Band marches on despite time crunch

The marching band had a week less than usual to learn its first show.

Kinesiology senior Ian Almquist plays a sousaphone in the marching band during Thursday's football game against Nevada-Las Vegas at TCF Bank Stadium.

Amanda Snyder

Kinesiology senior Ian Almquist plays a sousaphone in the marching band during Thursday's football game against Nevada-Las Vegas at TCF Bank Stadium.

Nate Gotlieb

Fifth-year sousaphone player Ian Almquist marched with his 50-pound instrument Thursday night as the University of Minnesota Marching Band played the “Minnesota March” during its pregame show.

Almquist, a kinesiology major, marched in formation and eventually took his spot in the block ‘M.’

The 320-member band played a 19-minute pregame show and a nine-minute halftime show during Thursday’s football game. But it faced a unique set of circumstances in preparation for the performance.

The football team hasn’t started the season at home since 2008, so the band usually has an extra week to prepare. With less time, Director Timothy Diem said he sent the music out to the band earlier than usual.

He said the 95-member first-year class was well-prepared when it came to Spat camp — the band’s nearly two-week long crash course on the fundamentals of marching and playing.

The band practiced from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days of Spat camp, which began Aug. 21 for first-year members, or rookies. But with the unusually hot weather, Diem gave the band frequent water breaks and also had them practice inside during the afternoon.

Haley Cramer, a junior flute player, said the band was more efficient during Spat camp this year, despite having less time and dealing with the heat. She said the rookie members successfully jumped right in.

“Rookies don’t know anything different,” she said last week. “None of them seem very stressed out.”

Cramer said six of the 18 flutes in the first pre-game show were rookies. During the pregame show, members played school songs such as the “Minnesota March” and the “Minnesota Rouser.”  The rookies had just two days to prepare for pregame show auditions. 

“Everyone did a great job of teaching,” said Almquist, the sousaphone section leader. “The rookies had a real zest for learning the moves.”

For its halftime show, the band played a selection of karaoke songs. Many students in the student section boisterously sang along to the familiar tunes, which some say added to the overall experience.

Justin Nguyen, a College of Science and Engineering freshman, attended his first Gophers game Thursday. He said he enjoyed the band’s performance and sang along with most of the halftime songs.

He said he thought most of the students in attendance were enjoying the show. In an effort to stay cool, the band wore maroon polo shirts and khaki shorts Thursday, instead of its traditional long-sleeve uniforms.

Diem said as of last Tuesday the band didn’t have any heat-related illness. He said 35 volunteers helped throughout Spat camp by giving instruction to students to make sure everyone stayed healthy.

“We’re right where we need to be,” he said.