Minnesota's Biggest Summer Marching Band Competition


He attributes success to support

The faint but steady beat of the drum cadence calls you from a distance. If you follow the sound, it will get louder and you will hear music. If you continue to follow the music, you will discover an impressive sight: more than 250 dedicated young musicians following their "pied piper," John Anderson.
You have discovered the Jefferson High School Marching Band. The students have devoted another summer evening toward perfecting their marching routine. The students are here to work, because it is their job to carry on the band's tradition. And they work hard, because they respect their director.
John Anderson is the driving force behind this band, and the story of how he built this program to rank among the state's best is one of leadership, teamwork and sharing of ideas.
John began discovering at a young age the incredible influence teachers could have on students. He started his musical career in fourth grade when he began playing trumpet, and he fondly remembers his music teachers.
"I was fortunate to have many fine teachers when I grew up," John recalls. "One of the biggest influences in my life was my college band director, Dr. Richard Lindner. He influenced my decision to pursue a degree in music education."
John grew up in Winona, Minn., where he attended Winona State University. He recently earned a Master's degree from St. Cloud State University. His first teaching job was at the Elgin-Millerville school in southeast Minnesota.
"Elgin-Millerville was such a small school system that I had the entire 5-12 band program. In my four years there, I enjoyed the support of parents, school administrators, teachers and of course the students. During my last year, a new music wing was added to the school. That same year, out of 42 fifth grade students, 41 chose to join the band program."
John came to Alexandria in 1981, and the growth of the band program since that time has exceeded his expectations.
"Back then, there were two high school bands totalling 115 students, which I thought was fantastic," John says. "The 1994-95 band program will include four concert bands and involve 275 students."
The growth of the band program has had a significant impact on the growth of the Vikingland Band Festival, according to Festival Committee Chair Al Quam.
"We have ridden on the coattails of the prestige of the Jefferson High School Marching Band," Al says. "John and his music staff must be given credit for making it easier to attract the top high school bands to the Festival."
In the Festival's early days, John's suggestions ensured that the committee understood how to treat bands well. In addition, John has continuously served as a "sounding board" for new ideas. John has enthusiastically supported the Festival, and he notes that one of its most positive qualities is how it promotes the sharing of ideas among marching bands.
"I know the Long Prairie and Litchfield marching bands have had an impact on the success of our band," John says. "Those bands have served as examples of excellence for many directors, including me. Because of them and others, I have seen a tremendous growth in the number of high quality marching bands in the Vikingland Band Festival. I know the Alexandria Band works very hard to keep up with the performance levels you see displayed by bands here today."
John credits several other factors, besides the inspiration from viewing other bands, for the great success of the Alexandria band program.
"The District 206 administration has shown a willingness and desire to hire the best instructors available," John says.
The junior high and high school band staff includes Tom Haugen, Eldie Quarnstrom, Joel Wood, Liz Towers and Darla Storm. His "superb" marching staff includes Tom, Joel, Liz, Ken Martinson, Sara Morken and Matt Hill.
John also credits the community of Alexandria for strong support of the band.
"Great kids, and strong parent support reflected by the active parent booster organization, have made our marching band successful."
John has acquired many memories during his 13 years in Alexandria. Highlights include the honor of having his Wind Ensemble play at the Minnesota Music Educators Association convention, and marching in the 1987 Cotton Bowl Parade and the 1990 Tournament of Roses Parade. Another great memory was performing during the closing ceremony of the U.S. Olympic Festival, where the band surrounded a United States flag the size of a football field.
John also has wonderful memories of the summer of 1985, which was the first year the Alexandria marching band was able to compete among the state's best bands.
"Our first appearance in the Minneapolis Aquatennial Parade was a big deal for both the students and the adults. The band performed very well that day and we were fortunate to win. Ironically, I didn't find out we had won until more than an hour after the awards ceremony.
"I missed the awards program at Parade Stadium because I accompanied several students to the hospital. Upon returning to a vacant Parade Stadium, I found all the Alexandria students standing at attention, with the drum majors holding the first place trophy high in the air. When the bus I was riding pulled into the parking lot, the students began to scream, yell and cry. It was an emotional moment. Our buses were met by an Alexandria Fire Department escort when we returned home, and that concluded a perfect day."
The summer of 1985 was the beginning of a great tradition for the Alexandria Band. John has continued to challenge his students to rise to that tradition.
"I tell the kids that just putting on the uniform doesn't make them members of a great band. That was last year's band," he says. "It's up to them to make this year's band another great band."
John leads his students with solid philosophies. He wants students to gain valuable insights that can be applied to broader areas of life. John gives a great deal of credit for his own success to his parents, who taught him through words and, more importantly, led by example.
"My parents taught me to approach life with a positive attitude," John says. "They taught me to do my best and never give up.
"I also want to acknowledge two little girls that are in the process of growing up with the band: my daughters, Meggie and Jenna. Both are my pride and joy, and everything I do in life has more meaning because of them. My hope is that as adults, they will be as proud of their father as I am of my parents."
John also speaks highly of his association with his fellow Grand Marshals, Jim Clayton and Ken Martinson.
"In life there are few people that can be depended upon without exception," John says. "Jim Clayton and Ken Martinson are two such people. I feel very lucky to have established such a positive working relationship with Jim and Ken, and I am proud to call them my friends. I consider it an honor to be recognized with them as Grand Marshal of the tenth anniversary Vikingland Band Festival."
Photo courtesy of Vernon Studio

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