BY RICK SHULTE
This season, more than 140 students will suit up for the Trenton High School marching band. And in a school of around 940 students, that means a whopping 15 percent of the student body participates in the band program.
Michael Kurilko started running the band program in the fall of 1987. He has overseen its growth over the years in number and stature.
“The band itself has 144 members,” Kurilko said. “I also have some jazz band kids, pep band, and I also teacher guitar at the high school.”
The result has been a musical culture in the district. While Trenton is well known for its success in athletics, the school is also renowned for its band and music program. It’s also not a coincidence Trenton has a stellar reputation for academics, ranked as one of the top districts in Wayne County.
“It takes a fair amount of personal commitment to learn to play a musical instrument,” Kurilko said. “Being able to play in an ensemble, that personal discipline translates over to academics. It’s a similar type of learning.”
The school year, in essence, starts early for the band kids. The band camp, free from outside distractions, allows its members to set the tone both musically but in performing its routines.
“It’s absolutely one of the most intense, important things we do,” Kurilko said. “Even though we are an ensemble, we have to play as a student group. There are things we practice in August, musically, that gets everyone ready to play for the rest of the year.”
In competitions, that hard work pays off. Last year Trenton placed first in a band competition at Woodhaven, and was third in competitions at West Bloomfield and Durand. It also pays off in creating a positive buzz about the band program. Kurilko oversees the band at the elementary and middle school levels, which has proven to be a fertile training ground for the high school program.
Kurilko wanted to be sure to give credit to the large legion of volunteers, who do a wide variety of duties. Not only do they help out at band camp, but their presence can be felt at band competitions, football games and concerts.
“There’s a core of people who will always be there, but the parents are really interested in what we do,” he said. “We meet at the Westfield Center for a pre-band camp meeting. There’s a sign there that lists the capacity of that room at 375. And we filled it up. So they really are involved.”
Bonnie Ginn, a parent who volunteered to help out at the annual August band camp in Almont, has nothing but good things to say about the music program. She currently has a freshman son (Alexander) and a junior daughter (Hannah) participating in marching band. A few years ago, another daughter (Madeline) was a band member.
“It’s a great experience,” Ginn said. “And it means a lot in school, too. It gives them confirmation that they are really good at something. And as a band member, even as a freshman you can go to school and have an upperclassman in the band say hi to you, to make you feel more welcome. It helps to have people like that behind you and it makes it easier.”