Readers know that my biggest life accomplishments include five years in the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, and its outside-football edition Varsity Band.
Just in the last almost quarter-century the band has played in six Rose Bowls and numerous other bowl games (the Cotton Bowl back in January), a Packers game (plus the LSU–Wisconsin game this past fall), NCAA and Big Ten basketball tournaments, NCAA hockey Frozen Fours, and of course the annual three-day extravaganza at the Kohl Center later this month, the biggest concert held in the city of Madison every year.
A preview of that extravaganza — without pyrotechnics and flying band directors — can be seen at Lancaster High School Sunday at 2 p.m. Morris Newspapers Corporation of Wisconsin, the owner of your favorite weekly newspaper, is sponsoring the concert, along with the Platteville Music Boosters, with assistance from the Lancaster High School music department, Lancaster Lions and Lancaster Music Boosters.
That list of where the band has begin includes only two events in my five years in the band, the late Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., and the first hockey Final Four in UW’s former Western Collegiate Hockey Association. (That, and a road trip to Las Vegas, where I came one 7 away from winning a Ferrari on a slot machine. Really.) Let’s just say that those Badger fans who think that annual bowl games and NCAA basketball tournament appearances are their birthright, and get upset in seasons that don’t end in the Final Four or in the Bowl Championship Series, should have been around in the 1980s. Perhaps we older Badger fans appreciate today’s excellence coached by Platteville’s own Paul Chryst and Iowa–Grant’s own Greg Gard more than younger fans.
This concert is the brainchild of John Ingebritsen, publisher of your favorite weekly newspaper. One criterion for hosting a concert is having a band member from your hometown — in his case Ryan, John’s son, and in Platteville’s case Anna Musarra, who made a cameo appearance at the Platteville High School band concert March 23. There were three dates available, two in February (a hideously busy month for high school sports) and one in April. Williams Fieldhouse (where I played in a band concert in 1984) was not available in April, but LHS was Sunday.
Seats are still available. They’re being sold by Lancaster, Platteville and Dodgeville band parents, at the Grant County Herald Independent office in Lancaster, and, here in Platteville, Driftless Market, Blue Note Music, the Platteville Regional Chamber office and the PHS guidance office. Tickets will also be available at the door, but you can save $5 per ticket by buying in advance. You get to see the two hours of the band in person, with seats closer than at the Kohl Center, and you need not navigate the horrors of Madison driving and parking.
It should be pointed out that the newspapers are fronting the costs of transporting and feeding the band before the concert and promoting the event. The UW Band will get half the profits after expenses, with remaining profits going to Lancaster and Platteville music programs. That’s because, quoting John, “We value the arts [see page 1B, the editor interrupts] and see this as a benefit that could be enjoyed for several more years should this show be successful.”
John is quite proud of Ryan, in the same way Sue Musarra is proud of Anna, and my parents were proud of me, and could even find me among 250 or so marchers on the Camp Randall Stadium turf. (They went to all but one of my road trips. My mother said my grandfather, the family’s first Badger fan, could only have been more proud of me had I been a UW football player, something that had zero chance of happening. Apparently Grandpa briefly played for UW, but athletic talent is not necessarily genetic.)
There’s one more reason Sunday will be special. UW Band director Mike Leckrone had heart surgery earlier this year. (Reportedly he’s been banned from aerial acts at the Kohl Center, though I’ll believe that when I don’t see it.) Every once in a while I read about someone I marched with who has passed away, and it makes me feel a little bit older because I remember them when they, and I, were young.
The band for me was like being on an athletic team, as well as an ROTC unit and a fraternity. By the end of the season I could run a marathon. Between that and high school band I learned those things others learn in team sports — discipline, the team is bigger than yourself, and excellence is worth the work for its own sake. And I always liked playing concerts like Sunday’s, because I’d watch the front row as we started into “On Wisconsin” and read them thinking: They really are that loud.