BMB going through changes

UW-Eau Claire’s band is seeing some old, some new this season

Sam Johnson

More stories from Sam Johnson

The Tator
December 13, 2022

Photo by Anna Smith

This season will bring the BMB on a cruise south through the Panama Canal.

After COVID-19 put a pause to a lot of its plans, the Blugold Marching Band is seeing a number of new changes this year, such as administrative adjustments and a return to international trips.

Randal Dickerson, BMB’s director since 2000, said his 23rd year will be his last in the leading role.

When he first arrived in Eau Claire, he said he didn’t have very many expectations.

“The department was going to close it,” Dickerson said. “That happened the semester before I got there.”

Dickerson said the band had around 60 members and was primarily student-led. He took on an advisory role, then it took off.

“We were adding another 30-50 people every year,” Dickerson said. “Finally, about three years ago, right before (COVID-19), the university said, ‘we’d like you to take 500 people.’”

Dickerson said at its largest — 475 members — BMB was in the top five of largest marching bands in the country, including division one schools like Florida State University, but 500 would put them on top.

While they’re among the largest, Dickerson said he runs the BMB differently.

“Most bands take 30 or so players and tell them, ‘you’re never going to march unless someone gets sick,’” Dickerson said. “If I take someone, they’re going to march.”

After the time and dedication to the band, Dickerson said he’ll be ending his time running the BMB in August, but he won’t be stepping away entirely.

According to Dickerson, he’s written every piece of music and drawn up every ‘drill’ (the choreography and movement the band does during performances) for the band since he arrived.

He said he’s not sure exactly what the transition will look like, but the current plan is a gradual one, so new leadership has time to understand the skillset and experience of the BMB.

Andrew Lindaas, a fourth-year political science and economics student and trumpet rank leader in the BMB, said there are mixed emotions about the change.

“It was expected, but a bit shocking so sudden,” Lindaas said. “It’s the first post-COVID-19 season, so we thought he’d be around a bit longer to build the program up.”

While the change is somewhat disappointing — with goals like 500 members and events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade feeling attainable — Lindaas said this season, which is his last, as well as Dickerson’s, has things he’s looking forward to.

“Homecoming is always my favorite weekend, then we’ll be leaving for our annual Youth In Music Performance at US Bank Stadium (both on Oct. 8),” Lindaas said.

After the season, Dickerson said they’re returning to another tradition after two years off.

Every other year, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the BMB departed on an international trip. The last one was a three-week trip to Australia and New Zealand, According to BMB’s website.

This season will bring the BMB on a cruise south through the Panama Canal.

Trips with the band, according to Dickerson, aren’t the only ones he’s planning on taking. A large part of his reduced role is more time for personal travel.

“I’ve been to 76 countries — I want to double that in the next two years,” Dickerson said. “I always said I’d keep doing (the BMB) as long as I enjoyed it. I still do. Now I’ll have time to enjoy the rest of my life, too.”

Johnson can be reached at [email protected].