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'E' is for excellence

Pursuit of Excellence competition once again delights the senses

September 24, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Despite temperatures that hovered around 40 degrees by late evening, passionate supporters enthusiastically hunkered down in the packed bleachers to enjoy the sights and sounds of the competition and to cheer on their favorite school at the 17th annual Pursuit of Excellence Southwest Minnesota Marching Band Festival Saturday at the Regional Event Center at Southwest Minnesota State University.

A record 20 marching bands from the Upper Midwest competed in the four divisions Saturday, in addition to exhibition performances by the Marshall Tiger marching band and SMSU Mustang pep band.

"I love how nice everybody is," said Catherine Lippke, commander of the Sioux City North (Iowa) marching band. "All the staff and volunteers for this competition are so nice. It's so great."

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk

Marshall High School color guard member Brittany Schultze was front-and-center wearing a big smile during the 17th annual Pursuit of Excellence Southwest Minnesota Marching Band Festival on Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University. See more photos Monday at

The North High Marching Stars were unable to attend Pursuit last year because of a conflict with homecoming, but band members were more than happy to have the opportunity to perform their show, "The Great American Pastime."

"Our producers were like, 'You guys can be our guinea pigs for a new show,'" Lippke said. "We wanted to do something different than anyone's done before. So we were like 'Oh, alright.' But we ended up loving the baseball theme. It's definitely one of our favorites."

Considering it was its first competition of the season, Lippke, a senior, thought the Marching Stars did a good job.

Fact Box

Pursuit of Excellence Results

Ivory Class

2012 Grand Champion - Bellevue West H.S., Bellevue, Neb. (outstanding visual effect, outstanding color guard)

1. Lincoln H.S., Sioux Falls. S.D. (outstanding general effect, outstanding music, outstanding brass and outstanding woodwinds)

2. Eden Prairie H.S (outstanding concert percussion, outstanding commanders)

3. Irondale H.S., New Brighton (outstanding battery, outstanding percussion)

4. MOC Floyd Valley H.S., Orange City, Iowa

Navy Class

1. Roosevelt H.S., Sioux Falls, S.D. (outstanding music, outstanding visual, outstanding woodwinds, outstanding battery and concert percussion, outstanding color guard and outstanding commanders)

2. Washinton H.S., Sioux Falls, S.D.

3. Mitchell HS, Mitchell, S.D.

4. North H.S., Sioux City, Iowa

5. Central H.S., Aberdeen, S.D.

Crimson Class

1. Hastings H.S. (outstanding visual effect, outstanding color guard)

2. Sheldon H.S., Sheldon, Iowa (outstanding brass, outstanding woodwinds, general effect and music)

3. Sibley Ocheyedan H.S., Sibley, Iowa

4. Andover H.S. (outstanding battery and percussion, outstanding concert percussion)

5. West High School, Sioux City, Iowa (outstanding commanders)

6. Madison H.S., Madison, S.D.

7. Huron H.S., Huron, S.D.

Gold Class

1. Anoka H.S. (outstanding brass-tie, outstanding battery and percussion, outstanding concert percussion, outstanding music effect and visual)

2. ROCORI H.S., Cold Spring (outstanding brass, outstanding woodwinds, outstanding color guard and general effect)

3. West Lyon H.S., Inwood, Iowa (outstanding commanders)

"I definitely think we did better than we expected to," she said. "It was amazing out there on the field. I loved it."

The North High School band placed fourth in the Navy class behind Mitchell (S.D.), Sioux Falls Washington (S.D.) and Sioux Falls Roosevelt, which earned outstanding music, visual, woodwinds, battery percussion, concert percussion, color guard and commanders honors.

Annette Dotzler, whose daughter Annamarie is a sophomore flute player for North, was extremely excited to see the band perform. "They just got new uniforms," Dotzler said. "The color guard are dressed up like baseball players. It's really cute."

