Band searches for next top twirler

Even with the deadline quickly approaching, the position has garnered little interest.

by Tiff Clements

Eastview High School ninth-grader Amy Palmby said she’d like to twirl her way into college.

“I’d like to go to Minnesota, Iowa or Arizona,” said the amateur twirler at a private lesson Tuesday night.

For more information about the marching band’s search for a feature twirler, go to: The Minnesota Marching Band website

If the University’s twirler hunt continues as it has, there may still be a space for her when she enters college in four years.

The University Marching Band is seeking its next feature twirler. But according to the director of the band, no one has shown interest in the position – with less than a week until the Feb. 12 application deadline.

But for marching band director Timothy Diem, this isn’t a new predicament.

“We didn’t have a twirler here for about 60 years,” he said. “And then we had two exceptional ones for about 10 years.”

Diem said baton twirlers are a unique commodity and in high demand at universities across the country. Although some schools offer scholarships to twirlers, the University does not.

“It’s more of a service thing,” Diem said. “You’re doing it because you want to be a part of the University atmosphere; you’re not coming here just because we offered you a lot of money.”

Despite having a prominent role in performances, it is important the twirler be considered a part of the band, Diem said.

“In a lot of places the twirler is really an outsider to the band,” he said. “We want the twirler to be a part of the band. Instead of playing the trombone or trumpet, they play the baton.”

Aimee Tepe was the marching band’s feature twirler from 2001 to 2006, filling the position while she attended the University and during her senior year at Bloomington-Jefferson High School.

Tepe said it can be tough to find just the right fit for the position because a feature twirler walks a fine line between being a part of the band and standing out from it.

“You want somebody that loves to perform but is modest in their position,” Tepe said.

She said the University might not be as appealing as schools that can offer scholarship money to performers.

“It’s not that people aren’t interested,” Tepe said. “It’s hard to attract people to a university when there’s not a large scholarship given for the position.”

Though funding for feature twirlers varies throughout the Big Ten conference, at least one school, the University of Iowa, offers a full-tuition scholarship to its baton twirler.

President of the United States Twirling Association Sandi Wiemers said scholarship offers vary “pretty widely” from university to university.

“It can be anything from books and tuition to a set fee for the semester,” she said.

Wiemers said marching band performance changes over the last 20 or 30 years have had an effect on collegiate twirlers.

“A lot of the bands have gone away from being show bands that use baton twirlers,” she said. “That has hurt baton twirling in terms of participating with the bands.”

Diem said he’s confident the right person for the job will come along eventually and until that person shows, the position will remain unfilled.

“We’ll find another special person who competes nationally at a top level and at the same time doesn’t need the financial boost to come and do what they do,” he said.