|We cannot forget: Scott Groth, our drum major around 1970|
Well. . . Let's give credit where credit is due, because certainly marching band is a healthy outlet for young people. You will always find some people in the academia side of music who feel marching band is a tedious exercise that doesn't bring any real musical enrichment. If musical enrichment is your total yardstick, there is probably merit in that argument. Such music academicians would say the same thing about pep band.
I am old enough to remember UMM had a pep band for sports. This was at the old P.E. Annex, fading into the recesses of our collective memory. The Annex was like the venue we saw in the "Absent Minded Professor" movie w/ Fred MacMurray. I'm biased as I share reflections on UMM's pep band days. My later father directed it. He wrote the original UMM "fight song." Regardless of what you think of that tune, I will say this: If you were to hear a band do this, with its heart in it, and to see the fans likewise with their heart in enjoying it, it was impressive.
Adjusting to demands
We advanced into a new phase where girls and women got equal opportunities in sports - it is hard (and rather painful) to recall the days when such opportunities weren't there. The increased opportunities meant more games on the calendar. The women wanted as much attention from the band as the men got, totally logical. But this presented the obvious logistical problem for the musicians: they would get overcommitted.
As a result, UMM had no pep band any more. They began playing a recording of the U of M Rouser from the main campus, excuse me "Twin Cities campus." You should know there was a time, back when small towns all over Minnesota had their own high schools, sports teams and mascots, when the Minnesota Rouser was the default choice as "school song" in many places. It got so bad that I remember once when us kids were present for a tournament game, we laughed as yet another small town pep band broke into the Minnesota Rouser.
|John Woell leads his charges in parade, early '70s|
Nevertheless, waves of students came through the place and would rave about it. But, no pep band at sports events. No marching band.
Morris Area should set pace?
How should I react to my recent critic who suggested that marching band is more alive out here than what I suggested? Well, I would point out that I consider Morris Area High School as a prime barometer for judging how school activities are going. We are a relatively large school out here. Aren't we larger than West Central Area, Underwood and Hancock? But MAHS has no marching band. It put forth a token group with drums-only for a time, but I'm not sure this has continued.
Are there any excuses for why MAHS doesn't offer marching band? You could argue that our school could put together such a group for a one-time event, like Hancock does for their Fourth. Couldn't our school do this for Prairie Pioneer Days or maybe the Homecoming parade? If the kids aren't used to playing while marching - a skill that needs some practice - then don't do it. I have seen the Hancock band when Ken Grunig was director there, simply stop along the parade route, long enough to play their tune. Then they'd resume marching. That solves everything.
I have lived in Morris most of my life so I know the kind of rebuttal I'd get if I suggested that MAHS field a marching band. We have been jokingly referenced as an "apathy capital." Del Sarlette has long suggested we have an "apathy festival" in Morris, but he says the problem is "no one shows up for the planning meeting." Rimshot.
So, the director would probably say she wouldn't be able to get enough kids interested. She would have to be paid for the additional commitment, I'm sure. I don't know how WCA and Underwood deal with this. There apparently are some communities where they just have the wherewithal to make it happen. That's the attitude I'm inclined to take but then again, I have always been sort of an outlier in Morris. I have suggested we try to re-start the boys tennis program.
Schaefer, Woell and a marching heyday
You should know of course that Morris has a significant historical chapter of having an ambitious marching band. I know because I was in it. Its peak according to legend was when Bob Schaefer was here. Schaefer moved on, I believe to Brookings SD. His personal life gained some notice here, as I recall, and that's as far as I care to wade into that. I played under Schaefer when I was in junior high. I remember him turning to the audience and saying, "Here's one that I'm sure you all know, Hava Nagila." This was at the old elementary auditorium, the art deco place now razed.
Schaefer gave way to John Woell. For whatever reasons, Woell was not as endearing as Schaefer in the public's eye. From an objective viewpoint, Woell seemed to keep standards just as high. But people weren't as inclined to sing his praises, not like with Schaefer.
We worked hard in marching band under Woell, and traveled far. We visited Winnipeg as an exciting endeavor, an endeavor that included concert band as well as marching band. I remember one of our musical hosts coming to the podium and addressing us by wanting to know more about Morris. "Jerry Koosman!" bellowed out Scott Groth. Groth played saxophone but is best remembered as drum major. He was a big guy and somewhat of a character. We recall him lovingly as a student.
I probably got some advantages in marching band because of the family I came from. I wouldn't even rule out my father pulling some strings in that way. I can't criticize my father for anything, but frankly I wish I had never gotten advantages in anything.
We can live with a little sinning
I remember during our Winnipeg trip, there was a trombone player who was from a church that prohibited watching television. This young man was glued to the TV set in his hotel room, watching as much TV as he could possibly get. So much for TV being immoral or whatever. I wonder what attitude that church took about personal computers. It's a church with members known for being very aggressive seeking business success. Can you imagine trying to be successful in business today without computers? Expedience is handy sometimes.
Should Morris have a marching band today? The suggestion would bring a torrent of excuses that are common for Morris, generally tied to apathy or consistent with apathy: "The kids aren't interested." "The kids are gone with their family to the lake, kids have jobs." I heard the "jobs" excuse for football pep band once. I think the occasion was Labor Day weekend. I joked with Jerry Witt: "Does the whole band work at Willie's?"
Well, I suspect that good ol' Willie's is trimming its workforce these days, following the example of all of business where profits must be maximized by any means necessary. Willie's will have to keep pushing the "self-checkout" which I refuse to learn. They'll have to keep pushing it because the corporate higher-ups will say so. That's how our society is organized now, until we get sick of it and use the political process to alter it. Just elect Democrats.
Don't forget the Irondale marching band coming here to practice and perform. This avant garde group will perform for the public on July 26 which (unfortunately) is the same night as Horticulture Night. The Hort. Night people will certainly be able to hear the musicians who will be at Big Cat Stadium.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org