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Band members perform at a rally on campus last fall.

Minnesota Marching Band members perform at a rally on campus last fall.

Watch a preview of "Pride of Minnesota: Backstage."

From backstage to prime time

Minnesota Marching Band featured on public television special

By Rick Moore

Published on August 9, 2005

Ever wondered what goes into molding a premier marching band that stays in step through intricate formation changes, avoids extraneous notes, and keeps football fans planted in their seats at halftime? Then you'll want to check out "Pride of Minnesota: Backstage," a half-hour behind-the-scenes look at the University of Minnesota Marching Band that premieres on Thursday, August 11, at 7 p.m. on TPT-Channel 2.

The show gets up close and personal with the "Pride of Minnesota"--the nickname for the 113-year-old band--through footage of practices at the Gopher football complex, as well as interviews with student members and with band directors past and present. While the students talk about the sense of family that's part and parcel of being in the band, as far as family videos go, this one is lean on embarrassing moments and longer on upbeat scenes that'll make you smile.

"I'm with the band"

Some marching band tidbits and trivia:

>> The University of Minnesota Marching Band was founded in 1892 as the University Cadet Band, with 29 members.

>> In 1910, the first formations and halftime "show" were presented during the Gopher football season. Included in the formations was the first block "M," now a symbol of the University.

>> Women were slowly integrated into the marching band over the years. They first entered the Concert Band in 1934, and during WWII women could be found "filling in" in the marching band. In 1950, a new "Girls' Band" was formed at the University, which later was called the "Women's Division" of the marching band. Women were finally added as full members to the marching band in 1972.

>> The band has had 18 directors and 55 drum majors.

>> All marching band members are required to register for Music 3480--the official marching band class in the School of Music.

--from the Minnesota Marching Band Web site

"Backstage" also offers a glimpse at the types of students who join the band and the time commitment that goes along with participation. There are two-hour practices each day--with another three-hour session for the drumline on Wednesdays--plus rehearsals on Friday nights and Saturday mornings before football games. The Minnesota Marching Band performs at every Gopher home football game, as well as the homecoming parade, one Vikings home game, and an occasional football game on the road. (In a good year, that also includes a road game around New Year's Day.) There's also the annual Indoor Concert at Northrop Memorial Auditorium, when the group showcases its entire repertoire.

And everything begins with the band's version of football training camp called Spat Camp--a rigorous, 10-day session in which the 300-plus band members stay in residence halls on the Twin Cities campus and learn the music, steps, and formations for the upcoming performance season. (This year's Spat Camp begins on Tuesday, August 23, under the direction of band director Tim Diem, who took over for Jerry Luckhardt this year.)

That kind of workload draws a breed of dedicated students, as well as some who were, well, born to march in a maroon and gold uniform. "I was a Gopher baby and my brother goes here and my mom and dad went here," says mellophone player Anna Dibley in Backstage. "It was part of my life that you had pride in being a Minnesotan, and coming here and being a part of this is really a fulfillment of what I was taught as a little kid."

"Pride of Minnesota: Backstage" is a co-production of the Minnesota Marching Band and the Minnesota Channel of Twin Cities Public Television (TPT). Support for the marching band was provided by the School of Music and the College of Liberal Arts. The show will also be broadcast on August 12 at 1 a.m. on TPT-Channel 2 and on August 20 at 8 p.m. on TPT-Channel 17. For more information, visit TPT.

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