NEW CHICAGO -- I’ve seen a lot of great athletes through the years. Superstars, for sure. Same goes for tremendous teams.
A lot of games throughout a lot of years puts such a thing on the resume.
I’ve always believed, correctly, that important things get lost in the headline shuffle. Big schools over little schools. Athletes over cheerleaders, dance teams and pep bands. All of these students play a key role in all of our Friday and Saturday nights.
I was at Bill Logan Gymnasium on Saturday night watching the girls basketball game between Hanover Central and River Forest. The Greater South Shore Conference game was played on top of Joe Burleson Court. Take a bow “Coach B.”
And with each dribble and shot of the contest, I found my toes tapping. I felt barefooted at a bluegrass festival in Kentucky. That’s what the River Forest pep band brought to the eve.
The small-school kids played a lot of numbers very well. I liked “Crazy Train” by Ozzy. But I almost got up and started cutting a rug when they started playing “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago. Yeah, I’m a little old school.
The percussion was spot on. The horns were tearing the roof off. It was really, really good.
Can you even imagine a high school football or basketball game without a pep band? These kids, at every school in the Region, are a big part of the show.
“I just love performing,” River Forest senior Riley Obermeyer said. “I’m usually pretty shy. So having a chance to perform is really fun.”
The Ingots’ girls basketball team is young and in a rebuilding mode. A couple games ago not many were watching the game. But the RF Pep Band was so good that the game officials walked over and let them know how good they were.”
Those refs weren’t the only ones. Last week School Band and Orchestra Magazine named River Forest’s James Wasmundt one of the country’s Top 50 Directors Who Make a Difference. Wasmundt was the only band director from Indiana to get the nod.
And most at the game that night were nodding their heads from horn to horn.
“I think we were all in shock because we are such a small school,” said Obermeyer, who plays clarinet and was the drum major at the Ingots football games this fall. “But (Wasmundt) does a great job. He has so much experience. We’ve really come a long way in the four years since he got here.”
Wasmundt is a graduate of Crete-Monee and Olivet Nazarene. He’s been a band director for 17 years, first in Chicago Heights, then at Lake Station for 12 years and the last four in New Chicago.
“We call ourselves ‘The Pit,’” senior saxophonist Chris Mullen-Hardesty said. “We just have a blast every time we play. It is so much fun playing in front of a big crowd. The Lake Station game a couple years ago was insane. The place was packed. I thought we were really good that night.”
I was there, too. And you are correct, son. You guys were rockin' in the free world. My toes were tap’n then, too.
Wasmundt credits superintendent Steve Disney for bringing in Bridget Flory first, who worked with Wasmundt for a dozen seasons at Edison, and then Wasmundt moved a mile south to join Ingot Nation. The two have seen a 20-percent growth, as two middle school bands were created in the last four years.
“I didn’t believe it,” Wasmundt said of earning the Top 50 distinction. “Being from a small school, I just didn’t think such a thing could happen. I don’t know, I just do what I do every day. I don’t do anything special.”
Sir, I kindly disagree.
I saw your small-school band at Lake Station and now at River Forest. They have always been good, above the norm. You are making a big difference in these kid’s lives. Well done.
And you guys give the back beat to all of our Friday and Saturday nights. It wouldn’t be the same without y'all.