Marching Band returns from European tour

Story by Nick Gourdoux

Spring break is usually a time when students travel to far-off places in an attempt to relax and take their minds off of their schoolwork. That wasn’t the case for the UW-Eau Claire marching band.

Under the supervision of Dr. Randal Dickerson, 136 members of the 280-person marching band traveled to Europe to perform in Paris, France; London, England; and Venice, Italy.

“You don’t get the full effect of what you would see here at a football game (because of the reduced performers),” Monson said.

The marching band departed from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on March 27 and arrived in Milan, Italy on the morning of March 28. After a 3.5-hour bus ride, the group was then allotted a day to explore Venice before performing at St. Mark’s Square.

Senior Mike Renneke said the spectators in Europe were able to gain a rare experience.

“They don’t really have marching bands in Europe, so it was cool to bring over that unique piece of American culture,” Renneke said.

He added that everyone who came to watch showed great support.

“The crowds and venues were amazing,” Renneke said. “We didn’t get to play in front of the Pope this time, and there weren’t any foreign dignitaries inviting us to play, but we got to play in front of some of the world’s most renowned and identifiable places. It sort of piggybacked off of the last trip (to Europe).”

After a day of travel, the marching band performed at Champs des Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. On the next day, the band performed at Square St. Jean in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Following a day trip to London, the band returned to Paris for Easter Sunday before coming back to the U.S. Monday night.

Monson said that although it was a large stage to perform, he wasn’t nervous because of his previous experience with the band.

“We’ve played at a Packer halftime show and a number of exhibitions around the Midwest, so personally I didn’t feel much pressure,” Monson said. “I just treated it as a regular performance and tried not to psyche myself out. Our style of playing and dancing was pretty appealing, in general, to the crowd.”

The trip wasn’t free for the band members either.

“Much of (the cost) was out of our pockets – I think it was $2,600 that we had to come up with,” junior Aaron Monson said. “If you had large equipment that went over the limit, we didn’t have to worry about that fee.”

With all the fun the band had, the players did pay the price once they returned to the United States.

“As exhausting as it is when you come back with all the jet lag and everything, it’s definitely worth the money; the exhaustion doesn’t compare to being over there with your friends and performing, which was my favorite part,” Monson said. “Not many people have the opportunity to perform at the base of the Eiffel Tower and at the Notre Dame.”