UWP Marching Pioneers at Lambeau Field

September 26, 2003

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The UWP Marching Pioneers have begun their season, and will play during half time of the Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions game at Lambeau Field Sept. 14. UWP Director of Bands Barry Ellis said the Marching Pioneers may be one of only two marching bands to play at the hallowed stadium this football season.

PLATTEVILLE - Though good marching bands seem to be as much a part of college football as helmets and shoulder pads, they are becoming a thing of the past at professional football games. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Marching Pioneers are among a select few to play at Lambeau Field this year. They took the field during the half-time of the Packers-Lions game in Green Bay Sept. 14.

"If they don't have a band, a large corporation buys the half-time. So, unfortunately for a lot of bands, that's a trend at a lot of stadiums," UWP Director of Bands Barry Ellis said. "If I'm not mistaken, we're one of only two bands marching at Green Bay this year."

It isn't the first time the Marching Pioneers have had the honor of playing at a professional game. They last played at Lambeau Field in 2000. In 1997, the year after the Packers won the Super Bowl, they played during a game televised on Monday Night Football. It was the marching band's first performance there since the 1980s; it was also a first for Ellis.

"One of the more memorable experiences for me has been the performances at Green Bay," Ellis said. "It's an incredible experience, especially the first time. There's something magical about the first time." The band also played at a Packers-Bears game at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1998.

The Packers-Lions matchup was only the second season game at the newly dedicated Lambeau Field. If 60,000 screaming fans weren't enough, the renovation has boosted the number of fans at Packers games to more than 72,000.

"It's quite a rush when you're out there at half-time and your adrenaline is flowing. It's quite an experience, not only for us the directors, but certainly for the students," Ellis said.

Ellis is directing the marching band along with UWP music professor Joe Caploe.

"It's definitely a thrill for all. The students have been working very hard to prepare to do a great show," Caploe said prior to the performance. "They will represent UWP in grand fashion."

Indeed, the 100 students in marching band have been prepared for the football season for nearly three weeks, arriving for practices a week before classes started. In addition to the three times they rehearse each week, the band practiced three extra times this week to prepare for the Packer game.

"These students worked hard, and we've worked hard over the years to build this program, and they deserve it. It's something they look forward to," Ellis said.

For some, it was only their second time playing with the Marching Pioneers, having performed for the UWP Pioneers home opener a week earlier. While they play for about 12 minutes during halftimes of Pioneer games, the Packers don't allow them nearly as much time.

"The Packers only give us 6 minutes, from the first time you put your foot on the field to the end," Ellis said. The Marching Pioneers performed "Karn Evil 9" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer and "The Best of Times" by Styx, as well as "Let it Whip" by the 1970s funk group The Dazz Band, a song that featured the UWP Rangerettes.

The band departed for Green Bay after an early morning practice Saturday. They were to visit the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Saturday afternoon and spend the night in Oshkosh. Sunday called for an early rise again as the band squeezed in one last rehearsal on the Packers' practice field in the Don Hutson Center.

"I'm just glad we have an opportunity to offer this to the students. It's great for us, it's great for the band, it's great for the students, it's great for our department and it's great for the University," Ellis said.

As for the state of marching bands at professional football games, Ellis said they haven't ruled out the possibility of playing at Soldier Field again, even if the Bears don't hold training camp at UWP anymore. And some marching band members, perhaps after witnessing the Vikings pummel the Packers in the season opener, said they would like to play at the Metrodome.

The Packers, meanwhile, keep the Marching Pioneers on a rotating list and try to extend them the honor of playing at Lambeau Field once every two or three years, Ellis said.

"We just hope we're able to do these in the future," he said.

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