Dotzler was anxious to see if the band incorporated any new suggestions they received at the clinics earlier in the day into the evening performance. A total of 13 professional judges from 12 states were in in town Saturday.

In Lippke's opinion, waiting for the results after performing was the most difficult, but attending the clinics beforehand were the most productive.

"I absolutely love the clinic," she said. "It helped us so much."

Bellevue West High School (Neb.) earned grand champion sweepstakes honors, competing in the Ivory class. The band was also recognized for outstanding visual effect and color guard. Sioux Falls Lincoln (S.D.) and Eden Prairie High School trailed close behind.

"There was .7 between the top three bands," Marshall High School Director Wayne Ivers said. "That says a lot about the quality of the bands at the competition this year."

Hastings H.S. won the Crimson class, along with grabbing recognition for outstanding visual effect and color guard. Sheldon High School (Iowa) and Sibley Ocheyedan High School (Iowa) finished second and third respectively.

Anoka High School topped the Gold class, earning outstanding brass, battery, percussion, concert percussion, music effect and visual honors.

Halfway through the competition, Ivers recognized Marshall's Doreen Peterson, an original Pursuit of Excellence committee member.

"She has helped do it all," Ivers said. "From scheduling meetings, to e-mailing me to remind me to schedule meetings, to taking care of band sponsors, trophies and T-shirts. She's had five kids go through the MHS band program and now has nieces and nephews marching. And, she's still involved."

MHS graduate Meghan Carmody was also recognized for her participation in the SMSU Mustang pep band, which entertained the crowd with its "Dance Party" music.

By the time MHS took the field at 11 p.m., a bitterly cold temperature had replaced the cool fall weather. Despite some concerns, the young musicians and color guard members showed their dedication and perseverance.

"We were deciding whether or not to wear our uniforms or just wear long sleeves and pants," said Andrea Caron, MHS freshman color guard member. "Luckily, our bodies warmed up during the performance. But our feet were just kind of frozen because we were barefoot."

As much as it hurt, Caron said, the dedicated members of the color guard just ran back and put socks on as quickly as possible.

"I thought we did really well," Caron said. "We had a full day of practicing, so we learned a lot of new stuff (Saturday). We were testing it out on the field."

Alex Mathiowetz, senior alto sax player for MHS, said the temperature did have an effect on the sound during the late-night performance.

"There were tuning issues, but we were expecting that to happen because it's a little bit cold out," Mathiowetz said. "It's the first time it's been cold this year. (Assistant director Garrick Rudolf) said we played really well and he was proud of us."

Mathiowetz also felt that the Tiger marching band performance was really good, which he attributes to quality practices.

"We had a good practice this morning," he said. "You perform like you practice. It also helps with how we warm up. You have to have the focus in warmups, so that you can perform well."

The "Letters from the Sky" show gave the audience a unique visual experience, Mathiowetz said. The 2012 show is his favorite of the four during his high school music career.

"We have these lights so you can see the effect of the twinkling stars and lights," he said. "We make stars and constellations and we swirl into a black hole at the end. It's really fun to play and to march. It's really cool."

Since MHS co-sponsors the Pursuit of Excellence competition, the band's performance is judged, but the results are only shared with Ivers and assistants Chad Przymus, Wes Myers and Rudolf.

"It's a fun show," Przymus said. "I'm pleased with the show this year."

The Tiger marching band show takes about 8 minutes this year, Przymus said. Since each band has a total of 15 minutes to set up and perform, most competitive performances are just under 10 minutes, he said.

"Our movement and music is continuous this year, so it saves on a lot of downtime," Przymus said.

The Pursuit marks the third public performance given by the MHS marching band. Once the season gets started, Przymus said, it's a busy time of year.

"We have six weekends of competition, plus the Pursuit," he said. "Next weekend is the Starfest competition in Sioux City. We're also going to the (Bands of America) Super Regional Competition in St. Louis (Mo.) in October."



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