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‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’: Bemidji High School marching band undertakes new strategy

Under the theme of "Dead Men Tell No Tales," Louis Saxton launches a sword into the air on June 8 during a rehearsal of the Bemidji High School marching band at BHS. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 3
Natalie Bahr, left, and Bethany Flansburg present the banner on June 8 during a rehearsal of the Bemidji High School marching band at BHS. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 3
The Bemidji High School marching band rehearses its routine on June 8 at BHS. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- You could say the Bemidji High School marching band is marching to a slightly different tune this year.

Unlike previous competition seasons when the band’s leadership would map out its routine in-house, they purchased a pre-existing program this year with the hope of adding an edge to their performance.

“The reason for the change was to see if this would push us to the next level of competition --  make us more competitive with other groups who do the same thing,” said Band Director Derek Wickum.

Under the theme of "Dead Men Tell No Tales," Louis Saxton launches a sword into the air on June 8 during a rehearsal.The program’s theme is “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” In accordance with that, a small cohort of students proceed the band, throwing swords, waving banners and dancing to the tune of the brass and drums following just a few feet behind.

The band will host a fundraiser “Meet the Band” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20, at BHS. In addition to the group’s other performances throughout the summer, they will make an appearance at the Bemidji Jaycees’ 74th Annual Water Carnival on Sunday, July 1.  

Like Wickum, Drum Major Danie Baratono said she sees the group’s new strategy as the next step toward securing a victory for the band.

“All the bands that have beat us in the past and that have continued to beat us over the past couple years do their drill this way,” said Baratono, who is in her final year with the group. “It’s really cool to see how we improve every year.”

Having purchased the program, each student has a sheet instructing them how they fit into the overall design of the program. Wickum said that should help the students learn their routine faster.

“It’s actually field marching, but we’re doing it on the street,” Baratono said. “We’re basing it off of like we’re on a football field, which is brand new to us.”

Although the routine may come pre-established, it also comes with a couple of its own challenges. The program the school purchased was more than 20 minutes in its entirety. They had to trim that down to a mere four minutes and 30 seconds of competition time.  

“We had a lot of arranging to make it fit into what we wanted it to be,” Wickum said, adding that there are still a considerable amount of steps in the four and a half minute program. “It’s 28 things of moving themselves and the band from point A to point B to create a show.”

If You Go

What: Bemidji High School Meet the Band fundraiser and silent auction

When: Silent auction and dinner from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., followed by BHS marching band performance at 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 20

Where: Bemidji High School

Cost: $10

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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