John's Journal
Rosemount Marching Band Is Built On ‘Blood, Sweat, Hours And Tears’ 10/1/2012
There are coaches. There are position players. There are seemingly endless practices and spirited, exhaustive competitions. A massive amount of work is involved each season, and each season ends with an even more massive feeling of accomplishment.

Football? Soccer? Volleyball? Cross-country? Wrong on all counts. This is competitive marching band, and no group has been better in recent years than the marching band at Rosemount High School.

They have been crowned the Minnesota state champions for the past six years. They have been a finalist at the Bands of America National Super-Regionals at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis for seven years running. They annually march in the Minnesota State Fair parade and were named the fair’s championship marching band for the past four years. They have performed at World Series games, American League divisional playoffs and Vikings games … even a Green Bay Packers home game.

The Rosemount marching band – and all competitive marching bands – do much more than high-step around the field and play music. Their shows are a cross between Broadway and the Big Ten, a mix of dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, symphony, rock & roll, jazz and the blues.

Bands design and rehearse a different field show each fall. The Rosemount show this year is titled “Don’t Stop” and features music from Ravel’s “Bolero,” Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Journey and Queen. The Rosemount band has 175 members, and they began rehearsals for the 2012 season in mid-July.

By the first day of school in September, the band had already practiced for eight weeks, usually four days each week for three and a half hours each day, with specialists like the color guard and percussionists working even longer hours.

“When we talk to the kids, prospective students, we compare it to going out for a varsity sport,” said Steve Olsen, who is in his 14th year as a band director at Rosemount. “Because it’s not an MSHSL sport, we can start whenever we want in the summer. Our season’s a little longer, but we’re kind of done before the football season is done.

“We get two reactions (from newcomers to marching band). When they actually see it, their first reaction is ‘I could never do this. I’m not good enough.’ But we tell them it’s baby steps; the left foot goes here and the right foot goes here.”

The other band directors at Rosemount are Leon Sieve, who is in his 10th year there, and Bojan Hoover, a second-year staff member. The student leaders this fall are drum majors Emily Luckhardt, Sam Breyer, Devon Lawrence and Mitchell Mussell. All are seniors, and all played instruments before becoming drum majors.

Asked about the duties of the drum majors, Breyer said, “We set up our rehearsal field, we’re here early every day. We lead stretching, we conduct all the music be it warmups or show excerpts. We always conduct everything.”

The band is further broken down into sections by instrument (plus the color guard, drumline and sideline percussionists), and each section has its own leaders.

The band spends a week at St. John’s University every July, drilling, rehearsing and bonding. St. John’s football coach John Gagliardi – the winningest coach in college football history -- is a regular visitor to the band’s rehearsals.

“John Gagliardi always comes around and says hello,” Olsen said. “He always remarks on how hard these guys work and the discipline they have. He says the admissions office should give scholarships to these kinds of kids.”

All that work, long before the school year begins, allows band members to forge new friendships that carry over when classes start.

“We’re a huge family, it’s really fun,” Luckhardt said. “At the start of the season you might not know a whole lot of people, but as the season goes on you progressively start to build bigger and better relationships. The whole band really just becomes one. Walking into school on the first day, especially back in my freshman year, it’s a huge deal being able to say, ‘Hi, I know you, you’re a senior.’ You’re able to say hi to a lot more people than you would in other activities.”

Luckhardt -- whose father, Jerry Luckhardt, is associate director of bands at the University of Minnesota and former director of the Gophers marching band -- said the commitment of time and work required by the band members is “definitely a second life. We go to band camp and we had drum major camp, that’s an extra 12 days. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, hours and tears to put in a show. But it’s worth it in the long run. Once the season’s done you look back and you can’t even tell how many hours you put in because it goes by so fast and we’re such a family. It’s fun.”

Parents are a big part of competitive marching bands, too, volunteering to build props, sew color guard costumes, load trucks (Rosemount has its own semi-trailer for carrying equipment to competitions) and helping set up and take down equipment at shows.

“There is a fleet of parents behind the scenes,” Olsen said. “It’s a whole community kind of thing. Parents take a lot of pride in it.”

