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TK Band Alumni Keep the Beat in College

They credit the TKHS band program and their former teachers Ray Rickert  and Mark Hagemann with great preparation and encouragement to continue their band experiences.

Western Michigan University freshman Heather Price said she's enjoying the excitement as a member of the Bronco Marching Band along with fellow TK alumni Noah Miller.

"It's been nuts," she said of the Bronco's record season and all the national attention that comes with an undefeated team. "We started out our first game with no one staying for the last half because we got rained out. We played in the stands to band and football parents. Then as we won a few more games, the stadium just kept getting more and more crowded. It is definitely a great year to be a Bronco."

Whether the team is winning or not, band members said the excitement of being part of the band is like nothing else.

"The whole intensity of the MSU band is a whole different level," said freshman Braedon Halle. "Everyone is at the game and everyone is cheering. It's so much fun."

Braedon is part of the 300-member Spartan marching band that also includes TK alumni Jake Foote. But Braedon almost didn't get his opportunity.

"I was literally in the worst position. I was on the reserve list and had someone drop out on the last possible day - the last day of band camp," he said. "The payoff is 100 percent worth it. I'm going to have a community of friends and alumni to be with the rest of my life."

Kelsea Seifert knows what it's like to be on the reserve list as well. After playing two years with the MSU Brass, who play for winter sporting events, she finds herself this year on the reserve list for the squad.

"I loved band in high school. It made me sad to think it was going to end when I went to college," she said. "I was a little trepidatious about playing at the college level. Mr. Rickert just instilled so much confidence in us. Just having someone like him believe in you really helped going into those auditions," said Seifert, a microbiology and biological sciences major.

She's still hopeful to be called upon as a reservist, or even gain a permanent spot this year and said she plans to try out again next year.

All of the students said one of the best things about band is the instant camaraderie and family feel.

"The Notre Dame band and the trombone section has become my family here at school," said Notre Dame senior Alicia Czarnecki, an environmental engineering major who has played all four years in marching band.

Rachel Belson started her college experience at Wayne State but transferred her sophomore year to Grand Valley where she had an opportunity to continue her marching band experience.

"Part of the reason I'm at Grand Valley today is because of the band, and the opportunities I'm getting that Wayne State Bands couldn't offer," said Belson who joins other TK alumni Amy David, Joey Lambert and James Senard  in the GVSU band.

Belson said marching band in high school was always her favorite and she loved the Friday night performances at the football games.

"I also really enjoyed that all of my friends were in band. There's a social aspect to marching band- similar to a sports team. We all feel like family," she said.

Belson credits her positive experience at TK and the encouragement from band director Ray Rickert with allowing her to continue performing.

"Without Rickert's help and enthusiasm, I don't think I would be marching in college band. He does a wonderful job teaching. He pays attention to detail, and is incredibly supportive of his students," she said.

Halle agreed. "Besides Mr. Rickert just having a huge passion for it and encouraging us to continue, we were also prepared. TK is unique in that we do multiple shows every year and have to learn new shows that helps us in college. Fortunately, for me, the fight song at least is very similar," Halle said.

"Being in the TK Marching band taught me the musical and marching fundamentals that I needed in order to participate in band on a collegiate level. There are some students who are not lucky enough to go to a high school that has a good marching band program, or a marching band program at all, and I was lucky that TK gave me that experience," said Czarnecki.

Rickert said he encourages his students to continue because he remembers how much he gained from his college band experiences at Eastern Illinois.

"I got to play for the Chicago Bears, St. Louis Cardinals, and even President Reagan. The opportunities that some of our alumni have gotten are simply amazing," said Rickert.

Price said she never dreamed going to Western University she would have the opportunity to march in  bowl game, but it's beginning to look like that might happen this year.

Because of band at Notre Dame, Czarnecki has been able to travel to places like Texas, New York City and Nashville as well as internationally to places Portugal, Spain, Croatia and Slovenia. Czarnecki is a senior trombone member of the ND marching band for four years and also in jazz band, University band, pep band, and Concert Winds -  the top concert band at Notre Dame.

"College bands are like huge families. It gives new college students an immediate sense of belonging," said Rickert.

Rickert takes time to visit many of his students and watch them perform in college.

"When a student plays in college band, I'm feeling like a proud papa," he said.