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Banding together: The Dassel-Cokato Marching Chargers
July 18, 2016

By Brianna Mathias
Editorial Intern

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – Crowds line the streets in anticipation for the parade. Suddenly, the marching band comes forth in perfect formation, ringing in a joyful energy. Though they play a variety of instruments, and some are dancing or waving flags, this group of kids exudes unity.

The Dassel-Cokato Marching Chargers compete in various cities both in and out-of-state throughout the course of the summer, and perform in local parades. This season, the team has seen several victories both at contest, and as a group.

“This year we performed music from Cirque du Soleil, led by drum major Jackson Lambrecht, head stick Jacob Ryan, and colorguard captains Jordyn Snook and Anna Brummond,” band director Brian Veith said. “We marched close to 85 students with 25 colorguard, 14 in the drumline, and 44 winds.”

A colorful addition

The Marching Chargers added a new element to their colorguard this year: a dance line led by Wendy Moore of Miss Wendy’s Dance and Fitness.

“They had to learn drill, choreography, and performance in a short amount of time,” Moore said. “Altogether, they did a fantastic job.”

Moore said she had the opportunity to express her creativity in the performance as she was given free reign over the choreography.

“I think it was really good for us,” Moore said. “Being able to work with all the faculty, with drill, was really, really wonderful.”

Veith explained that the dancers became a strong asset to the group because of what they brought to the table.

“We incorporated dancers into the show to boost the colorguard visual effect,” Veith said. “Marching bands have the colorguard for more movement and color.”

Practice makes perfect

Though school was not in session during the season, Moore said the students seemed to have a good time during their practices.

“There was a lot for them to learn during camp,” Moore said. “They handled it like professionals. They worked through sunburns and exhaustion. They couldn’t accomplish what they did in the amount of time they did it in if they were in school. Some of our practices were about as long as school days. It was necessary for them to have that time and really be focused on the performance.”

All the hard work invested in these early practices paid off, according to Veith.

“The students have had a blast this season,” Veith said. “The hard work early in the morning and during a long week of Spat Camp proved to be very rewarding in competition this year.”

Award-winning group

The group ended their competitive season decorated with many awards. Altogether, the Marching Chargers took third place at Milaca; second place at Waconia, Alexandria, and the National Cherry Festival; and first place at Hutchinson, and Rochester Fest.

“We were in the top three at each parade and got best Colorguard and best Drumline during the season,” Veith said.

New to the game

The leadership skills of the band is one aspect Veith expressed pride for.

“I am really proud of the marching band this year, and every year for that matter,” Veith said. “This year is special because of the student enthusiasm and because we are so young. The band is mostly eighth- and ninth-graders, with several seniors and juniors for great leadership.”

The band was not the only section of the Marching Chargers that had inexperienced students. Colorguard instructor Brenda Johnson said for about half of the flag team, this was their first year.

“They were nervous, but I think they had fun,” Johnson said. “They are a really good team, even though some of them are really young. The rookies did really well. People don’t understand how hard it can be. Band members have been playing their instruments for years, but when someone is on color guard, they just pick up a flag and start learning.”

Stronger together

There were a few difficulties the staff and students faced throughout the season.

“The most difficult part about the season was the coordination of all of the parts of the show – the music, the drill, the dancers, and the flags,” Veith said. “Putting a show together with all those aspects on a street is a challenge. A marching band of this nature was intended for a football field halftime show.”

Working through the hardships was a team effort. According to Veith, the kids made it all possible.

“In addition to the brain activity, kids must learn to work as part of a team,” Veith said. “We are only as strong as our weakest player. It is fun to watch the leaders emerge through the season and see the groups of kids from seventh to twelfth grade bond into one strong, cohesive group.”

The faculty of the band this year expressed appreciation for both the kids, and others who made the performance come together.

Veith said he appreciated the help of Moore, Perry Thinesen, School Administration, DC Music Boosters, the band parents, Johnson, Staci Barth, Nichole Elke, Bryan Borg, Heidi Veith, and Justin Larson.

Moore explained that several staff members had a history with drum corp and marching band.

“I have a special love for colorguard because I marched many years in my school’s drum corp,” Johnson said.

Michigan trip

The band often takes summer trips for competition and fun activities. This year, the group went to the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, MI.

“The National Cherry Festival trip is fantastic for kids because it is relatively cheap and there are activities for all,” Veith said. “There are two great parades for students where the streets are lined with people cheering us on, even to the point of having huge cheering sections with signs for the bands to stop and perform.”

The crowds were often 10 people deep, Veith added, and the support from the audience made the competition fun for students.

“This trip is extremely safe, has outdoor activities, educational activities, sightseeing, and an amusement and water park,” Veith said. “All of the funding for trips is up to families and fundraising by DC Music Boosters who pay for chaperone costs and meals along the way.”

More than just music

Through competition and trips, Veith said the group must work well together.

“The best part about directing has to be watching the student bonds and growth that happen during a season,” Veith said. “Yes, the music and marching are fantastic, but music programs are not just about notes on a page. There are so many other life skills that students can learn though participating in a musical group.”

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