- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Celebration.

A term to describe victory. A word used to express success.

But ask members of the St. Cloud State University Husky Sports Band to define celebration and most will pick up their instruments and whip out the familiar notes to the song by the band Kool & The Gang, the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/2p7sUD8 ) reported.

As the upbeat pep band tune reverberated off the walls of the Performing Arts Center Room 113 Tuesday evening, a different sort of celebration was being recognized by the St. Cloud State University student musicians.

A celebration of a job well done. A celebration of another semester ending.



And a celebration of accomplishing so much without the leadership of a faculty director.

Since the middle of March, members of the Husky Sports Band - both the student organization and the one-credit class - have been without an adviser after the sudden departure of faculty member Glen Tuomaala.

Hailey Claseman, a sophomore music education major, remembers hearing the news. She is a tenor saxophone player.

It was a Friday night in February. The Husky Sports Band had just finished playing for a basketball game. After all performances, the band gathers for an inspirational huddle led by the director.

“My first thought was I was going to give him so much crap for reading this note off a piece of paper,” Claseman said. “But as it went on, it got more serious. And it hit me that he was leaving.”

Andre Brown said his first reaction, like many in the band, was anger.

“I was angry that he was leaving,” Brown said. “I was angry he didn’t tell the executive leadership of the band first. But looking back, I understand it was probably harder for him than it was for us. He probably couldn’t have had that same conversation twice in one day.”

Brown is a freshman social studies education major. He is also the band’s drum major.

During that February conversation, Brown said, Tuomaala had told the band his wife had accepted a high-profile job out of state and that he would be going with her. His last day would be March 10.

Tuomaala had headed the Husky Sports Band for over a decade.

“To lose a musical father figure,” Brown said. “It’s hard. A lot of people look to the band as a place they can call home. And to see a person like your dad leaving the family, you can see how easily distraught people were. People cried.”

Travis Ball, outgoing president of the Husky Sports Band, said Tuomaala had cancelled all performances and rehearsals for the remainder of the semester. He had tentatively set the band’s fall schedule of performances and turned in grades for those taking the class for credit.

“We knew they weren’t going to hire anyone to finish off the semester,” Ball said.

So without an instructor and grades already turned in, the Husky Sports Band was officially over for the semester.

At least on paper.

“Well, to us, the band is not just a band,” Ball said.

The first Tuesday night without Tuomaala, Ball said, an officer meeting was held in the regular practice room. It was the largest attended officer meeting he has witnessed in his short time with the sports band.

“During that meeting we all shared stories about what the band meant to us,” Brown said. “We started the healing process that night.”

And along with that, band members reiterated the message that Tuomaala had instilled in them.

“There is one big thing we preach here,” said Sarah Paulus, a junior TV production major and the band’s baton twirler. “It’s not my band, it’s not your band. It’s our band. So for us, the decision was easy. Why wouldn’t we keep going?”

Ball said officers began to reach out to faculty members of the music department, asking if it would be alright to continue holding practice 7 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday. And under the direction of Brown, nearly every member of the approximately 60-piece band continued to show up, instruments in hand, music at the ready.

“This band has some kind of (positive) energy,” said Grant Schellberg, a senior electrical engineering major. “Even when we faced adversity we just have shown that we have the capability to overcome. And I do believe a lot of it stems from the good ground work Tuomaala and the student leaders have done.”

Along with holding a regular practice schedule, Ball said the Husky Sports Band executive team has started to reach out to the athletics department in the hopes to start working out performance schedules for the winter season. In addition, Ball said the music department, campus sports teams and sports band alumni have all vowed to help support the band through this uncertain time.

“Since the moment Tuomaala announced he was leaving people we didn’t even know who cared about the band asked to help,” Ball said. “Professors around campus, even the wrestling coach came by and thanked us and said they would be willing to help. This band has reached a lot of people and its interesting to see who we have all touched over the years.”

St. Cloud State Director of Media Relations and Publications Adam Hammer said he is unsure of the long-term staffing plan for the Husky Sports Band.

But that is not stopping Claseman in her mission to grow the band.

“When I first got into music, I wanted to share it,” she said. “I wanted to help the next generation fall in love with music. And with this role (as Husky Sports Band president), I want to help out all of these kids who are in high school continue with their music (in college). The position needs to be filled, but it’s not critical to our livelihood.”

Because as most members of the sports band will say, the livelihood of the band isn’t found on a piece of sheet music. It’s found within its members.

“We’ve become a little family,” Claseman said. “The music is a plus. But it’s all about the people.”

___

Information from: St. Cloud Times, https://www.sctimes.com

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