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VIDEO: March on!: Bemidji High School Marching Band takes fun and music in stride

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For Erin Jones and her teammates, it’s not always fun to march to one’s own tune.

Jones is one of Bemidji High School Marching Band’s drum majors. She and her drum mates have to be in tune and in step with more than 80 others on the BHS band to make their show a success.

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“You have to trust yourself and know you can do it, and you have to learn to trust others,” Jones said.

Each year, Derek Wickum, band director at Bemidji High School, has a choice to make when deciding the show’s theme. “It’s kind of fun to pick music that the kids will like, put a show together that will entertain an audience,” Wickum said.

This year, the show is “The Blues Brothers,”  which features two students, Brad Kovacovich and Taylor Otness, who act as Jake and Elwood Blue from “The Blues Brothers” movie as they dance alongside the band as it marches. “We have the band dancing, too,” said Arlo Baratono, another drum major. “Since it’s based on the movie, the choreography comes from the movie, so if you have seen it, then you recognize it and that makes it kind of fun,” Jones said. Before the end of the school year, typically about March, the band starts learning their music. As soon as the school year is over, the marching band starts practicing outdoors as much as they can. “We just do it every day, from 8 a.m. to noon, we hit it hard as much as we can,” Wickum said.

Wickum said he enjoys everything about marching band, from hearing the students play the music for the first time, to teaching the drills and perfecting the movements to attending parades and competitions.

“My favorite part of this whole marching stuff is when you have those kids that finally get it, because you watch them do the routine and all of a sudden they look good and it makes sense,” he said.

Student leadership from current and alumni band members is a huge reason for the band’s success. This year, the marching band features several first time marchers, but it also includes “six super seniors, we have a lot of kids who have done it for a long time, who can really help,” said Wickum. And each year, a few college students, who are still involved with marching, come back and spend time teaching with the group.

The marching band typically participates in five or six parades each summer, although this summer has been significantly less because of inclement weather. The last parade that will Bemidji marching band will compete in this summer is the Viking Band Festival in Alexandria, known as the unofficial state championship for parade marching in Minnesota. “We’re hoping that it’s entertaining enough and clean enough and musical enough that we could be at least a consideration for a people’s choice award,” Wickum said.

The Bemidji High School marching band will compete in the Vikingland Band Festival starting at 1:30 p.m. today in Alexandria.

The parade travels south on Alexandria’s main street, Broadway, between Sixth Avenue and 15th Avenue. Bemidji will be the 21st band to perform and will compete in class AAA.

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