Competitions are held at several schools around the state, including Eden Prairie, Eastview, Irondale, Waseca, Luverne, Marshall, Worthington, Champlin Park and others. This year’s Rosemount Marching Band Festival, held Sept. 15, attracted 18 bands from three states and 6,000 spectators. Bands are judged and scored by experts in various categories, including music performance (individual and ensemble), visual effect (individual and ensemble), and music and visual general effects.

The 2012 Minnesota season will end with the Youth In Music state championships at the Metrodome on Oct. 14. The Bands of America National Super-Regionals in St. Louis will be held Oct. 20-21.

Olsen said it’s his hope that band members take away more than musical skill when the season – and their high school career – comes to an end.

“It’s camaraderie, teamwork, a sense of achievement and pride in the fact that hard work pays off,” he said. “What you put into this you’re going to get out of it, and working together as a team you can accomplish literally anything. Setting goals and achieving them is fun.

“I’ve always been a big believer in the arts and supporting live music. Nowadays, with so much technology around us, it’s so easy to put earbuds in and live in your own world. We want to get an emotional reaction from the audience; that’s the transforming power of the arts. It’s something the students want to be part of for the rest of their lives. They can go on to get involved in a community band, support their own kids in band, support the U of M marching band. There’s something really special about that live interaction with something that’s creative and visceral.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 183
*Miles John has driven: 2,991
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Atmosphere Is Everything In Stillwater, Especially When The Ponies Win9/29/2012
Friday night’s Suburban East Conference contest between Mounds View and Stillwater had just about everything you could ask for in a high school football game. Such as …

--Atmosphere. Second-year Stillwater coach Beau LaBore has done a tremendous job that goes well beyond the X’s and the 0’s. Stillwater’s stadium is covered in school-color signage, the pregame atmosphere included first-rate music played on a great sound system (the in-game music included “Gangnam Style”), the students from both schools were into the game all the way through and there were ponies – two actual, live ponies ridden by young women – on the field before kickoff (as well as people who followed the horses with shovels).

--Injuries: Stillwater came into the game undermanned, with starting quarterback Nate Ricci and starting offensive linemen Danny Buege and Derrick Thingvold out with injuries. And running back Nick Anderson was wobbly at halftime after being hit hard on his final carry of the half, an unsuccessful play on fourth and goal at the 1. Later in the game he suffered an arm injury—his right arm was wrapped in tape – and yet he finished with 37 carries and 204 yards. Mounds View QB Mitch Fredrickson left the game with an injury late in the third quarter and did not return.

--Drama: Mounds View led 14-0 in the first quarter after short touchdown runs by Matt Harding and TJ Horn. Stillwater tied it 14-14 on second-quarter scores by Anderson and Trevor Tillett, who stepped in at quarterback. The only second-half scoring came with 54 seconds left in regulation, when French exchange student Danny Laudet kicked a 35-yard field goal; he had missed all five previous attempts this season, including two Friday. The game ended with Mounds View attempting a 43-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, but the Ponies blocked the kick and time ran out.

Final score: Stillwater 17, Mounds View 14. Each team now has a record of 4-1 and a share of first place in the Suburban East. Mounds View was No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press Class 6A rankings and Stillwater was No. 7.

So this game, and this result, were big.

“We had our best week of practice,” LaBore said. “Our players bought into a couple of things this week that were very important. We shared with them the (Gophers coach) Jerry Kill philosophy, ‘Next man up.’ We were a little beat up so we had to have guys step up. And those guys stepped up.

“Secondly, it was going to be a four-quarter game. Things weren’t going to go perfectly. There was going to be adversity but we were going to play football and play physical all game long. Both those things played out. You win football games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And it was our best Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all year.”

With Ricci nursing a bad ankle, a lot of the Friday night burden fell on Tillett, a junior. He managed the run-heavy offense nicely and completed four of 12 passes for 57 yards.

“Of course there’s pressure but my teammates picked me up all week long,” Tillett said. “Nate did a great job of leading me and it feels great to look at that scoreboard.”

Laudet was the game’s final hero, kicking the winner after missing from 51 and 54 yards earlier in the game.

“I screwed up a couple times, I missed two that I shouldn’t have missed,” he said. “I know I let my teammates down. But they all gave me a shot at the end. I just do what I do. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s an emotional high. It’s unreal.”

