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Oliver: Musician marches all the way to Macy’s parade

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Crystal Lake South’s Ryan Spiniolas is a leader on the football field, though he never has to dodge incoming defensive linemen.

But his work on Friday nights will take him to New York City in November to participate in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Spiniolas isn’t a football player; he’s the junior drum major for the CLS Marching Musicians.

He’s also the first chair clarinet player in the school’s wind ensemble, as well as a saxophone player in the jazz band.

The audition process to be a drum major is an intense one, band director Chris Keyes said, including conducting, mace (baton) work and marching. There’s even an essay and an interview.

“They have to show leadership in actions and words,” Keyes said.

Each year at South, there are two drum majors: a senior and a junior.

Both are sent to the Smith-Walbridge Drum Major Clinic, a well-known camp held at Eastern Illinois University each summer, to learn “what it takes to be a drum major,” Keyes said.

Like a lot of kids, Spiniolas got interested in music in fifth grade, when schools often start to offer instrumental music.

He chose the clarinet. He also tried out percussion but found that he didn’t like it.

By high school, he realized he had a talent for music, which in turn led him to practice more. And we all know what they say about practice.

In addition to the high school band, Spiniolas also took part in a mentorship program to help area middle school students continue to play their instruments over the summer. He regularly worked with six young clarinet players.

Spiniolas also has gotten involved with the Crystal Lake City Band, where he gets to perform with musicians who are a lot older.

“It’s kind of cool to see how, as far as the age barrier, to see how that doesn’t matter in how good you are,” Spiniolas said. “It’s really cool to see people at all different levels, something you don’t see in high school.”

But it was because Spiniolas took part in the drum major clinic that he was invited to apply for the Macy’s Great American Marching Band.

In New York City, he will be marching and playing his clarinet along with other musicians from around the United States in one of the nation’s most prestigious parades.

In addition to performing, Spiniolas also will get a chance to do some sightseeing amid the rehearsals.

Of course, it isn’t an inexpensive endeavor, as you might imagine.

“Although I am more than thrilled to receive this honor, the challenge for me is the $2,000 cost of the trip, which includes airfare, hotel and meals,” Spiniolas wrote in a letter he sent to our newsroom to ask that we publicize his trip.

So if you’d like to help him get to New York, you can contact him via email at

And when you’re watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, keep your eye out for the clarinet player from Crystal Lake.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at

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