‘Pride of Minnesota’ shines

Members of the University of Minnesota Marching Band exult.

For the University of Minnesota Marching Band, the last two months have been a whirlwind of anticipation, secrecy, and grueling days of rehearsals. But then came their formal moment in the spotlight—backing up pop superstar Justin Timberlake for the song “Suit & Tie” and performing other roles in Sunday's halftime show in front of some 67,000 fans at U.S. Bank Stadium and a television audience of, well … a hundred million.

When it comes to memorable college experiences, this would have to be pretty high on any list.

“It was a very rewarding experience,” says Kyle Tsuchiya, a fourth-year student and drum line team leader from Eden Prairie. “It was surreal, really.”

Tsuchiya was part of a wave of band members lobbying the National Football League to invite them to perform at halftime, but they thought their efforts had gone for naught until the team’s end-of-season banquet in December. That’s when marching band director Betsy McCann mysteriously had everyone give up their phones before announcing—to a thunderous reaction (see video)—that they were indeed performing with Timberlake.

“It was awesome,” says McCann. “They just absolutely erupted. They were jumping on each other; they were crying and screaming. It was a great moment.”

Then came the secrecy—they were forbidden to reveal anything about the show or their participation—and, finally, their moment in the spotlight.

“I thought they did a phenomenal job,” says McCann. “The moment they walked in you could tell their level of excitement was incredibly high, but their focus was just zeroed in when it was performance time.”

For Tsuchiya, who was marching right behind Timberlake at the band’s first appearance, the “pinch me” moment occurred right as he reached the field and started seeing glimpses of the massive crowd.

“That’s sort of when it hit me—the gravity of what we were about to do,” he says. “That was a special moment when I realized how cool it was that we were doing that. … The world was watching, which was scary but thrilling. It was a thrill like none other.”

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities