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Pep band was a big reason I got my job at NRHEG.

But wait, you might say, you teach English. What does pep band have to do with that? Allow me to spin a tale.

When I arrived at Winona State, there was no pep band. My freshman year, some other students and I noticed this at basketball games and talked to the athletic director. He said if we wanted to organize it and work to get sponsors, he’d support our starting one for basketball season. I worked with a few other people, and we formed the WSU Pep Band. We were all volunteers; nobody got a credit, but we did get a free hot dog or popcorn at games. We would range in size from eight to about 30, depending on everyone’s schedules. We’d practice about once a week during the season and had an absolute blast.

When I put together my resume, “Founder and director of WSU Pep Band” looked pretty good on it. Mr. Lorenz once told me that grabbed his eye as he sorted through resumes, so he put it in the pile to take another look. And the rest is history.

So you’ll understand if I have strong feelings for our band program. I’ve always loved the power of music, no matter if it’s pep band, concert band, marching band, or choral music. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had five different band directors, and I’ve always been impressed by how much they have to juggle to keep our band program as strong as it is.

 Kids in high school band are active eleven months out of the year. And when I visit with them, they love it! Too many kids avoid activities because those activities detract from leisure time. But once a student buys into the band program, he or she finds a world in which all the extra time put in is so very worth it. Who cares if you didn’t get to watch some more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy? You were just part of a kick-butt indoor marching band concert!

When Mr. Siewert left as director, I saw the detailed list he left behind for his replacement. It was a month-to-month calendar of what had to be taken care of when. There’s hardly time for a band to come up for breath, pun intended. As soon as students return to school, they have to prepare pep band music and get ready for Homecoming. That’s followed by the indoor concert in November and the Christmas concert in December. Following break (which involves a band trip every other year), they add to the pep band catalog while also preparing for the large group contest in March. There’s a concert in March and the Pops Concert in May. Plus, there’s graduation at the end of the year, mixed in with preparing for marching band from May through July. Whew!

 And all of this costs money. My wife became the treasurer of the band boosters this year, and we have realized how much more goes into this program than what most people see on the outside. The school covers much of the basic costs of the band program, but these kids wouldn’t get to experience all the exciting areas of music without fundraising and donations.

 Every time you buy a bag of popcorn at a sports event or purchase some food from the band fundraiser in the fall, you help cover the little details that help our band represent NRHEG so well when they travel. You help kids defray the cost of going on a band trip to have the awesome experience to play in a large venue such as next year when they’ll travel to San Diego to play at the Holiday Bowl.

Another one of those opportunities to support music in our school is fast approaching. That’s right, the annual soup and pie supper is almost here! On Friday, February 17, from 4:30-7:30 in the secondary school cafeteria in New Richland, you can have good food and fellowship before going to watch our boys’ basketball team take on USC. (You could just come for the food, but this basketball team is so much fun to watch this year, why wouldn’t you stay?)

The cost is $6, and you can see any band member for a ticket in advance. This helps them take care of some of the cost of the band trip, which can end up being expensive, but is immeasurably valuable. You can also just come that night and buy a ticket, but I’m sure there are some band members who wouldn’t mind your support; hopefully, they’ll find you first!

Sure, this is largely a plug for the Soup and Pie Supper, but it’s also a larger plug for our music programs at NRHEG. These kids put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to bring great music to our communities. Whether or not you’re able to help financially, they’ll still play their best at any concert or parade you attend. They’ll absolutely have a smile on their face afterwards, even if it’s late at night or a hot summer day. And they’ll have memories that will last them a lifetime. And maybe help them get a job…

 Word of the Week: This week’s word is verklempt, which means overcome with emotion, as in, “I become verklempt every time I watch the final musical number in Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!


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