OPRF marching band prepares for the Peach Bowl

• Director of bowl halftime show visits high school at request of former student, OPRF band

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By DREW CARTER

The Oak Park and River Forest High School marching band will travel to Atlanta to play for the 37th annual Peach Bowl on Dec. 31.

The band, color guard and drill team will march in the Peach Bowl parade, and participate in the pre-game and halftime shows at the football game before a crowd of up to 75,000 at the Georgia Dome.

The band was one of 12 bands from across the country selected to perform. Director Scotty Jones put together compact disc and video recordings of the band's performances in parades and halftime shows in the band's bid to perform.

Gary Smith, former marching band director at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and director of the Peach Bowl halftime show, visited OPRF last week to direct the band in a rehearsal.

Jones, a former pupil of Smith at U. of I., called the retired director to set up the rehearsal, hoping it would help both musicians and conductor get a head start on the bowl show.

Alex Polaski and his 99 fellow band members have to memorize seven or eight songs by the end of the month.

"I'm really excited about going," Polaski said. "I've heard the Georgia Dome is pretty cool."

He saw it in the movie Drumline, but could have seen it in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, or the NCAA Final Four in 2002.

Polaski said the trip will feel like a week-long party because many of his friends are in the band, and everyone in the volunteer-only band loves to march.

And he's looking forward to meeting new people from other bands. OPRF's band will attend a New Year's Eve party at a hotel in Atlanta with three or four other bands to help ring in the new year.

All 12 bandsâ€"about 1,000 members in totalâ€"will perform together in the halftime show.

While in Atlanta, the band will play in a concert band competition, and visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Centennial Olympic Park, and the World of Coca-Cola. The bus to Atlanta leaves Dec. 27, returning Jan. 1.

"I think this is a good thing for them," said Jim Polaski, Alex's dad. "It shows what good things can happen when they work together as a team."

An invitation to something as big as the Peach Bowl is "passing the test" for band members, Jim Polaski said. The accomplishment rewards the hours of work put into the band, and encourages students to continue in music after high school.

Nineteen parent chaperones will accompany the band on the bus, but Jim and Anne Polaski will fly to Atlanta to watch the band, support their son, and see some family in Atlanta. Jones said the Polaskis are not alone, as 84 tickets have been sold to parents traveling to Atlanta on their own.

Jones said he tries to travel with the marching band every other year. The last trip, in January 2002, was for a Martin Luther King holiday parade in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The 37th Annual Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl festivities will kick off at 11 a.m. eastern standard time, Dec. 31, with the parade, which will be televised on CBS affiliate Ch. 46. The Miami Hurricanes will face the Florida Gators in the 7:30 p.m. (EST) bowl game, which will be televised on ESPN.

Contact : dcarter@wjinc.com

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