By Emre K. Erku
Special to The Free Press
---- — For those who dream of pristine marching bands rattling out fast-paced drum lines, there's good news:
Minnesota State University’s Blakeslee Stadium plays host to the 23rd annual Thunder of Drums event Monday.
The event is organized by the Mankato Downtown Kiwanis Club – the same organization that constructed Holiday Lights in Sibley Park -- and it serves as a combination marching band exhibition and competition for drum corps aspiring to gain entrance to the national stage in Indianapolis.
Performing an exhibition will be Mankato’s own Lancers 77 marching band, the St. Peter Marching Saints and, hailing all the way from Norway, the Stabekk School Band. Founded in 1915, this troop of red-suited drummers, trumpeters and trombone players are some of Norway’s best. Adopted by His Majesty The King’s Guard, a 19th-century security unit to the royal Norwegian throne, they resemble a clan of highly decorated officers.
Competing in the event are some of the best and most well-known drum corps in the country, including: Madison Scouts (Madison, Wis.), Blue Stars (La Crosse, Wis.), Colts (Dubuque, Iowa), Crossmen (San Antonio, Texas) and Troopers (Casper, Wyo.). In addition, the Govenaires of St. Peter and the Minnesota Brass of St. Paul -- who collectively represent four Drum Corps Associates national championships -- will be competing.
Doug Faust, who chairs the event, said drum corps will be judged on a variety of technical and aesthetic elements.
“There are five to six judges each focusing on specific aspects,” said Faust, describing the inescapable precision of the methods of critique. “One focuses on the brass section, one on the drum line, one on the overall visual …”
And there aren’t any amateurs occupying the judges’ seats, either. Drum Core International, a non-profit organization for junior percussionists and marchers, provides high school and college composers/conductors to act as judges.
Despite the competitive seriousness of the event, it also serves as a medium for obtaining charitable contributions.
“We put it on to use it as a way to raise funds,” Faust said. “Money goes toward maintaining YMCA and YWCA’s Camp Patterson on Lake Washington. Proceeds also go toward the Lancers themselves.”
Over the years of its existence, Thunder of Drums has seen many thousands of music lovers attend the event. Typical events attract more than 1,500 attendees to the acute drumrolls, delightful horns and precise marching formations of finely dressed musicians.
“The performances put on are spectacular," Faust said. "There are flag and rifle lines augmenting the music, and it’s creating stories through the music.”
If You Go What Thunder of Drums When Exhibition begins at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, competition begins at 7 p.m. Where Blakeslee Stadium, on the MSU campus Tickets $12 general admission, $22 reserved. Visit www.thunderofdrums.org for tickets or more information.