Seniors go out with a bang

Maggie Li, Features Editor

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Seniors Daniel Spencer, Sam Heydt and Ben Harkey (left to right) play at their last performance together during the 2018 Pride Assembly. The group has been performing together since eighth grade, and they have played in Glenbrook North assemblies and Variety Shows. Photo by Richard Chu

With thousands of eyes on him during his final Variety Show, senior Sam Heydt began his routine by kicking a giant stick that he was going to use in his performance. But instead of landing at his feet as intended, the stick started rolling towards the edge of the stage. He lunged for it, grabbing it mere seconds before it would have fallen into the orchestra pit.

“I start out on the ground with a stick on my foot, and I’m supposed to pretend to be asleep,” said Heydt. “So [senior] Daniel [Spencer] comes over, and he hits the ground right next to me, and I jerk up and the stick is supposed to clatter around. But on opening night, the stick started rolling towards the pit so I dove after it.”

Heydt and Spencer, along with senior Ben Harkey, make up the Glenbrook North Bucket Boys. The three have performed percussion routines on paint buckets, storage bins and trash cans for their schools ever since their eighth grade year.

Kathy Colsen, percussion instructor for District #28, said she worked on percussion skills with the boys from fourth grade to eighth grade. According to her, percussion groups like STOMP and Blue Man Group are probably what gave them the idea to start a bucket band.

“[In percussion ensemble], we did this one piece by STOMP with the brooms,” said Colsen. “Then we did a piece called ‘Stinkin’ Garbage’ where they got to drum on garbage cans. … All of those things interested them.”

Harkey said when he came up with the idea to start a bucket band in junior high, all three members had no idea what it would eventually become.

“In eighth grade we decided [we were] going to do … a percussion thing [for the talent show] with just me, Daniel and Sam,” said Harkey. “It was just buckets and bins. Whatever we could find, we would play it and see if it sounded good.”

That performance solidified the group’s desire to continue playing at GBN, according to Harkey.

“The nerves morphed into, ‘Oh, we fulfilled something, this is something special for us,’  and after the first time, we knew we could progress to make this into something better in high school,” he said.

During his freshman year, Harkey said they were not sure how the Bucket Boys would fit in with GBN’s other performance groups, so he talked to Mike Tarjan, assistant principal of student activities, about the group’s potential of playing in front of the school.

According to Harkey, Tarjan welcomed the idea and Justin Weiner, Spartan Spirit Squad sponsor, arranged for the Bucket Boys to play during the 2015 Homecoming Assembly.

Spencer said preparing for the assembly was the most nervous he has been for a performance.

“Nobody really knew us going in, so we were obviously super nervous and didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “We didn’t know if anybody [would like] us or not. Everybody was dead silent. We played, we finished and then the crowd erupted. It felt so good because you knew that finally the stress was off.”

According to Spencer, what makes the Bucket Boys unique is their “showmanship” and the addition of visual performance elements on top of their interesting beats.

“You can kind of have fun and lighten the mood, especially in assemblies and [Variety] Shows, which is where we thrive,” Spencer said.

Colsen said the aesthetic of their performances is what sets them apart from other performing groups.

“[At their first Variety Show,] they had the lights going and water on the tubs that they were drumming on, which made a cool visual effect,” said Colsen. “They’ve become more than just ‘bucket boys’ and taken on more of a STOMP performing style.”

According to Spencer, drumming on buckets allows for more experimentation than playing traditional drums.

“We just experiment with the different sounds because nobody has, like, an actual instrument or teaches you how to do it,” said Spencer. “You kind of have to teach yourself.”

According to Heydt, improvisation makes up the bulk of the Bucket Boys’ performances.

“We get together and just play around a little bit and try to ad lib a beat a little bit,” said Heydt. “We build off each other. If we need to add time to a performance we just throw in some solos because those are just time fillers where you can just make up something.”

Heydt said sometimes they even have to make up a routine on the spot.

“When we played with the Chicago Bulls Bucket Boys [at the 2016 Homecoming Assembly] we got hopelessly lost and had to ad lib for a lot of the performance,” said Heydt. “We just lost our place and couldn’t hear each other.”

Three years of hitting various household items and many warmly welcomed routines later, Harkey said the Bucket Boys had their most bittersweet performance at the 2018 Variety Show.

“We were like, ‘This is it guys, this is the last [Variety Show] we have,’” said Harkey. “We were all kind of, like, nervous and a little shaken because if you mess up here you don’t get another chance to redo it. But with all our practice and chemistry I’d say we were able to make something great out of it. … It was our last ride together.”

Colsen said the group has been back to Northbrook Junior High to perform.

“It really wowed [the younger kids], and hopefully inspired them to do something similar of their own,” she said.

According to Heydt, the Bucket Boys do not want their legacy to die with their own impending graduation.

Heydt said they are currently looking for and auditioning more talented drummers to become the next generation of GBN Bucket Boys, but nothing is certain yet.

“It’s a cool group and it would be great if we could keep the tradition going,” said Heydt. “Playing with two of my friends is something that I love doing. Bucket Boys has been the highlight of my high school experience, and I’m sure it’s the same way for many people. I hope it continues so more people can feel what I did.”

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Seniors go out with a bang