Student Reflection: U of M Marching Band Performs at the Super Bowl LII Halftime Show
Ask any member of the Pride of Minnesota Marching Band to sum up the beginning of their Spring semester, and they would probably respond, “unforgettable.” If you watched the Super Bowl LII Halftime Show in early February, you may have noticed our 320-member ensemble playing alongside pop superstar Justin Timberlake. While the Halftime Show only lasted 13 minutes, the journey to get there was much longer.
2018 marked 26 years since the Pride last performed at the NFL’s biggest game, and as marching season got underway, a few students took it upon themselves to launch a social media campaign to make their Super Bowl dream a reality. In a matter of hours, there were hundreds of tweets from friends, family, alumni, and the Midwestern marching community, all pulling for them to take the field. A promo video followed, asking the general public to join in on the action. Their strategic approach continued, and various NFL, Super Bowl, and halftime production contacts were approached, working to convince them of the energy the band would bring.
“In the midst of working on three halftime shows, we took time in rehearsal to create a photo of an ‘SB 52’ drill set taken with a drone, to show that we were truly serious about our commitment to the show,” said tuba player Owen Luterbach. “Several weeks later at the band’s end-of-season banquet, our Marching Band Director Betsy McCann announced that we would be taking part in Super Bowl LII!”
Rehearsing for an event like the Super Bowl packs a lot of pressure and intensity into a very short amount of time. Students began learning the music weeks before coming together for their first rehearsal in January. “It was a moment that when we looked around at each other in rehearsal, and it seemed almost too surreal for what we were about to embark upon,” said Kyle Tsuchiya, the band’s center snare.
The band finally began rehearsals on campus, living their normal lives during the day and meeting secretly for rehearsals when the sun went down. Little did anyone know outside the U of M School of Music what historic things were going on inside that practice facility.
With a week left, it was time for dress rehearsals inside U.S. Bank Stadium. Band members made the necessary sacrifices to miss classes for the eight-hour practices that allowed them to fit all the pieces of the halftime production together, including moving stages, pyrotechnics, and eventually the talents of Justin Timberlake.
The band also had a recording session with members of Timberlake’s team, who assisted in getting the musical selections blended perfectly with electronic accompaniments. Music arranger Dontae Winslow inspired the band with motivational takeaways in between takes, urging a lifetime involvement in the arts, whether they become a lawyer, teacher, or performer.
The buzz of Super Bowl Sunday was felt all around the Twin Cities, despite frigid single-digit temperatures that made it the coldest on record. Director McCann was on the field during halftime, helping manage the flow of performers who streamed out from underneath the stands to their preset staging as the Halftime Show began. “What an experience this was for the group,” McCann said. “There was so much pride and passion on their faces as they performed alongside an artist that they admire so much.”
Marching through the transition from Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” to his Grammy Award-winning “Suit and Tie” were members of the drumline. They met him centerfield, where their stick tricks and rudimental intro led into the chorus where the band joined in with horn flashes of their own. After a tribute to Prince, a large portion of the band traded in their flags and instruments for reflective props, taking their role as dancers in the song, “Mirrors.”
The finale brought the return of the tuxedo-clad band during “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” to end the show with the entire cast on the field. The surreal experience culminated with striking a pose and absorbing the moment, where the magnitude of people cheered in approval before it was time to run off the field.
With Super Bowl LII in the history books, band members were ecstatic to represent the University’s home state on one of the biggest stages in the world. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to showcase the quality music education and performing arts opportunities that are here in our home state,” McCann said.
Izaak Mendoza marched on the snareline of the 126th season of the Pride of Minnesota Marching Band. He continues his involvement in the marching arts as social media manager and video producer for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, where he previously served as drum major and percussion soloist. Mendoza has written for various marching publications and arranges percussion parts for several high school and college programs. He is pursuing a dual master’s degree in public policy and business administration from the University of Minnesota, where he lends his media skills to the marching band’s online presence.