Antioch in the swing
Lakes Area Community Band attracts young and old talent
ANTIOCH -- Like a lot of adults, 50-year-old Bill McGee of Antioch still had his trumpet from his school days, but it was gathering dust in his closet.
He was inspired to play again after hearing Dixieland music in New Orleans in 2001. Shortly afterward, the control engineer joined the Lakes Area Community Band, which practices Monday nights at Antioch Community High School.
"It's with me a lot now. I'll never put it down again," McGee said.
He's president of the band, which includes more than 40 musicians. The youngest are still in high school, while the oldest are grandparents in their 80s. Some had never put down their instruments, while others, like McGee, hadn't touched them for 20 or 30 years before they joined the band.
"When you stop playing, your interest goes toward making a career and making a living. Then you realize how important music is to your life," McGee said.
He still uses the trumpet he played in middle school.
"It's got a lot of sentimental value," he said.
The band of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments mostly plays show tunes, classics and marches. For example, they're currently playing the classical "Overture to Pique Dame" by Franz von Suppe, the march "Black Horse Troop" by John Philip Sousa and a medley of Hoagy Carmichael tunes.
The band receives donations from the Festival Arts of Antioch to pay a small stipend to band director Steve Porch of Antioch and to buy music or equipment.
Every year the band performs four concerts in the high school auditorium and three to four outdoor concerts over the summer. Their next concert will be presented May 12. All of their concerts are free, and the only cost to join the band is a $15 matching band T-shirt in the summer. There are no auditions. Everyone is welcome to join.
Holly Frederichs, a piano tuner from Lake Villa, joined the band in 1999 for a fun outlet and a chance for the mother-of-four to talk to adults.
"Monday night is my sanity. It's a chance to get away. A chance to talk to adults about other things besides Elmo and Dora," Frederichs said.
The discipline of having weekly rehearsals is also an excuse for her to keep playing her clarinet.
"The community band gave me a reason to keep it out of the closet," she said. "We all come here because we enjoy it. We wouldn't do this if we found it boring or if it was like a class. We all share the drive to play the music."
She directs a swing band, which meets on Monday nights after the community band rehearsal. It has played music from the '30s and '40s since 1999, and performs in outdoor festivals, dancehalls, weddings and nursing homes. Although it's not affiliated with the community band, many of the members are in both bands.
A couple of the community band members have gotten together to form a small Dixieland band, directed by McGee.
The Lakes Area Community Band includes members from the Antioch area, as well as McHenry County and Wisconsin.
Robin Schoonhoven, a real estate agent from Grayslake, joined the band seven years ago. She was 43 at the time and hadn't played her French horn for about 20 years.
"When you first get out of college, you concentrate on working. You get so busy with life," she said. "Music is a way to escape from the daily routine. It really is fun."