For the first time in over a year, Trevor Wright, a member of the Janesville Craig High School marching band, felt the weight of a large brass tuba.
The high school student said his back and shoulders hurt from the weight of the large tub horn. Pain aside, after an hour of training on a Thursday afternoon in the music room at Craig High School, Wright found himself in the back of his pocket.
Dressed in Hawaiian-style shorts and a red shirt, Wright nailed the low-end bassline to Neil Diamond’s classic song “Sweet Caroline.” He jammed alongside about fifteen members of Craig’s Marching Band and about fifteen of his counterparts across town from the Parker High School Marching Band.
After more than a year where his school’s marching band has been essentially sidelined – excluded from performances and fractured in the ranks by limited and socially distant practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, high school marching bands Craig and Janesville Parker are back in action.
This Friday night, the Parker High School and Craig High Schools marching bands – around 45 members in total – are expected to make a splash at their first major public performance since the start of the pandemic.
On Friday evening, during the Tour of America’s Dairyland Town Square Gran Prix cycle races in downtown Janesville, the two groups will perform together, brass and drums spread out in formation on the riverside walkway in Town Square, right in the center of town.
Organizers say this is the first time in memory that the two Crosstown high school groups will perform together, in unison. The joint performance is in part aimed at burying a long-standing rivalry between the city’s two high schools.
Half Kumbaya moment, half entertainment, organizers say the groups’ joint performance is intended as a musical celebration of one of the city’s first major public events since the February 2020 pandemic.
Craig High School principal Alison Bjoin said local Grand Prix organizers are working to promote the show as an event in the event. The hope is that families and students of all ages would be drawn to the downtown area to see the high school orchestras play and then watch the races.
It would put a local student performance in the center of town and the center of a national circuit bike race that since 2018 has found a new home and cultivated an annual audience of thousands.
“Not only is this a great opportunity for these student groups to finally come out and perform, but it’s also a chance to do something social. Things like student field trips haven’t really happened in the past year and a half, ”Bjoin said. “The organizers make the performance of groups much more than just play and go. There is also a kind of social part for the kids. That’s what’s really special, ”Bjoin said.
Parker High School group principal John Biester and Craig High School group principal Andrew Redler said students at both high schools were aware of a long-standing rivalry between the two schools.
Biester said the rivalry appears to have been rooted around the time Parker High School was established in the western part of town. This was several years after the construction of Craig High School.
At the time, the west side of the city was still considered by some locals to be rural and provincial.
Biester said as the West Side has built and grown over the years, the rivalry has appeared to lose some of its original steam.
Biester said he hopes the joint performance will mark the start of more regular collaborations by bands from both schools.
As the two groups trained together to prepare for performance in the big bike races, Biester told the students.
“You two groups are playing together for the first time since the beginning of the human race. Realize it, ”Biester said. “But what’s more important is that you realize this: you look really good together right now. Its good. You’re going to get there. “