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Pride AND Performance: Documentary follows freshmen through first year in celebrated Blugold Marching Band

BMB! That's all you have to say to high school students across Minnesota and Wisconsin, where being a Blugold is the marching band benchmark of excellence.

"We travel to high schools across the region and are the featured college band at Bands of America regional and national high school marching band competitions," says Dr. Randal Dickerson, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugold Marching Band director whose creativity and energy has propelled the BMB to record numbers and brought the band national recognition. "Once a high school marching band sees the BMB perform, the kids are hooked, and they want to become a Blugold."

A new documentary, "Pride AND Performance" funded by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, follows freshmen Eduardo Rafael Leoncio do Nascimento, a cymbalist, Briar Swann, a baton twirler, and Ben Mackie, a mellophonist, through their first year as members of the Blugold Marching Band, one of the most active bands in the Upper Midwest.

The students' first-year journey is narrated by Dickerson and the band's senior drum majors Nick Hansberry, Kara Metzger and David Lofy. The story follows the three freshmen from band camp to their first on-field performance at Homecoming and to the annual BMB showcase performance at Chippewa Falls High School. 

"Pride AND Performance" provides an inside look at Dickerson's personal commitment to developing a nationally celebrated marching band —a band he grew from 60 members to more than 300 in just a few years —that serves as a model for the next generation of music educators.

The documentary journey ends with the BMB's performance at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, where 45 of the nation's top-ranked high school marching bands compete in the Bands of America Super Regional High School Championship. Full performance videos are available on the UW-Eau Claire YouTube channel. 

The three students —Briar Swann, a criminal justice major from Oak Creek; Ben Mackie, a music education major from Mankato, Minn.; and Eduardo Nascimento, a kinesiology major from Brazil —who are featured in the BMB documentary took a few minutes to share their reactions to seeing their first-year journey captured on film, as well as their dreams for future marching band seasons.  

Describe your feelings and reactions as you watched the Blugold Marching Band documentary for the first time. 

Briar: I was very excited to finally get to see what came out of all of the work we got to do with the crew. It made me even more excited for marching season to start up again! It made me extremely happy but at the same time sad that marching season is over. 

Ben: It was weird watching myself on camera, being formally filmed for something like this. I never pictured myself as getting to be the center of attention under pretty much any circumstances. Being selected to have a role in something like this is not something I'm used to. I would say that I mostly felt kind of humbled because out of all the other people in the BMB, it was my story they chose to tell, and that means a lot to me and speaks to how far I think I've come as a musician and leader. 

Eduardo: When I saw the video I was amazed by the quality, and especially the opening. I feel honored to participate on the video of the BMB. 

Tell us about your experience with the BMB this year. What were the highlights for you? 

Briar: BMB for me was the experience of a lifetime! It meant my dream was coming true. I always dreamed of twirling for my school and I was finally able to achieve it. Joining the BMB was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I have made so many lifelong friends, and we get to share experiences that so few people get to in the world. One of the biggest highlights of this season was getting to lead my band onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy for Bands of America. There was nothing else like that feeling;the stadium is gorgeous and the crowd was amazing.

Ben: BMB is very different from my high school marching band. I was blessed enough to come from a program that, although it was great in its own right, was very traditional and, I suppose in the simplest terms, "serious." The style was completely different from that of BMB, so transitioning between the two was pretty strange. Basic elements like self-discipline and attentiveness to detail stayed the same, but all of a sudden, it was more about appealing to a football crowd than it was about anything else, and we do that in a very different way than I'm accustomed to —pop tunes, scooping, dancing and yelling. One thing's for sure —I had a blast in my first BMB camp and performance season. 

Eduardo: My experience in band this year was busy and I learned a lot of things. As almost everything was new to me, I developed sportsmanship skills, better communication and I improved my ability to work in a group as well my reading music skills. I loved playing at Chippewa Falls High School;it was a very enthusiastic crowd. The biggest moment for me was in Indianapolis at the Bands of America Grand Regional. It was nice to play music along with my bandmates in a great football stadium. 

Looking ahead, what are your hopes for BMB for next season? How do you hope to help BMB keep moving forward?

Briar: I can't wait for band to start up in the fall again, and I hope that at least one freshman comes into this band and has even half the fun that I did because they will love what they have become a part of. I hope that they feel like they have become part of a huge family, like I did coming into this band. 

Ben: My biggest hope is for the BMB to keep growing. It's exploded over the past decade into what it is today, and to see it continue to grow is the most important thing for its success going forward. It's already a huge thing on campus, in the region, in the state and in the Midwest. For it to get even bigger is a thought more exciting to me than a lot of other things. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to do my part by being a positive ambassador to future Blugolds and prospective BMB members. I'm going to contribute to the success of the group to the best of my ability so that students who see us will want to wear the Blugold uniform someday. I also have a desire to get involved in the leadership, planning and organization of BMB as much as I can over the next couple of years. 

Eduardo: I'm excited for next season, I do not know what Dr. Dickerson has in mind, which makes me apprehensive about the new show. I am also expecting new members to the drumline as many of our seniors graduated. It will be a fun time to get to know the freshmen and see what they are able to do musically. As a returning member, I want to bring my experience from last season. I feel honored to have played with guys like Drew Briski, Elliot Rittenberry and Alex Olsen in their last season. Hopefully, I can pass forward their ideas and the nice job that these guys have done. 

What advice do you have for freshmen coming to the BMB camp in August? 

Briar: The biggest piece of advice that I can give to any freshman is to not be afraid to talk to anyone;everyone is so nice and inviting in this band. And be prepared to let go and have fun because that's what this band is about. The only thing I wish I would have known coming into this band is how inviting everyone is and how willing people are to talk to each other.

Ben: Just have fun. It's really easy to let your conceptions of what you know about band and life in general to take over your psyche when you go to college and experience something completely different from anything that's happened in your life. Enjoy it. Embrace the chaos of your new life. It only gets better as you go on, and it won't be fun until you let go. Come with an open mind, and be ready to scoop. 

Eduardo: For the freshmen I would say you are very welcome. We work as group supporting each other so be confident. However, dedicate time to the BMB because the rhythm is fast and constant. If I could know something before I arrived, I would say I wished I could have known the people I met in band before camp started. 

Anything else you'd like to add? 

Briar: If you are hesitating about joining the BMB because you think it will be too much of a commitment, just do it. It will definitely be worth it because it is not too much for anyone to handle, and you automatically walk into the school with 300 friends. Who else can say that going into college as a freshman?! 

Ben: I want to thank Dr. Dickerson for deciding I was one of the people he wanted to be involved in the documentary project. It was an astounding opportunity and I appreciate it greatly. I also want to thank everyone who made this season easy and special for me —the drum majors, the management team, the bus drivers, my section leaders, my section and all of my new friends. Without you, this wouldn't have been the season it was, and I'm grateful for every single one of you. Finally, thank you to everyone in BMB who gave it their all this season. It doesn't function without all of you, and we don't put on shows like we do all year without the effort you all put in. Thanks for everything you've all done. You all made sure I wouldn't forget my first BMB season! 

Eduardo: Looking forward for the summer and a warm season. Go Blugolds!