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For Bison band members, ‘it’s like a sport’

FARGO -- There's a lot of sweat. A lot of hours of practice. Endless repetition to build teamwork. Sometimes, the physical and mental effort can seem like a grind, but when they hit the football field at the Fargodome, members of the North Dakota...

The Gold Star Marching Band makes a public performance Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, at the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
The Gold Star Marching Band makes a public performance Nov. 22 at the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg | Forum News Service

FARGO - There’s a lot of sweat. A lot of hours of practice. Endless repetition to build teamwork. Sometimes, the physical and mental effort can seem like a grind, but when they hit the football field at the Fargodome, members of the North Dakota State University Gold Star Marching Band feel they’ve earned it.
Jimmy Miller is in his fourth year playing the sousaphone with the band. The Hazen, N.D., senior said fall is busy for the 175-member band.
“It’s tiring, and these weigh about 35 pounds,” he said of the sousaphones.
In addition to playing every game, Miller said, there’s the extra pep rallies, the homecoming parade and practices.
“It’s like a sport,” he said.
And just like it has been for the football team, the cherry on top the past four years has been playing at the Football Championship Subdivision finals in Frisco, Texas. The Bison football team has won four straight national titles there.
“It’s kind of the highlight of the year,” Miller said.
Band director Sigurd Johnson said he’s glad the band, 80 percent aren’t music majors, got a break over Thanksgiving to rest. When the Bison take the field for their first playoff game against Montana on Saturday, “we’ll be prepared and we’ll do our part to keep the Bison winning,” he said.
Johnson said it’s a teaching band.
“They’re in it because they want to be in the Gold Star Marching Band,” he said.
On the sidelines, Josh Reiten plays marimba. The freshman from Blaine, Minn., said there’s a lot of music to memorize.
“I would say it’s similar to memorizing a playbook for a sport,” he said.
The hours also add up, Amanda Wager said.
The Casselton freshman said the year starts with a weeklong band camp before classes start in the fall. During the semester, band members have two-hour rehearsals three times a week. There’s an early-morning rehearsal on game day. Some band members play tunes for tailgaters. Then there is playing during the game and for the halftime show. By the time a typical Saturday at the Fargodome is in the books, band members have spent 12 to 14 hours there.
“It’s tough, but it’s a lot of fun in the end,” Wagar said.
“It’s like a big family,” Miller said.
Band members recently strutted their stuff at the annual Sounds of the Gridiron concert at the dome.
Attired in gold-trimmed green jackets, black pants and green high-plumed hats, the band marched onto the field from the same entrance as the football team (minus the inflatable helmet), to cheers and applause from 2,000 people who attended the hourlong event.
The band showcased music from this year’s halftime shows, including tunes from Bruno Mars, Queen, a 1980s mix, some patriotic songs and a salute to veterans.
It wrapped up with an introduction of the band’s seniors, the school song and rouser, and a rendition of “In Heaven There is No Beer.”
Adrian Calvo of Puerto Rico was in town for a training session with her firm and decided to head to the dome.
“They are great. This is really great,” she said.
Don and Carol Olgeirson of West Fargo sat in the first row to see their nephew, Jordan Kurtz, play his baritone.
“This is actually the first time I’ve seen him play. This is pretty cool,” Carol Olgeirson said.
Paul and Susan Opperman watched the show from a spectator entrance to the stands.
“Fantastic!” Paul Opperman said.
Susan Opperman, an NDSU alumna, was excited for a week leading up to the event.
“I miss seeing the band when we watch (Bison games) on TV,” she said. “They really need to show the band at home games at halftime.”
Normally, the band attracts 1,500 people to its Fargodome shows, so Johnson was happy to see more fans in the stands.
“I’d love to have this whole side filled; get 10,000 people in here,” he said.

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