It was one of the busiest summer vacations in the group’s history at Bloom Township High School.
A group of about 90 young musicians from Bloom in Chicago Heights and Bloom Trail in Steger performed to cheering crowds, supported the performances of several alumni, and helped with fundraisers. More than a dozen of that group were freshmen who wanted to kick off the school year, and the group now has 182 members, up from just a few dozen seven years ago.
Their offseason of group activities began with the Memorial Day Parade in Chicago Heights.
“It was a beautiful day and it was a beautiful drive through the neighborhood,” said Michael Bielecki, who leads the group with assistant director Minerva Diaz. “They’ve really developed a good understanding of what we do for the community means to community members. They come out with a sense of pride and patriotism that goes a long way for many people.
“And of course they love applause.”
The time they spent training, working on music and parade lineups paid off as the band traveled to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio for a performance in the part of the festivities surrounding the alumni induction of Bloom Bryant Young, who became a superstar defensive lineman with the San Francisco 49ers.
As part of this trip, the students in the group got a taste of university life. They were housed in dorms at Kent State University, ate in the school dining hall, toured the campus, and participated in a workshop with the university’s music faculty.
Nicholas Izzo, a senior who has been playing saxophone since his freshman year, said the band’s busy summer was a great experience for him and the other musicians, and it also added prestige to the program.
“The group hadn’t really been taken too seriously,” he said. “It’s starting to be much more deserved (attention). I feel like this is a big problem. This kind of paved the way for the future group program.
They also helped pave the way for the band’s future by attending two fundraisers in Indiana, one at Wolf Lake Park in Hammond and the other at US Steel in Gary. The students helped with food service, cleaned up and demolished the rides afterward, and in return, the company organizing the events donated money to the group’s program for new uniforms as well as fundraising activities. this summer.
It was worth it for Izzo, who participated “so that we could continue our season”.
“It’s an experience for us, for sure,” he said. “We can hang out with friends, but overall we’re helping people, so I think that’s the biggest payoff.”
Bloom’s group program also had alumni doing remarkable things. Bloom graduate Isaac Navarro and Bloom Trail graduate Maelee Greenwood performed this month with the Eastern Illinois University Flute Studio at the National Flute Association Conference in Chicago. And Bloom alumni Adrian Mota played with the DuBuque Colts in Drum Corps International at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
It was also an excuse for a group picnic, a way to celebrate together one last time after a notable summer vacation spent doing things together.
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“The more I was with the kids, the more I understood that they really loved what they were doing here,” said Bielecki, the manager who started Bloom seven years ago. “They got together on a Saturday (for the picnic) when they could have been at home – they enjoyed being together as part of a group program.”
Giavanni Lowe, a senior drum major who also plays trumpet, is no stranger to school activities. She will coordinate a school art exhibit in November and run Bloom’s African-American Cultural Club.
But for her, it all starts in the music room.
“I’ve made the band the center of my world since I was 11,” Lowe said.
She also credited much of the program’s growth and enthusiasm to her manager at Bloom.
“I like that Mr. Bielecki is very understanding and open,” Lowe said. “When I say that, I mean he listens really well and helps bring the family into the group.”
Janice Neumann is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.