COBDEN — Former Cobden High School band director Dan Cirilla has something in common with Michael Jordan, Roger Clemens, Pele and George Foreman.
He was called out of retirement — this time to lead the band in the National Memorial Day Parade.
When Edwin Shoemate, superintendent of Cobden Unit School District 17, heard about the opportunity for the school’s band to march in the National Memorial Day Parade, he jumped on it, Cirilla said.
“Mr. Shoemate, the superintendent, originally got this started. He made the application,” Cirilla said.
They also submitted a video of the Cobden Marching Band in the Veteran’s Day Parade in Anna. That video and application got the band a spot in the national parade, along with six other Illinois bands.
The band director was leaving at the end of the school year and chose not to go on the trip, so the district needed someone to lead the band.
That’s when Cirilla got involved.
Cirilla was band director from 1969 through the early 1980s. He left the school district to become a mental health therapist, a job he did for 20 years. After retirement, Cirilla and his wife moved to Cobden. It was not long before he received a phone call from the band director, asking if he would substitute teach for her.
“For the past four or five years, I only sub at Cobden. We live in Cobden,” Cirilla said.
However, there was a glitch in the plan. The band left on Thursday. Cirilla and his wife had tickets for a cruise that did not return until Saturday. Cirilla got a flight to Washington, D.C., from Nashville, and his wife and a friend drove home.
“I flew to Washington, D.C., arriving about 11:30 Saturday night. I was with them all day [Sunday], and then the parade was Monday,” Cirilla said. “My responsibility was the music part.”
Wendy Ronna, who has been hired as band director for the 2017-18 school year, accompanied the students and chaperones. Cirilla said they were in her capable hands.
Each band in the National Memorial Day Parade was assigned to honor veterans of a certain military era. Cobden was chosen to honor Vietnam veterans. They were given a list of songs from that time period, and they chose to perform “Hey, Baby.”
On Memorial Day, the group had breakfast and had to check out of the hotel. By then, it was lunch time. Cirilla said they were given box lunches before the parade started at 2 p.m. Cobden was parade entry 91, so they were not at the start of the parade.
“The kids did a great job," Cirilla said. "They performed like I knew they would."
During the parade, Cirilla had a lot of compliments from people in the audience. A lot of people also wanted to know where Cobden was.
At one point, Cirilla noticed the student drummer who was supposed to dance was not dancing. He asked why. The young man said a veteran who was an amputee was behind them, and so the student did not think it was appropriate to dance.
Cirilla said it brought tears to his eyes.
Cirilla said the Cobden community and Cobden Music Boosters also did a good job raising money for the trip. Even with fundraising, some students were not able to make the trip. Between 55 and 60 students did march in the parade. They were accompanied by 17 chaperones.
The music boosters will be busy again next school. The high school honor band is planning a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando.