Barry McNamara  |   Published August 31, 2021

New Staff Profile: Elissa Kana

Director of Fighting Scots Marching Band has strong background in music.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A talented musician with a Big Ten résumé is the new director of Monmouth College’s Fighting Scots Marching Band.

Elissa Kana, a doctoral student at the University of Iowa, will direct the band’s performances this fall, starting with the Warren County Prime Beef Festival Parade at 5 p.m. Sept. 8. The band will also perform at home football games at April Zorn Memorial Stadium, beginning the second week of the season Sept. 11 when the Scots host Grinnell College.

When Kana began working with Monmouth students during a weeklong band camp prior to the start of the fall semester, it was not her first time on campus. In 2019, she performed at the College as part of the Colere Quartet, a saxophone foursome that also included Greg Rife, who was co-director of the Fighting Scots Marching Band at the time.

“The goal this year is just to remind them how it’s fun and how if we work hard and we put on a good show and we’re proud of it, that’s really the most fun experience out there.” — Elissa Kana

Later that year, Monmouth’s marching band had its typical fall season. Little did the students know that it would be two years before they were together again.

“I’m really excited for the marching band to get back on the field and put on a show after the year in quarantine,” said Kana. “My hope for the short term for this year is just for the students to have a positive experience. The goal this year is just to remind them how it’s fun and how if we work hard and we put on a good show and we’re proud of it, that’s really the most fun experience out there.”

Longer term, Kana hopes the band will become the place to be.

“I’m hoping over the years that the students become addicted to the hard work and the performance that creates,” she said. “I hope the band continues to grow and that every student will want to join the marching band.”

This fall, the band has a spy-themed halftime show that will include several “1960s-era” pieces, including Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man,” the Quincy Jones song “Soul Bossa Nova” made popular by the Austin Powers movies, and “The James Bond Theme, which Kana called “quintessential spy movie music.”

Kana’s parents were both in marching bands in college, and her twin sister, Amanda, is also a talented musician. Kana said she originally chose chorus to go her separate way from her twin, who had chosen band. Soon, however, she realized that her friends in band were having a lot more fun than she was. She made the switch and hasn’t looked back.

“I grew up in the Houston area, and marching band and football are very big there,” said Kana. “My high school (James E. Taylor in the suburb of Katy) had a very good marching band. I really loved it and was very active in our program.”

“As I got older, I figured out that there wasn’t anything else I really wanted to do and that music made me the happiest.” Elissa Kana

She was then in the marching band for one year at Northwestern University before schedule conflicts caused her to put it aside. Still, she’d return to Texas each summer and help with her high school’s marching band, a sign that leading other musicians was going to be part of her future.

“As I got older, I figured out that there wasn’t anything else I really wanted to do and that music made me the happiest,” said Kana. “I’ve continued to follow the path of majoring in music performance in my undergrad and continued to get a master’s degree in saxophone (from Bowling Green State University in Ohio), and now I’m working on my doctorate with the hopes of teaching at the college level.”

Listen Up …

Elissa Kana previews the 2021 Fighting Scots Marching Band season and explains why she decided to play the saxophone on 1853 Podcast.

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