more bands, so it’s easier to play with instruments,” he said. “In the end, the kids understand what a good arrangement is.”

Though the Liberty Bowl trip will likely mark a high point in the band members’ high school experiences, it won’t be the first or last adventure they’ve shared. The band has in the past played at Disney World and the International Music Festival in Toronto, Canada, as well as various appearances at college events throughout the country including South Carolina State University’s homecoming party earlier this year.

“I just believe it’s a wonderful experience for our children to be a part of. As they grow on in life, it’ll be something that’s memorable, that they can think about and talk with families about,” said Wright.

The band experience has inspired many students to further pursue their passion for music, whether as a career or a hobby. Matt Maginnis, for example, recently began a rock music club at Proviso East.

“Since I got on the band I know I’m never going to stop loving music,” said Brady.

Those wishing to donate to the fund for the band’s upcoming Liberty Bowl trip should send checks to Proviso Township High Schools District 209, 8601 W. Roosevelt Road, Forest Park, IL. 60130. Put PTHS Band Liberty Bowl Trip on the memo line.