Band member marches for 12th year

by Brady Averill

Brian Zumwalde marches to his own beat. Literally.

Four years after graduating from the University, the 29-year-old is in his 12th consecutive year playing in the marching band.

In his tenure, he’s seen all a band member can ask for: Three generations of members, seven drum majors and four football bowl games. He’s also watched the band size swell from 179 members to 307 members, Zumwalde said.

Why the band member returns year after year, he said, he can’t determine. He said just he loves playing in the group.

“It’s certainly very enjoyable still,” he said.

While most band members balance class schedules, Zumwalde continues participating but juggles a full-time career for 3M.

Even with work, the band still comes first sometimes. Every August, he said he uses vacation days from his employer to participate in the two-week-long “spat camp” that prepares the group for the season.

He isn’t taking University classes but remains eligible to participate because he pays for the one credit that band members receive.

To some fellow band members, Zumwalde is known as an “old man” and a “father figure,” he said.

Even approaching 30 years old, he can still pull off the college look, he said, wearing a University sweatshirt and his maroon-and-gold band jacket.

“Brian is the quintessential band member,” said Jerry Luckhardt, the University Marching Band director and associate director of bands.

He always shows up for practice early, and he stays late, Luckhardt said.

In Northrop Auditorium, Zumwalde often practices in the same place, Luckhardt said. He also knows when Zumwalde arrives because he can recognize his sound, he said.

Luckhardt said he doesn’t recommend others do what Zumwalde is doing – balancing a full-time job and playing in the marching band.

“It would take a very special person like Brian,” he said. “He gives more than he takes. That’s the condition.”

The balancing act

Zumwalde said he goes to his 3M job at 6:30 a.m. every day during the fall marching season so he can leave the office by 3 p.m. for practice, which starts at 4:15 p.m. and lasts until 6 p.m.

That’s Zumwalde’s routine, Monday through Thursday. Playing his clarinet goes even longer Tuesdays, when he practices with the Shoreview Community Band until approximately 9 p.m.

Though it’s physically tiring, he said, it’s worth it.

“I just have to make sure I get enough sleep at night,” he said.

And when fall semester ends, life gets more back to normal. But, he said, he still gets sad when the season ends.

“But life must go on,” he said.

When Zumwalde graduated in 2000 with computer science and clarinet music performance degrees, he decided to keep seeking a music performance degree and master his clarinet skills.

“I realized if I didn’t consciously spend time in college playing the clarinet, I’d let it go,” he said.

Even after playing the clarinet for approximately 20 years, he said, he still wanted to improve.

Zumwalde said he began playing in concert band at the University, but he especially loves marching band.

“You have to experience it to know it,” he said.

Music days “not numbered”

Zumwalde said his reasons for sticking with the band include performing with the band for huge audiences, supporting the Gophers football team at games, playing a variety of music, meeting people and traveling.

While Zumwalde has made almost a career out of playing in the University Marching Band, he said he’ll eventually quit.

But when exactly, he said, he isn’t sure.

“It’s probably safe to say I’m over half done,” he said.

But Zumwalde’s music days aren’t numbered, and when he leaves, Luckhardt said, it will be a sad day.

“When and if he doesn’t do this, I’ll miss him quite frankly,” he said.