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Blugold Marching Band continues to thrive through strong leadership and financial support

November 19, 2013
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Blugold Marching Band members

EAU CLAIRE — Over the last decade, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugold Marching Band has grown from a band of 60 to its current size of 300 members. It is now considered one of the most active bands in the Upper Midwest, with performances ranging from home football games and contest exhibitions to international tours. During the upcoming winter break, the band will represent the university on a tour of Southeast Asia.

But what has made the BMB so successful?

Several factors are involved, including financial support from outside sources. The BMB recently received new drums, sousaphones and 65 replacement uniforms as a result of a strategic investment by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and the university.

"The UW-Eau Claire Foundation has been a proud partner with the Blugold Marching Band for many years," said Kimera Way, Foundation president. "Probably our best moment in support of the band was facilitating a $50,000 gift from alumni Tom and Jeannie Flesch from Columbus, Ohio. Those funds allowed the band to really take off and grow."

Dr. Randal Dickerson, associate professor of music and director of the BMB, said the band would not be able to operate without the help of the university and the Foundation. The band's operating budget funds basic supplies and transportation costs, but the BMB relies on outside support for the bigger items such as new uniforms and larger instruments.

Dickerson also was a key force in helping the BMB achieve its growth. He said that during his time with the BMB, he has focused on two key efforts: making the band an enjoyable experience for members and having the band play in front of as many audiences as possible.

"The most important reason that the BMB has grown and is so well known in this region is due to our extensive performance schedule," Dr. Dickerson said. "This season the BMB performed in front of more than 13,000 high school students at three exhibitions. Our application pool grows every year. The area and number of states represented is also growing."

Members of the BMB recognize Dickerson's influential role in the band. Tiffany Kostuch, a sophomore pre-med biochemistry and molecular biology major from Menomonie plays trumpet in the band.

"The BMB as you see it today is a product of all of Dr. Dickerson's work," Kostuch said. "He has literally built this band into what it is today. He inspires us to always get better, and to always become the best band that we can be."

Many current members of the band specifically chose to come to UW-Eau Claire so they could get involved with the BMB. Sean Conway, drum major and senior instrumental music education major from Rosemount, Minn., said he first saw the BMB perform during his sophomore year of high school in 2006.

"After seeing the energy they performed with and how much fun everyone on the field was having, I found myself having fun and looked forward to them every year," Conway said. "When it was time for me to finally go to college, I couldn't wait to join and become part of such a big family."

Students in the BMB endure a demanding schedule during the marching season. Training camp starts before the fall semester even begins, and from then on, the band practices four days a week. The season lasts until the end of October.

Amy Greathead, a junior art education major from Sun Prairie and mellophone section leader, said that balancing the BMB with the rest of her academic life is a difficult undertaking.

"The BMB has definitely challenged me," Greathead said. "Being a section leader this year — and, even in past years, just working on time management and balancing classes with homework, art projects, performances and rehearsals — it's been a lot of work. But I know it's all been more than worth it."

The experience of being in the BMB has led many members to feel more connected with the university as a whole.

"We are the BMB, and the BMB has a standard that we willingly uphold," Kostuch said. "It's something that everyone who is, has been and will be in the BMB will always share. We all love Eau Claire, we love this band and we love to show it."

Many Foundation efforts continue to provide the BMB with the support it needs to thrive at UW-Eau Claire. At $250 per band member, the Adopt a Blugold Marching Band Member campaign is available for those who wish to support the BMB. Gifts also can be used to fund uniforms, instruments, travel costs and other general needs of the band.

"The Foundation has focused these investments on the BMB because the band is such a visible testament to the many values we hold dear here — great opportunities for student engagement, international travel and a commitment to excellence," Way said. "When you hear the band gear up for the Fight Song or see members having such a great time, we can't help but feel that we are investing in something that truly is making a difference in the lives of our students."

More information about how to support the band can be found online. Those wishing to give a gift to the BMB should direct their donations to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation through the website or by contacting Victoria Follett at 715-836-5628 or folletvl@uwec.edu.

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OJ/DW

 

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