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O'Fallon, Illinois, high school band program wins prestigious national award

Two students hold up the flag, which is split into three vertical sections: red, white and blue.
O'Fallon Band Boosters
Students at O'Fallon Township High School hold a flag commemorating the award at a May concert, where the band program celebrated the achievement.

The O'Fallon, Illinois, high school band program recently received a national award that’s only been given to 87 schools across the country since its inception in 1983.

“To have something like this happen, it's great because it's confirmation that what we're doing on that day to day is a really big deal,” said Phillip Carter, O’Fallon Township High School’s assistant band director. “Awards are not why we do this, but it's great to have that feeling that what we are doing is making a difference, not only in the lives of our students, but it's making an impact on the profession.”

The Metro East high school was one of two winners for 2022. The award, which was presented last month, comes with a flag that Band Director Melissa Gustafson-Hinds said the school will hang in the band room.

The award, given by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, is named after the famed American composer known for his military marches.

The winner must have maintained excellence in concert for several years, rated “superior” at competitions and placed a number of students in honor bands, among other things, according to the foundation's website.

Per the requirements, the school also needed to play a Sousa march. It picked the band’s playing of The Free Lance March to submit. To present the flag, a representative from the foundation came to award the group in early May and conducted the band.

With the award, Gustafson-Hinds will serve on the selection committee for next year’s awards.

Gustafson-Hinds said the high school has multiple bands, like the concert, symphonic, jazz and marching, all of which helped earn the award. The band directors said they hope the flag motivates students to keep working hard.

O’Fallon has established itself as a national competitor when it comes to band and performance. In 2018, the school’s marching band was a Bands of America Grand National finalist — one of the 12 top-scoring high school marching bands in the country.

“We are the real deal with everything that we are providing the students,” Gustafson-Hinds said.

 O'Fallon Township High School's Wind Ensemble, dressed in black suits and dresses, stands in front of the school for a picture.
O'Fallon Band Boosters
O'Fallon Township High School's wind ensemble performed "The Black Horse Troop March" at the May ceremony where the school celebrated its new award.

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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