You are here

‘Pride of Minnesota’ shines

February 8, 2018

Justin Timberlake singing at the Superbowl halftime show with the U of MN drumline playing behind him

Justin Timberlake singing at the Superbowl halftime show with the U of MN drumline playing behind him
Kyle Tsuchiya (to Timberlake's immediate right) performs during Superbowl LII

For the University of Minnesota Marching Band, the last two months have been a whirlwind of anticipation, secrecy, and grueling days of rehearsals. But then came their formal moment in the spotlight—backing up pop superstar Justin Timberlake for the song “Suit & Tie” and performing other roles in Sunday's halftime show in front of some 67,000 fans at U.S. Bank Stadium and a television audience of, well … a hundred million.

When it comes to memorable college experiences, this would have to be pretty high on any list.

“It was a very rewarding experience,” says Kyle Tsuchiya, a fourth-year student and drum line team leader from Eden Prairie. “It was surreal, really.”

Tsuchiya was part of a wave of band members lobbying the National Football League to invite them to perform at halftime, but they thought their efforts had gone for naught until the team’s end-of-season banquet in December. That’s when marching band director Betsy McCann mysteriously had everyone give up their phones before announcing—to a thunderous reaction—that they were indeed performing with Timberlake.

“It was awesome,” says McCann. “They just absolutely erupted. They were jumping on each other; they were crying and screaming. It was a great moment.”

Then came the secrecy—they were forbidden to reveal anything about the show or their participation—and, finally, their moment in the spotlight. Keeping the secret was "beyond hard," says Tsuchiya. "This is something you want to brag about to everyone. But it was even harder for my parents, I think. They were at the banquet when we found out, and they had to keep the secret just like us. This was torture for my Mom, who posts everything on Facebook."

“I thought they did a phenomenal job,” says McCann. “The moment they walked in you could tell their level of excitement was incredibly high, but their focus was just zeroed in when it was performance time.”

For Tsuchiya, who was marching right behind Timberlake at the band’s first appearance, the “pinch me” moment occurred right as he reached the field and started seeing glimpses of the massive crowd.

“That’s sort of when it hit me—the gravity of what we were about to do,” he says. “A moment I’ll never forget is when we started to walk out of the tunnel and saw the sheer amount of people that were in the stadium about to watch us. That’s when it really sunk in how cool it was that we were there.”

"I was just really thankful for the opportunity and really proud of the marching band. The band works really hard, so to show what we can do to millions and millions of people alongside someone as talented as Justin Timberlake was beyond cool."

Tsuchiya says, "My experiences with the marching band have been incredibly rewarding, and the Super Bowl Halftime experience was no different. I credit many of my professional skills to my involvement with the band; I’ve learned how to manage my time wisely, lead effectively, work well with others, and be diligent. These are all skills that I can apply to all areas of life."