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Strike up the band

A drum and bugle performance group from southern Minnesota was crowned national champion on Labor Day, and a New Richmond family is among those celebrating the honor.

Sandee Conlin is the director of the Govenaires Drum and Bugle Corps out of St. Peter, Minn.

She and her daughters, Averyel and Monique Hagel, also perform as part of the corps. Sandee and Monique play in the cymbal line, while Averyel plays the xylophone and marimba.

The family spends most of the summer traveling between New Richmond and St. Peter for practices, and between Minnesota and performance location.

Each year the Govenaires travel to Rochester, N.Y. to participate in the Drum Corps Associates Class A World Championships.

This year's season-ending victory was the Govenaires' second world title in four years. The group has come close to the world title on numerous other occasions.

"This one was fun," Conlin said. "The primary goal is to entertain the audience."

The Govenaires' show was entitled "Summer of Seduction." The group performed three songs on that theme.

The group competes in the Class A portion of the DCA championship. The contest pits the top drum and bugle crops with between 35 and 65 members.

The weekend event begins with individual and ensemble competition on Friday. Preliminary competition for the drum and bugle corps is held Saturday. The top four groups advance to the finals on Sunday night.

Conlin said she knew the Govenaires' show was one that would connect with the crowd, but the musicians didn't know how the judges will react.

"We just like to go out and have fun," she said. "There are some drum corps who compete solely for the scores. It's fun to win, but for Continued from Page 1A

us it's OK not to win too."

By the end of their show, the Govenaires had the crowd on its feet.

"The standing ovation at the end made all the blood, sweat and tears worth it," she said. "The crowd reaction was so exciting to see."

Conlin began her drum and bugle corps career in 1981 when she joined the Blue Knights corps of St. Paul, Minn. while she was still in high school.

In 1984, she joined the Govenaires and has been a part of the group ever since. She was elected director last year.

Her job includes finding paid and volunteer staff for the corps, fundraising, vehicle maintenance and overall coordination of the group's schedule.

"I do all the things that need to get done," she said.

She manages a staff of 10 and 45 musicians for the drum and bugle corps.

Her husband Dan, who also has a long history of drum and bugle corps experience, helps out behind the scenes. He helps prepare food for the musicians and drives the vehicles to and from the corps' appearances.

It's a busy schedule, which begins with indoor rehearsals in January, field practices in April, 12 to 15 summer parades and eight or nine drum and bugle corps competitions.

Now that the 2009 season is done, the Govenaires' staff is already working on next year's show.

Over the next few months, they'll be recruiting new staff members and new musicians to play in 2010.

"We have some members who have been playing for 15 plus years and they're ready to hang up their marching shoes," Conlin explained. "Even though it's hard to lose those people, it's fun to get new blood into the corps as well. Now that we've won the DCA, hopefully we'll have more people who want to march with us."

That constant turnover in the group is what keeps Conlin young, she said, and keeps her marching.

"It's a lot of hard work, but it's too much fun to quit yet," she said. "I draw my energy from the younger members of the Govenaires."

By January, the practice and performing schedule returns for the group.