It’s Homecoming Week, and one thing is on the mind of Hutchinson High School students, their families and alumni who came before: Tiger Pride.

The Tigers volleyball team will play New Prague at home 7 p.m. Thursday night, and Friday night the week will hit its climax with the 7 p.m. football game against Delano at S.R. Knutson Field. But once it wraps up, those in attendance will be treated to one last performance from Hutchinson students who have been working hard almost nonstop.

“This summer we marched until July, then started right back up at the end of July,” said senior Cole Meyer, a member of the Hutchinson Marching Tigers. “We’ve been rehearsing since then.”

The marathon practice is a result of a big change for the marching program as it makes the transition from street marching to field marching, which is considered a more challenging pursuit.

“You basically have twice, if not three times the music to memorize,” said director Kevin Kleindl, “and about three times to four times the amount of drill.”

Following the football game, the lights will go out and the Marching Tigers will take to the field with glow sticks and any other personal light source they can get their hands on for an unusual performance in the dark.

“It’s up to the kids how extravagant they want to get,” Kleindl said. “One of our tuba players is messing around with Christmas lights and a battery pack.”

The band’s inaugural show, “Dante,” is based off “The Divine Comedy,” which tracks the narrator’s journey through Hell, then Purgatory and ultimately Paradisio. Friday night’s lights-out show should suit the drama of the performance.

“There are a lot of different, crazy sound effects,” Meyer said. “We are hoping to get a reaction out of the crowd in the dark when they won’t be prepared for anything. It should be very cool.”

Holding the show until after the football game will also allow halftime to be reserved for other regular Homecoming events, such as the introduction of the Homecoming Court and the recipients of ISD 423 Foundation education grants.

“Performing in front of my peers can be nerve-racking, as I know all of them. It is also different for me as my back is to the audience during the show while I conduct,” said Connor Sturges, senior drum major. “I cannot see the audience’s reaction to the show, I can only hear them. While the show is eight and a half minutes, it feels like half that when you are under the lights with the adrenaline.”

With the lights out, he said, some of the formality that brings on nerves will be lost.

“This is a fun way to end the Homecoming Week with a cool experience,” he said.

So far the band has performed at three home football games.

“I didn’t quite know what to expect at the first performance, but I know that the band as a whole was very appreciative of the positive response we received from the student section in particular,” said senior Sarah Skrove, who plays the clarinet. “We also really appreciate hearing positive feedback from community members after we perform. The encouragement helps us get through our longer rehearsals.”

Senior Austin Gertgen who plays marimba in the front ensemble said he was nervous performing in front of his friends and classmates. He worried that in a school with such a strong sports focus, the student body wouldn’t be as interested in music.

“I was surprised when we had our first performance that the student section at the football game gave us a standing ovation,” he said. “It really makes the show much more enjoyable when the crowd claps and cheers for you. It gives you a sense of encouragement.”

The Marching Tigers have started to make a showing at competitions as well. At a recent Waseca competition, the team barely missed second place.

“We didn’t know how we’d do up against other bands, but they did real well,” Kleindl said.

Coon Rapids, which took second place, will be at a competition this Sunday at Champlin Park High School. The Marching Tigers hope to come out ahead the second time around.

“(Almost taking second) gave the kids an additional push,” Kleindl said. “It gave us a goal.”

Following Sunday’s competition is the Youth in Music State Band Competition at U.S. Bank Stadium Saturday, Oct. 12. The Marching Tigers will compete against 11 bands in their class from Wisconsin, South Dakota and Minnesota.

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