Fulda’s marching band marks 60th yearWORTHINGTON — Fulda’s official mascot may be the wood duck, but when September rolls around, the Fulda High School marching band is all about the turkey.
By: Jane Turpin Moore, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Fulda’s official mascot may be the wood duck, but when September rolls around, the Fulda High School marching band is all about the turkey.
“We are a summer marching band, with most of our marching taking place in June and early July,” said director Mike Peterson. “The King Turkey Day parade is the only one we participate in each fall, and it’s a premier parade — one of the best in southwest Minnesota.”
Peterson knows whereof he speaks; he is beginning his 34th season as band director for Fulda Public Schools and for the past seven years he has also been the district’s choir director for grades 7-12.
When the Fulda Senior High School marching band, with 80 eighth- through 12th-grade members, hits Worthington’s 10th Street this Saturday, playing its signature “Trumpet Voluntary” and processing with its trademark military precision, it will be the group’s 60th consecutive appearance at King Turkey Day.
Peterson will accept a special plaque honoring his band’s historic moment as the Fulda musicians (30th out of the 115 parade entries for 2011) pass the parade reviewing stand.
“Mike Peterson is a class act,” said Jon Loy, director of Worthington High School’s band program since 2006. “Sixty years is quite a milestone, and it shows a lot of dedication to and support of our parade. From director to director, the Fulda staff all placed similar importance on sharing their hometown pride and participating in a neighboring community festival.
“We were glad to be able to return the favor by having the Worthington High School band perform at the Wood Duck Festival parade this past June—our band’s first appearance there since Glenn Evensen was director here — and that was enabled by our return to a partial summer marching band schedule this year.”
Peterson, a native of Elbow Lake who began his Fulda teaching career in 1978 after spending one year in Okabena, succeeded Eldy Quarnstrom, who had led the Fulda band for the previous 10 years.
Phil Nordin began the Fulda marching band’s King Turkey Day (KTD) parade tradition in 1951, with Erv Rotenberry and Walter Wright both taking their turns at keeping the habit going prior to Quarnstrom’s and Peterson’s longer tenures.
“I inherited a fine band program, and I didn’t change very much when I first came in,” said Peterson, who has since led his student musicians to band competitions and parades — with many resulting championships and awards — in more than seven states and Canada besides. “I receive terrific support from the school administration, the school board and the people of the Fulda area, who consider it not ‘the’ Fulda band but ‘our’ Fulda band.
“I start almost every kid on a band instrument at the end of fourth grade,” Peterson continued. “Granted, band isn’t for everyone, but when everyone tries it, they have a chance to find that out. I have had quite a few second generation students whose parents I had in my band years ago.”
While he has instructed more than three decades of band students and is likely the music teacher with the longest record in southwest Minnesota at present, Peterson and his wife, Lisa, have simultaneously raised their own family of three children — daughters Alicia and Tammy, both Concordia College alumni, and son Todd, a current Fulda High School junior.
“Alicia played clarinet, Tammy played saxophone, and Todd plays tuba,” Peterson said, also noting that all three of his children were among the many Fulda band students to qualify for All-State music groups over the years.
“We usually have an All-State student or two each year out of the band, and we’ve had up to three on occasion,” Peterson said.
Peterson has settled on a distinct formula for success, training his band to perform in a military marching style with straight ranks and files.
“We wear striking, handsome, red and black uniforms, and we march strictly down the street,” Peterson said. “We try really hard to stay in step and in phase so everything looks identical, and we strive for a very balanced concert band sound.
“We have a rifle squad, flag squad, color guard and banner up front, preceding the instruments, and I’m always proud of those squads of kids, too,” Peterson said. “They take great pride in their roles, and people still stand for the American flag and color guard, if they’re present, so it’s important to have them there.”
Peterson’s efforts have paid off; he says some people have told him that his band is the reason they attend the KTD parade annually, and he often has Fulda alumni ask if the band is still playing “Trumpet Voluntary,” which he says “has brought us quite a bit of success.”
The Fulda marching band, whose student numbers have fluctuated from 80 to a high of 110 in the 1990s, has been at the KTD parade in all kinds of weather, and with 33 years under his belt, Peterson has witnessed the extremes.
“We’ve marched in Worthington when it was 85 and 90 degrees, and also when it was 39 degrees,” recalled Peterson with a laugh. “We’ve seen rain and snow, and in 2005 when the parade had a rain delay, we came down to Worthington when the parade got under way and kept the tradition going.”
This year, Peterson’s band will be one of five marching bands, the others being Loy’s WHS Trojans (performing their “Phantom of the Opera” parade show, which they will take to the streets of Chicago in November for the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day parade), the West Central High School band from Hartford, S.D., the Central Lyon Middle School band from Iowa, and the Worthington Middle School (WMS) band, whose 145 sixth- through eighth-grade members will perform the “Raiders’ March” under the direction of Mike Andersen.
“Not as many schools continue to support their marching bands,” said Peterson, who remembers the marching band heyday when the KTD parade commonly drew 10 to 13 bands or more. “But five bands is enough for a real fine parade.
“People expect bands to be in parades, and they want to be entertained by them,” Peterson said. “Taking your band to a parade is great publicity, because more people see them on the streets than in concert halls.”
And as long as Peterson directs the Fulda band, you can bank on its appearance at the KTD parade.
He is quick to express his gratitude for his teaching career in Fulda, which he calls “ a really good run to date.”
“The faculty, staff, school board and administration in Fulda all get along well together,” Peterson said. “Primarily, my family and I have stayed here because we feel very supported, very safe and very appreciated.”