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Vickroy: Stagg band reunion a show for the ages

The 1993 Stagg Marching Chargers | Supplied photo

The 1993 Stagg Marching Chargers | Supplied photo

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Updated: October 7, 2013 11:00AM



Amos Alonzo Stagg is the only member of the College Football Hall of Fame enshrined as both a player and a coach.

During his 40 years at the University of Chicago, he coached baseball, football, basketball and track and field. He died in 1965, but his legacy lives on at Stagg High School in Palos Hills.

This year, Stagg officials are planning a special treat for students, parents and alumni in honor of the school’s 50th anniversary.

Festivities begin at 1 p.m. Friday with a community parade down Roberts Road. Members of Amos Alonzo Stagg’s family will be the grand marshals.

At 6:30 p.m., prior to the Homecoming football game against Oak Lawn High School, more than 80 graduates of the Marching Chargers Band will again take to the stands to play on behalf of their alma mater.

The alumni, some of whom were in the school’s first graduating class in 1968, have been invited to perform with the current band during the game. Frank Liston, Stagg’s first band director, who also wrote the school song, will conduct the group, with the help of several current and former drum majors.

“This is a milestone year for Stagg. It makes sense to do something very special,” said Bob Mecozzi, the school’s band director. “People separated by 45 years but with a common bond of music will play together.”

Stagg’s motto is “Take the stage, leave a legacy.” Mecozzi said this will be his opportunity to thank the previous generations of musicians for their hard work and for helping to make the Stagg band program what it is today.

Mecozzi said the school had to borrow instruments from its sister schools in Consolidated High School District 230, Sandburg and Andrew, as well as Conrady Junior High to accommodate all the musicians.

In addition to the school song and national anthem, the multigenerational band will play “Chelsea Dagger,” the Blackhawks’ theme song, and Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

At halftime, the current marching band, which has about 100 participants, will perform its contest show, “Star Crossed Love” — a tribute to Romeo and Juliet as well as “West Side Story.”

After the game, all are invited to a local bowling alley for more fun and catching up.

Christian Ponte, Class of 2005, played clarinet and saxophone when he was a Stagg student and will be among those returning to perform.

“Just to experience this, all these people coming back, playing together,” he said. “It’s just amazing.”

Ponte, who went on to graduate from the University of Illinois with a music education degree, assists the current marching band as a woodwind instructor and field technician. He has also taken on the unofficial role of Stagg band historian.

“The band program has its own history. I like to archive things because it helps kids realize they are part of something larger than just a band,” he said.

Ponte said that, in addition to musical skills, band students learn how to create, perform and work as a group.

“To be a part of an ensemble that must work together toward a common goal is a valuable experience in life,” he said.

Stagg graduate Kate Alstadt, a math teacher and member of Stagg’s color guard staff, was also instrumental in organizing the event.

“It’s important to show current members that this really is a family activity,” she said. “It’s something that stays with you forever.”

In addition to learning musical and performance skills, Alstadt said students who participate in band learn how to work on a long-term project.

“It won’t be perfect right away and you may not even win, but at the end of the season you know you’ve made your part as good as it can be,” she said. “It really is a life lesson about learning to find your own motivation just for the purpose of being better.”

Ryan Hall graduated from Stagg in 1995 after serving two years as drum major of the marching band.

“I’m so excited to rekindle all these memories,” he said. “Our trip to Florida, to Indianapolis, band camp.”

High school, he said, is such a formative time in a child’s life.

“We have so many memories that we all shared,” he said.

Hall worked for a few years as an elementary school teacher before heeding a different call — he’s now pastor of Harvest Palos Church, which meets on Sundays in the Stagg auditorium.

Unfortunately, he said, he sold his best alto-saxophone “to buy my wife’s engagement ring.”

He will join several other former drum majors in leading the alumni band. Hall also said music education provides more than an understanding of notes, scales and chords.

“You meet so many people and form lifelong friendships,” he said.



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