THE ISSUE: Ottawa music program wins first in state
OUR VIEW: Back on top, where they belong
Make that 22.
Ottawa High School music students are back at the top. On Saturday, the program clinched its 22nd IHSA state music title after coming in second place last year after 20 consecutive wins.
And students, their friends and family were ready to celebrate. The students, who competed in Princeton, were treated to an escort back into town by the fire department.
"We haven't had one in recent memory, so it was a cool moment," said band director Andrew Jacobi, noting choir director Spencer Rockford's parents arranged it.
Ottawa scored the maximum 300 points in the second portion of the state competition, the organization contest, to register a combined score of 1,035.
The program had taken a 42-point lead ahead of last year's champion Bradley-Bourbonnais in the first portion, the solo and ensemble contest — the most variable part of the state competition — in March.
Last year's second-place finish may have been disappointing to some, but the blip in the program's consecutive wins was by no means the result of the students underperforming.
In fact, their score last year was on par with previous years' scores when they took the top spot.
"What happened is a school with a very large program figured out how to put it all together and scored higher," Rockford said last year. "It's important to note that these kids did a great job."
Students knew heading into Saturday, if they scored the maximum points allowed, they would win the Class AA title for the 21st time in 22 years. They had to wait until after the last event to be sure of it, Jacobi said.
"The kids were excited and happy," he said of the moment. "There was a sense of accomplishment. (Saturday) they handled it all with class. They were prepared and performed well. The real competition is ourselves with the music. We really pulled off the music well and played to the best of our abilities."
Jacobi said the community support for the music program is second to none.
"I'm really proud of the kids and their hard work and dedication," he said. "It's a team effort between the band and choirs, and everyone involved."
Congrats to a superb high school music program that we can all be proud of.