District 117 Comes Together for Combined Music Festivals

Behind the scenes at the annual District 117 choir, band and orchestra crossover concert between Antioch, Lakes and various middle schools.


Jacob Leitza

The District 117 orchestra festival was set up at Antioch Upper Grade School.

Antioch and Lakes may have a friendly rivalry, but the sister schools must find peace for at least one week every year. This seemingly normal week is when Antioch and Lakes come together to host the District 117 band, orchestra and choir festivals. Besides Antioch and Lakes, the festivals also include middle schools like Antioch Upper Grade School, Palombi, Grass Lake and Millburn.

These festivals, put on during the season that current 8th grade students are registering for high school, have a twofold purpose: to convince the 8th graders to continue music in high school and to show off all of the talent District 117 has to offer.

What makes this concert different than any other concert at the individual schools is that for the duration of the festival, all of the schools perform together, resulting in ensembles of over 100 young musicians. This results in a massive sound that’s almost impossible to achieve with any smaller ensemble. The songs performed fall between middle school and high school level pieces in order to accommodate all students that are performing, and there are typically one to two songs performed exclusively by the high school students in order to demonstrate to the middle school students what it’s like to continue the fine arts into high school, hopefully convincing them to do the same.

The lead-up and preparation for this festival are different than any other concert as well, due to the unity of both middle and high school students. Senior Ian Gugel, who’s involved in both choir and band, explains this difference.

“For festival, you’re not learning the songs to really develop as a singer or player and prepare for different events,” Gugel said. “Instead, you’re learning the song in a way that could help you know what parts you may need to help younger choir students in.”

Typically, preparation for a concert involves rehearsing in class during the school day throughout the months before and a dress rehearsal the night before the concert; however, due to the difficulty of scheduling with all of the schools involved, this is different as well. Students still rehearse in class much the same way, but the dress rehearsal is held during the school day the day before the concert, which allows for the students to have plenty of time to make sure all of the pieces are ready for the following night.

The District 117 band festival took place on Thursday, Feb. 7, at Antioch Community High School. Due to the adverse weather conditions on the original date for performance day, the orchestra festival had to be rescheduled to Sunday, Feb. 10, at Antioch Upper Grade School; the choir festival is planned to take place on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Lakes Community High School. These festivals are held annually, so anyone that missed out this year still has a chance to see this unique experience next year.