Marching band has no time to catch its breath

The busy football season has allowed members only six days off so far.

The University of Minnesota Marching Band practices at the TCF Bank Stadium Tuesday

Joe Michaud-Scorza

The University of Minnesota Marching Band practices at the TCF Bank Stadium Tuesday

Laura Sievert

Matt Schuette has been able to put down his trombone only on Sundays for almost all of September.
This fall the University of MinnesotaâÄôs marching band has had only six days off during seven straight weeks of practice. Those busy weeks and four consecutive home football games have kept the 315 band members rehearsing almost every day to keep up.
âÄúWe were running full-throttle until October 2 after homecoming,âÄù Schuette said.
Timothy Diem, Minnesota Marching Band director, said he hasnâÄôt seen a band schedule line up with four home games in a row in his 11 years as the director.
âÄúUsually there is one week off,âÄù he said. âÄúIt alleviates some of the pressure.âÄù
On game weeks the band practices two hours each day âÄî Monday through Friday âÄî in the afternoon, in addition to two-hour practices Saturday mornings before the game, Schuette said.
For the UniversityâÄôs marching band, this schedule is also preceded by a 10-day band camp in August.
On weeks without home games, the band practices only Monday through Thursday, although Schuette said he still wouldnâÄôt consider this a break.
âÄúItâÄôs time to learn drills at a more reasonable pace,âÄù he said.
Not much could have been done differently, according to Andy Seeley, a spokesman for University athletics.
The typical football game schedule is made in a three-to-one pattern, he said, with one game on the road for every three games at the stadium. Besides regular season games, the Big Ten Conference schedules games as well.
The University typically arranges for the first Gopher football game to be on the road in order to avoid a chaotic parking situation in combination with the Minnesota State Fair, Seeley said.
Usually there are three consecutive home games in September following the first away game. This year the Big Ten added a fourth home game to that schedule, putting extra pressure on the marching band.
As a result of this schedule, the band had to compromise some of its usual practices in favor of time efficiency.
Ideally, they would learn the music first then learn the steps to the routines after, but in recent weeks the band has been learning the music and steps simultaneously with rapid repetition, Diem said.
Because the band performs a new halftime show for each game in the stadium, members usually learn four to five new pieces of music âÄî and the drills to go with them âÄî throughout the week, Diem said.
âÄúWeâÄôve had to learn all our halftime shows in four days,âÄù Schuette said, âÄúand that doesnâÄôt account for rained-out days, or people missing practices for class.âÄù
Normally, Fridays are used for breaking down and cleaning the routine and Saturdays are simply a dress rehearsal before the game. Diem also said adding practices was not an option because it would suggest improper planning and take away from the membersâÄô academics.
âÄúI run the marching band as a cross between a music ensemble, a business and an athletic team,âÄù he said. âÄúThey have a project, and they take care of it.âÄù