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Striking a chord for the home crowd

Members of the River Falls High School Marching Wildcats performed during half-time of the Sept. 13 RFHS football game. This year the band will host a field show competition, “Rhythm by the River,” Sunday, Oct. 13. (River Falls Journal photo by Bob Burrows)

With six consecutive state titles under its belt the River Falls High School Marching Wildcats will host its first at-home field show competition on Sunday, Oct. 13.

“Rhythm by the River” will feature bands from Antigo, Merrill, Chippewa Falls and Irondale (Minn.) The Marching Wildcats will perform an exhibition during the field show.

Doors will open at noon, with the event starting at 1 p.m., at Ramer Field on the UW-River Falls campus.

Ticket prices are $8 for adults, $6 for students and children under 12, and children under 4 are free.

Band booster co-president, Scott Sutton, says its a “small show” but the hope is it will continue to grow.

He said that during the field show, a competing band has 15 minutes to get onto the field, perform their approximately eight minute selection and then exit the field.

Sutton said that the marching bands’ performances may include props and color guards with flags.

During the show, competing bands will be judged for “captain awards.” Sutton said they can be in a number of different categories such as: Best color guard, best percussion, best musical performance, best visual performance and more.

Bands are evaluated by six judges, who each award points for a specific aspect of the performance, when all six scores are tallied the band has the possibility of receiving 100 points.

Areas that are judged include: Marching and maneuvering execution; general effect - visual; color guard - auxiliary; music execution; general effect - music; and percussion.

Though the Marching Wildcats will not be competing they will be performing this year’s show for those who attend.

According to Sutton, this year’s show is called “Uncaged.” He said that its general theme is “birds that are caged equated to our inner strengths.”

He added that the music is a “combo of Beethoven and Motley Crue.”

When arranging the selection, Sutton said that the directors, Joe Coughlin and Bryan Jaeckel and color guard director, Mike Andrle, look at who will be in the that year’s band.

Sutton then said that they try to use music that is challenging to bump them (the band) to the next level.

He said that during competition a challenging piece of music will earn extra points.

The Marching Wildcats have numerous upcoming performances and competitions, including: Baldwin  and Cumberland , Sept. 21; RFHS homecoming football game, Sept. 27; Irondale (Minn.), Sept 28; D.C. Everest, Oct. 5; Merril, Oct. 6; RFHS football games, Oct. 11; Chippewa Falls, Oct. 12; and state competition at UW-Whitewater, Oct. 19 and 20.

According to Sutton, the band’s biggest competition at state is Chippewa Falls and bands from the southern parts of the state because they are “unknown.”

Devotion, dedication

To prepare for the year’s show, Sutton said that marching band members, which consists of freshman through seniors, meet throughout the summer in individual sections to learn the music.

Sutton said that techs are hired, usually college students, to work with specific areas -- woodwinds, brass, percussion, etc.

According to Sutton, the musicians then do a one week “music camp.”

During the music camp week, performers spend the time practicing that year’s musical piece as a whole unit.

During another week of intensive training --  “drill week,” the the goal, according to Sutton, is to have the show on the field with moves and music.

At the end of that week, parents are allowed to watch the first performance of the year.

Sutton said the student musicians are truly dedicated. He went on to say that at competitions all the schools’ participants support each other.

As a chaperone at overnight events, Sutton said the current group “is a total delight to work with.”

He said that they “win as a team, and hold each other accountable.”

Sutton said that everybody in marching band performs, there are no cuts. He also said that those in color guard don’t have to be in band, and don't have to play an instrument.

While Sutton’s son, Treigh, a senior who plays the marimba, a type of xylophone, didn’t want to join the band at first, his dad said that within two weeks there was “no stopping him”

Sutton also said that every four years, the band takes a trip -- the next one is scheduled for 2015. In 2011, the band went to Florida, and four years prior to that to New York.

According to Sutton, the spring break trip involves a performance or musical clinic.

Besides the musician’s passion, Sutton mentioned the dedication of the band directors, who are both instrumental music directors at the high school.

Said Sutton: “They are teaching their passion for music to the kids.”

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
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