Once a Badger, Always a Badger

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As promised, today’s post is going to be a recap of Thursday night’s Varsity Band Concert! As always, it was a lot of fun and I’m really glad that I got to go with some of my best ex-bando friends…it made the “alumni” experience a little less sad. In all, our group consisted of 7 people: me and Shaun, Bridesmaid C and her husband, Personal attendant J, and two of my roommates (the two who aren’t currently in band, obviously). We had tickets in the 200 section…which I was a little bummed out about, because I had hoped to be seated a little lower…but we could see everything from where we sat. And as far as sound goes…you’re NEVER going to not be able to hear this band.

A quick recap for those of you who don’t know, the UW Marching Band is made up of about 350 students who march at every home football game in the fall. In the spring, it’s called the “Varsity Band,” and we play at sporting events such as basketball and hockey games, perform mini-concerts throughout the state of Wisconsin, which culminates in the 3-night extravaganza at the Kohl Center in Madison in mid-April. Which is exactly where my friends and I found ourselves on Thursday night!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, some mishaps with timing meant that Shaun and I missed one of my favorite parts of the concert – Mike’s grand entrance. You see, another special thing about this band is that it’s directed by a 70-something year-old man named Mike Leckrone, who I’m pretty sure is fearless. He’s directed the band since 1969, and in that time he’s arranged most of the band’s music, solidified our signature “stop at the top” style of marching, terrified generations with his bony finger, and has gotten a reputation for putting on one hell of a show. Every year, he enters the concert in a new crazy way. One year, he flew in on a cow. Another year on a wedge of cheese. He’s come in on a classic car, a flying motorcycle…you name it, he’s probably done it. This year, apparently, it was a flying souped-up tricycle. Fortunately, we didn’t miss anything other than Mike’s fly-in and the first rounds of “On, Wisconsin”…but I was a little disappointed nonetheless.

Not a great picture, but that’s the man himself.

Lucky for me, he always make a second grand entrance mid-way through the show after intermission…and I made sure that we didn’t miss that one! Here he is, flying in on some sort of kite:

One of the funny things about having been in band for 4 years is that you start to notice the songs and shows that Mike tends to recycle quite frequently. Because I live with 2 current bandos, I had a little insight into what to expect for this year’s concert. The very first show of the night was actually almost an exact replica of a show that I performed my freshman year, “The 70’s Show.”

See the difference? “This,” not “The”. Clever, Mike.

There are also things about the show that stay the same every single year. “The Hey Song,” the 5th Quarter songs (including the world’s fastest Chicken Dance!), and a bunch of traditional songs associated with the University make an appearance. Lots and lots of “On, Wisconsin,” for sure.   But each year Mike changes it up a little too, with different shows, a “theatrical” production and guest artists. This year, one of the guest artists was Tom Wopat from Dukes of Hazard…a native of Lodi, Wisconsin. Here are a few more pictures that I took during the evening:

Fireworks after an awkward tribute to ‘Merica

3 of my mello friends performing a “solo” together at the beginning of the second half!

More fireworks. And I’ll tell you this…I really appreciate being in the audience instead of sitting directly in front of them.

Fireworks fading away at the end of this year’s “theatrical” number, “Porgy and Bess.”

 One last thing you should know about our band is that while we enjoy playing music (and sound pretty good for a 200-plus person ensemble!), we’re mostly about putting on a good show. Especially Mike. He’s an entertainer at heart. And so it’s no surprise that every year, he flies.

If you find yourself thinking something along the lines of “that looks like a 76 year-old man doing somersaults mid-air”…you are exactly correct.

Even though each concert is about 3 hours long, it always seems just a little too short…I really found myself missing band at the end of the Thursday night concert! But it was nice to spend the evening with band friends and my roommates, who all understood . We’re proud of our university and this organization that meant so much to us. And I can’t wait to go again next year!

“We never really say goodbye, because we know we’ll see you real soon…and On, Wisconsin.”

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