EDWARDSVILLE - When the Tournament of Roses Parade steps off in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day, the Edwardsville - Glen Carbon area will be well represented. Jill Griffin, Director of Music and Organist at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Edwardsville and former Band and Choir Director for Father McGivney Catholic High School in Glen Carbon, has been selected to participate in the Rose Parade.

Get The Latest News!

Don't miss our top stories and need-to-know news everyday in your inbox.

“Two years ago, I received information from the Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation that they were wanting to do a Salute to America’s Band Directors. At the time, I was Band Director at Father McGivney High School and I love parades, so I applied.” Given the amount of applicants and the fact that much of her band directing was at a smaller school such as Father McGivney, Griffin didn’t think she stood a chance. But she went ahead and applied anyway, and she was accepted.

“I was super ecstatic! I mean, it doesn’t get any bigger than the Tournament of Roses Parade!”

Griffin will be one of 280 band directors selected from all 50 states, plus Canada and Mexico, performing in a band of band directors. She will be playing tenors as part of a 30-member drumline.

But getting to this point has not been a “bed of roses” for Griffin. Just one year ago, she could barely walk, let alone march. “I have had horrible knees my whole life; I was born with a congenital issue where my kneecaps didn’t move properly. Forty years ago, few doctors knew what to do about this, and by the time we found a doctor in St. Louis who did, I already had Grade 3 arthritis, and I was only 13 years old.”

After a total of 11 knee reconstructions throughout the years to preserve her knees as long as possible, she could no longer tolerate the pain and ended up having them both replaced over the past few years. In between the replacements, Griffin also had to undergo hip surgery to reattach a ruptured tendon, as well as battle a rare form of cancer that still requires regular trips to MD Anderson in Houston for treatment.

Article continues after sponsor message

Everything was finally looking up until one of her new knees started having issues a little over a year ago, and she was once again having a knee worked on - this her 14th knee surgery. This time, however, the issue was much simpler: a build-up of scar tissue around the new knee. After having it all cleaned out, and going through months of physical therapy, her knees are better than ever.

“It’s been totally crazy,” Griffin says of the maladies. “I mean, who gets this stuff? But, by God’s grace, I’m walking well and able to march in this parade, which is a total dream come true!”

Now at 50, Griffin looks forward to marching and playing in the parade with fellow band directors from throughout the North American continent, and credits several people who have helped her reach this pinnacle.

“So many people have helped me along the way and encouraged me, even when I questioned whether or not I could do this. I couldn’t have done this, first of all, without God’s help and inspiration. I wouldn’t be here today without Him. Also, a huge thank you to my pastor, Fr. Jeff Goeckner, for all of his prayers and blessings. I’ve probably used up his entire supply of holy oil with all the anointing I’ve had him do over the years with all of my surgeries,” she laughs.

Griffin is also grateful to her sister, Dineen Czar, for her constant encouragement and for walking with her regularly - rain, shine, snow, or wind - to get ready for the 5.5-mile parade while carrying 30 pounds of drums.

“I am also indebted to Chris Amick, my physical therapist, who, literally, helped me relearn how to walk after all of these surgeries and for getting me strong enough for this challenge. An enormous thank you, too, to Dr. Rick Wright, my orthopedic surgeon for the past 25-plus years, for his expertise in giving me awesome knees, and, finally, to Dan Smithiger, Percussion Instructor at SIUE, for helping me with all of the music.”

“As I march down Colorado Boulevard, I will be marching with gratitude for these wonderful people, for my students, and for the many others who have helped to get me here. This will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I’m so extremely grateful to be a part of it!”

More like this:

Nov 7, 2020 | Local McGivney Students Selected for ILMEA All-District Senior Choir/Band/Orchestra

Oct 20, 2020 | Covenant Radio Brings Station From Station From St. Louis To McGivney High School

Apr 1, 2016 | STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Colleen McCracken inspires others with intensive music repertoire

Feb 27, 2020 | Star Struck: Father McGivney Catholic's Ava Daughtery Returns Inspired by Broadway Artists of New York City

Sep 27, 2021 | 2016 Grad Joey Richard Remembers His Roots At Father McGivney With Donation