Marching on

MARSHALL – The Marshall High School marching band, its director and a group of dedicated volunteers have been working in harmony this week to present another premier marching band extravaganza. The 18th annual Pursuit of Excellence band festival will take place Saturday at Mattke Field at the Schwan Regional Event Center at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Along with 18 high school marching bands from around the upper Midwest competing against each other, the Marshall High School band and SMSU pep band will give exhibition performances.

Four states will be represented at Pursuit: Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

“We have two from Nebraska this year,” said Wayne Ivers, the MHS band director. “A band from Omaha is coming. Bellevue was here last year.”

Ivers said he is hearing buzz that the band members are looking forward to coming to Marshall.

“It’s an educational, fun and competitive day,” Ivers said. “It’s top-notch entertainment.”

Marshall is a favorite place for bands to come.

“They like coming here for three reasons,” Ivers said. “One, the volunteers. The volunteers are huge. They work with the bands – if one kid forgets his horn back home, a volunteer would get him one so he could still play. We always hear feedback saying, ‘the band hosts are wonderful.’ Volunteers also work concessions.”

Reason No. 2, Ivers said, is the venue – the SMSU stadium.

“There is a big berm there and with the roof – it really holds in the sound,” he said. “It makes the itty-bitty band sound big and a big band sound incredible.”

Another advantage is there is no track separating the bands and the stands, he said – “it’s just a fun place to perform.”

Bands also like having a home room at SMSU – a place for them to put their stuff and change their clothes.

And last but not least of the reasons why Pursuit is a favored band festival is the judging.

The judging during competition is a “one-time read,” Ivers said, but during the clinics the band gets almost two hours of working with a professional.

The judges are from New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, California and Tennessee and offer a different perspective.

“It’s nice to get a read from someone who is not local,” Ivers said.

Ivers said he looks for certain criteria in selecting judges – “are they current? Do they know the trends in marching band? We want to be cutting edge, to try new things,” Ivers said. “They must be able to relate with the kids one on one. They must be knowledgeable and very involved in band.”

Ivers said Pursuit is where people can see the best bands in the region.

“They are the best of the best,” he said. “You don’t get a chance to see that caliber performing at once.”