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Coolidge Junior High eighth-grader John Lucas holds his baritone. John was one of two baritone players in Illinois chosen to play in the All-Illinois Junior Band.
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The All-Illinois Junior Band’s first concert Jan. 16 at Krannert Hall at the University of Illinois.
GRANITE CITY — Coolidge Junior High School in Granite City has something, or rather someone, of which to be very proud.
Eighth-grader John Lucas, baritone player in the school’s band, was chosen to play in the All-Illinois Junior Band. He was one of two baritone players in Illinois chosen for the honor.
John, 13, has been a baritone player in his school band since the fourth grade at Mitchell Elementary. He continued to play in the fifth and sixth grades at Grigsby Intermediate School before he moved on to the Coolidge band in the seventh and eighth grades.
Charles “Chuck” Noud, band director at Coolidge Junior High since 2008, has nothing but good things to say about John Lucas.
“He’s a pretty talented kid,” Noud said. “He’s a good one, that’s for sure.”
The All-Illinois Junior Band is celebrating its first year in 2016, and Chuck Noud is enthusiastic about the implementation.
“This is the first year that this program has ever been in existence,” Noud said. “It was created by a group of directors in the northern part of the state who felt it was badly needed for a premier performing opportunity for junior high students in Illinois.”
Christy Lucas, John’s mother, said she is happy her son was selected for the band, especially in its first year.
“Since it’s the first one, I was excited, and I know John was as well,” she said. “Being a pioneer in something is probably the best feeling you can have.”
The last all-state junior high band was in existence about 70 years ago.
A blind audition was conducted to choose this year’s student for the band. Students were given material to practice, and those interested in participating were subsequently recorded. The recordings were sent to a committee in the Chicago area, where they were considered for the band.
Those on the committee have extensive musical backgrounds.
“Some of them were college professors from the University of Illinois, and some of them were high school directors in the Champaign area,” Noud said. “They were high school and college music educators.”
Many junior high school musicians in Illinois showed interest in the All-Illinois Junior Band, but only a select amount of students made the cut.
“Of the 198 recordings submitted from the entire state of Illinois, only 67 were chosen,” he said. “John was one of those 67, and only one of two baritone players in the entire state.”
Two other Coolidge students, Grace Sedabres, who plays baritone sax; and Alex Eversman, a trombone player, also were chosen as alternates. They would fill in if other students had been unable to play at the festival.
The festival, during which the All-Illinois Junior band performed, was held Jan. 15 and 16. That Friday, the students rehearsed with Dr. Linda Moorhouse, one of the associate band directors at the University of Illinois. After their rehearsal, the students attended a reception where they were able to meet with one another. The following day was when the band’s performance was held.
Rehearsals took place all day on Saturday at Krannert Auditorium, with the concert at three.
Noud recognized the significance of being given the opportunity, as a junior high student, to play with the All-Illinois Junior Band.
“Being able to play on the stage at the University of Illinois, in a building of that caliber, I would consider a huge perk, along with being able to spend some rehearsal time with one of the premier directors in the state of Illinois,” he said.
As for John Lucas, his talents are not limited to just playing the baritone. He also plays trombone for Coolidge’s jazz band.
“He just actually picked up trombone this year, and he’s probably playing it just as well as he plays baritone,” his mother said.
John is fortunate to have a few family members who share his musical gifts. His sister, Gabrianna, has played the trumpet since the fourth grade and is performing with the Granite City Warriors High School Band. His mother also plays the trumpet. All three play together in the Troy Community Band.
In addition to music, John enjoys playing video games and tae kwon do.
“Both of his parents are very proud of him, that he’s taken the effort and he’s as skilled as he is,” Noud said.