U pep band plays for ‘A Prairie Home Companion’

Band injects a bit of gold and maroon into the news of Lake Wobegon

Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

MThe band took the stage for the live broadcast just after 5 p.m. in the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul.

In the little slice of Keillor’s Minnesota that is “A Prairie Home Companion,” the band performed as both a University representative and a testament to Keillor’s love of his home state.

Keillor had seen the band revving the crowd at a recent hockey game and wanted it to bring its pep to public radio.

“I love University hockey,” Keillor said. “I’ve been going since I was an undergraduate. And that band is just so talented.”

Bill Siitari, 19, an accounting major, volunteered for the Saturday night gig – a performance that had the band rushing from a game at Mariucci Arena to the theater.

“You’re not going to get too many opportunities to play for Garrison Keillor,” he said. “I had to take the chance.”

Matt Dockendorf, 19, a speech communication major, was also enthusiastic about playing at the “Fitz.”

“I know he was a big fan of ours, that he had seen us at the games. I really wanted the experience,” he said.

The Fitzgerald’s backstage area was an environment of controlled chaos 15 minutes before the show, as Keillor chatted with band members and the other performers got into position.

A few minutes into Keillor’s folksy oration, he motioned to band leader Skeeter Burroughs and the band marched out, injecting a bit of maroon and gold into the news of Lake Wobegon.

The crowd cheered as the pep band took the stage.

“This performance will be great in that it will give those of you from Iowa and Wisconsin a chance to sing the ‘Minnesota Rouser’,” Keillor joked.

The band’s performance was limited to a few numbers, including the famed rouser. They began by playing the Minnesota march.

Keillor thanked the band in between sets for “bringing a little anger and desire in to a bunch of overeducated church people,” referring to the audience.

“I want to see everyone on their feet and full of desire for this ‘Minnesota Rouser’,” Keillor said.

After the performance Keillor said he enjoyed having the band on his show and said he hopes the group will return for another appearance in the future.

“The pep band is all an old alumnus needs to make him feel 21 again,” Keillor said.

Geoff Ziezulewicz is a freelance writer. The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]