GRAND FORKS, N..D. — After a two-year break, Pride of the North Band Day returned to the University of North Dakota in record-setting fashion, with more students than ever from more communities participating in a Nov. 16 halftime performance at the Fighting Hawks football game at the Alerus Center.
In addition to seeing UND’s dramatic 45-38 win over Northern Colorado, football fans were treated to the sights and sounds of nearly 800 students from UND and 33 high schools from around the region, playing a halftime show with the University’s Pride of the North marching band.
“I hope the fans enjoyed what’s possible with 800 musicians on the field,” said Robert Brooks, UND Pride of the North Band director, who launched the event back in 2006 and directed his 11th Band Day. “It’s certainly spectacular and something you don’t see every day. We wanted everyone to appreciate that live music is alive and well.”
The band recognized for traveling the farthest also brought the largest contingent. The 170-member Spirit of Worthington Trojan Marching Band made the six-hour bus trip from Worthington, Minn., to Grand Forks. The band also gave an on-field marching performance after the football game, featuring its “We the People” themed parade show. Next month, Worthington’s band will play at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
Showcasing the Pride of the North
“What a great way to show the kids that there’s this marching opportunity that the Pride of the North offers here at UND,” remarked Jon Loy, Worthington High School band director. “I think there’d be a lot of seeds planted today for kids who are sophomores, juniors or even seniors to maybe take a tour of UND. I know we have one student who’s already had a campus visit here.”
The Worthington band’s four senior commanders — Sarah DeSmith, Katie O’Donnell, Cynthia Souksavath and A.J. Wass — expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to participate in UND’s Band Day.
“I think it’s been really cool,” Wass said. “It’s fun to play with a lot of other musicians who know the music and know what’s going on. It’s probably one of the biggest bands I’ll ever play in.”
Souksavath, who plays the clarinet and serves as one of the band’s drum majors during the marching season, gave her thoughts as a future college student.
“I’m not planning on majoring in music, but I do love playing my instrument,” she said. “UND students look like they have so much fun. It’s a good time.”
That’s exactly what Brooks hoped to accomplish when he launched the event as a way to show high school students in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota that the University was a good fit for aspiring musicians. Over the years, he said many Band Day participants have joined the ranks of the Pride of the North.
Continuing music education
“I wanted high school students to have a good experience at UND,” Brooks said. “When they’re looking for schools, they’ll know UND is a fun, entertaining place. We do a lot of great things here, and I like to show off our band. That’s why I originally started it. It’s about exposing high school students to the whole college experience.”
O’Donnell found Band Day a unique musical experience that was also valuable in helping her make a decision about continuing her music education in college.
“It’s interesting to be with people of different ages and different experience levels, from the UND band to the people just starting to march,” she said. “I’m trying to decide if I want to do music in college. It’s nice to get to know what they do in band as college students. It’s good to see how in college, everyone buys into band because it’s not just a class; it’s something you choose to do.”
Brooks said another important aspect of Band Day is to show students how they can stay involved in music beyond high school.
“We can help students decide whether they want to stay in music, even if they’re not majoring in it,” he said. “Kids don’t always know they can keep playing their instruments, no matter what major they’re in. That’s the other side of it — just keep them playing.”
Assisting prospective students
In addition, UND’s Music Department worked with Admissions and Athletics to make the experience helpful for prospective students. Fifteen booths set up on the Alerus Center concourse were manned by University personnel to provide information and guidance during the event.
“It’s been really well organized, and I’ve made friends with a lot of people from different schools,” said DeSmith. “Personally, I’m thinking of going into education. It’s great to be able to talk to representatives of the different departments at UND to get a feel for if I want to continue doing music in college, which is something I’ve been considering. It’s a great opportunity.”
The response Brooks received from high school band directors to bringing back Band Day was nothing but positive.
“They’ve been thanking me for providing this opportunity again because it’s something unique for their kids to experience,” he noted. “Some directors have told me their kids will talk about it for the next two months, which is great. That’s what I want. I want the kids to be excited about band, marching band and excited about music in general. Overall, we want to give them a great musical experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
As soon as one Band Day is done, planning for the next one begins. Brooks said he couldn’t manage it without a great staff that puts many unseen hours into making the event a success. He recognized Janice Hoffarth, administrative officer; Tammy Mulske, assistant director of bands; Brian Pfeifer, instructor of percussion and jazz studies; and Cory Driscoll, Pride of the North assistant director and jazz studies, for their efforts.
“What we do at UND on Band Day translates into what’s going on out in the high schools in the state and around the area,” Brooks said. “We want to show our appreciation for all the work the school directors do and to the kids for their talent.”