--View a photo gallery from the game at the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 95
*Miles John has driven: 2,801
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Student Media Day With The Twins: Given a Chance9/26/2012
(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended a Minnesota Twins game through the MSHSL Student Media program. Four students received media credentials for the Twins-White Sox game on Sept. 15 at Target Field.)

By Jared Rubado
Brainerd High School

When an MLB manager calls a person into his office, the outcome is 50/50. The player never knows the outcome, but he knows that he will be given a chance. The person could get the chance to impress the manager on the field, the chance to play for a different team, or even get second chances. It’s safe to say that you don't know what to expect when you walk through those doors. There were four of us, and from the beginning we knew exactly what we were getting into. We were given a chance. The chance of a lifetime.

My name is Jared Rubado, I am a junior at Brainerd High School. I am a part of the MSHSL Student Media program. My goal in life is to be a sports journalist for a website such as Grantland (ESPN), or a magazine such as Sports Illustrated. John Millea, our Student Media coordinator, set up an opportunity for four Student Media reporters to go to a Minnesota Twins baseball game. I was interested from the beginning, along with three other students across the state. In an email, John told us, “We will be on the field before the game, in the press box during the game and will observe postgame media interviews.” That alone would have been an amazing experience. Little did I know that I was in for way more.

I have been a Twins fan my whole life. I make the most out of every game I go to. I get to the game hours before the first pitch, just to get a glimpse of the pregame warmups. I have always seen kids get the chance to walk on the field themselves. I have envied them for years. When I got the news that I had been accepted for the Student Media day at Target Field, it was a dream come true. The Twins would be playing the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 15 at 12:10 in the afternoon.

I walked into the Target Field plaza at 9:45. The day was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. I met the other aspiring journalists and John at Gate 29. We waited 15 minutes until Chris Iles from the Twins corporate communications department (also our guide for the day), gave us our credentials. We left our parents behind with two free tickets to the game. As we walked in, our day had officially started.

Our first stop was the Twins clubhouse and we were escorted inside to the center of the players’ locker room. I personally had never seen a locker room so nice in my 16-year existence. We were allowed to have a private pregame interview with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire before the professional media came in. We asked our questions and listened to him talk about many different things. He talked about, baseball, college football and how he spends his off days. The most interesting thing was when he told us that if he had not gone into baseball, he would have gone into the military.

When the media came in, it was a bit daunting. They were nice, but they were there to do business. Their serious presence was overwhelmingly exciting for me, knowing that they get to do this on a day-to-day basis. It was then and there that I knew for sure that I was going to pursue a journalism career.

After the pregame interview, we went to lunch. We were introduced to the Fox Sports North crew. They were very relaxed, especially Bert Blyleven. He was cracking jokes left and right. We ate our lunches and then we were escorted onto the field. We couldn't go on the grass but we were allowed to observe from the backstop. When I looked into a fan’s eyes, I saw a bit of jealousy, I could only picture that’s what I have looked like when I looked at other field-goers from the stands.

It was time to take our seats in the press box. I have never seen such a perfect view of a sporting event in my life. We were seated on the far right of the press box. When I turned my head for the first time, I saw everybody that we had met during the day. The game started and I had never felt so comfortable at a Twins game before. The main rule of the press box is you are not allowed to cheer. I thought that would be difficult for me because I always cheer enthusiastically, but it wasn’t.

We watched for the first inning, but during the second inning we had a surprise. We were taken into the radio booth for the top half of the inning. Cory Provus was broadcasting the game and then, out of nowhere, he said our names on the radio. For the bottom half of the inning we were given the chance to talk to Terry Ryan, the Twins general manager. During games he carries a stopwatch to time various things such as delivery of the pitcher or the speed of baserunners. He explained, “In these last few weeks of a season, some players may be fighting for a spot on next year’s team.”

We returned to our seats in the press box for the rest of the game. The Twins were shut down by former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano. They were down 4-0 until the seventh inning when Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run home run. The Twins were down 5-2 in the ninth inning. They got the bases loaded but were only able to get one run.

For our last event for the day, it was back to Gardy’s office for the postgame interview. We observed the reporters ask their questions once again. Then all of them filed out and we were alone with the manager for the last time. At that moment we didn’t know what he was going to say, but we know it had to do with chance.