The SOUND of USD Makes Their Appearance at Mardi Gras
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The SOUND of USD Makes Their Appearance at Mardi Gras

USD band members and instructors embarked on a week-long trip to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebration, starting Feb. 8 through the 14.

The adventure started In the early morning of Thursday, Feb. 8, when the band loaded the buses and departed from USD’sDakota Dome. Later that morning, they made a stop at Omaha North High School for a concert.

USD’s Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble I, and the Marching Band got the chance to perform at Omaha North. They played in front of Amber Bock and her students at the school. Bock is a successful USD alum and now the band director at Omaha North. 

Add something here about leaving the school to go to the Omaha airport.

Later that evening, the group arrived in St. Louis where they stayed the night. The following morning, the students and instructors headed straight to New Orleans. They got to relax for the rest of the night once they arrived, and prepare for the celebration the next day.

On Saturday Feb. 10, the marching band began to line-up in the afternoon for the first parade they would perform in. This parade was called Krewe of Endymion, the largest parade of all during Mardi Gras. The Krewe of Endymion was founded in 1967, consisting of 3,200 riders and 81 floats.

Todd Cranson, director of The SOUND of USD Marching Band, stated, “At our first parade, we found ourselves in the middle of a real-life battle of the bands between southern high-school bands as well as several HBCU bands. It was over two hours of intense sound…quite the experience for our students!”

The following day, the group got the day off to enjoy the Mardi Gras celebration. The parade that took place that day was the Krewe of Bacchus, where everyone had the opportunity to go to.

Korbin Maertins, guitar player for the Jazz Ensemble I and baritone player for the marching band, described his experience as “unforgettable.” He said, “The most important and best part of it all was getting to go through it with my friends. However, the experiences that really stand out are the chaos of Bourbon Street. Mother’s Restaurant’s Crawfish Étouffée, and sweet potato pie and running between the start of the Krewe of Bacchus parade, to a fried oyster dinner, and then back to the Krewe of Bacchus a couple of miles away, right where we left off.”

On Monday, Feb. 12, the band loaded up in the afternoon to perform in their second parade. This one was called the Krewe of Orpheus, which started later in the evening. The Krewe of Orpheus was founded in 1993 and consists of 1,500 riders and 38 floats.

Maertins commented on USD’s marching performance by saying.

 “Marching band was long and exhausting but with our amazing entourage, and great crowd response, it was very easy to continue putting on a great performance.”

Not only did the marching band play during the Mardi Gras celebration, but also the Jazz Ensemble I performed during parade line-ups for large crowds of people who were also waiting for the parade to start. 

Dr. Christopher Kocher, director of jazz studies, talked about his band’s performance by stating.

 “USD Jazz Ensemble 1 performed before the parades in the area where the parades began. We had great, appreciative audiences, and the students in the band really played well. I could tell they were energized by the crowds and the amazing atmosphere.”

Cranson was also excited to see the jazz perform before the parades.

“That is a novel thing that we did, and it was exciting for the students to play jazz in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz! They sounded amazing, fed off the energy of the crowds, and everyone loved them!”

Kocher also commented on how he heard some great bands playing in the streets of the French Quarter. Old traditional New Orleans style was popular during Mardi Gras, consisting of trumpets, trombones, drums, etc. He was also fascinated by popular sites he got to go to, such as Congo Square, the French Quarter, and the statues of Louis Armstrong.

The last day in New Orleans was Tuesday the 13, in which the Fat Tuesday parades took place. Once these concluded, the group boarded on the buses to head on their way home. They stayed at Southaven, Mississippi, for the final night of the trip.

After leaving the hotel the next morning, USD had a long drive back to Vermillion, where they arrived late Wednesday night. I would possibly add on to this sentence.

Cranson stated on the trip, “New Orleans Mardi Gras parades are unlike parades anywhere else in the country. It is a non-stop party atmosphere full of unique cultural experiences. This atmosphere of fun and revelry is ingrained in the culture of New Orleans, and it attracts people from around the world to come witness and partake. Students got to experience the different flavors and feel of each neighborhood (on the parade route), and we, being from South Dakota, were a novelty to the revelers along the parade route. It was great for the marching band to get such a warm welcome and enthusiastic response from folks on the parade route!”