Buffalo Grove HS takes lead role in D-214’s Honors Music Festival
The brass section of the District Honors Band performs March 6 during the 50th annual District 214 Honors Music Festival at Forest View. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 14, 2013 9:18AM
Within one milestone anniversary for Township High School District 214 was a smaller, but significant anniversary for one Buffalo Grove High School teacher.
District 214 put on its 50th annual Honors Music Festival on March 6, pulling together the most skilled singers and musicians from its six schools’ choirs, orchestras and bands.
The series originated a half century ago as just a district-wide choir show. The orchestras came in later and at the request of BGHS music teacher Ed Jacobi 25 years ago, the concert band performances turned the event into a three-piece festival.
“It felt validating, that my idea was one that stuck, and it stuck for good, sound, musical reasons,” Jacobi said of directing the district’s top musicians during the mini-anniversary. “I felt proud.”
Ever since, the district’s top singers and musicians have joined together, run through only a handful of rehearsals, then put on a show for family, friends and local music lovers. This year’s event drew about 2,000 to the Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights.
“We had to pull up extra chairs because of the overflow,” Jacobi said.
The event also included a special reception for alumni of past honors groups. Jeremy Morton, the district’s fine and performing arts coordinator, said the groups played works from German composer Carl Orff.
Gary Parker, Morton’s predecessor, said the idea of an all-star show began in 1963, when former Prospect choral director Sterling Mische mixed the top singers from his high school with the now-closed Arlington High School. In 1972, district-wide orchestra instructor Bruce Fowler added the orchestra, and in 1988, Jacobi got the notion to add a concert band.
The group had nearly 100 musicians — about 15 from each school — playing horns, flutes and other instruments. Parker recalled that his counterparts at other District 214 schools liked the idea, but resisted giving it a try due to scheduling concerns.
Jacobi assured them that the honors band would remain a side project with only two rehearsals and one show. There would be no tours or summer trips.
The other schools eventually agreed to contribute, and Jacobi’s honors band was born.
“I honored what I promised those original music directors,” Jacobi said last week. “We don’t ever want this group to compete with the groups in our schools.
“After a few years, all the band directors said, ‘We were wrong, this is a great thing for the kids,’” Jacobi added. “Now, it’s automatic, and everybody expects it.”
One of the hundreds of products of the Honors Music Festival was Keith Levin, a BGHS clarinet player in one of Jacobi’s groups. Today, Levin is the director of bands at Crystal Lake High School.
In between performances at last week’s anniversary show, Levin was one of several alumni invited to speak to the audience about the effect the experience had on him.
Jacobi said that he was pleased with how his 25-year-old idea is turning out.
“I just pushed through, and eventually, everybody came around,” he said.