He’s done it more than once
Nick Hansberry grew up in Alexandria, Minn., home of the Vikingland Band Festival, so he knows about marching band. He’s also well aware of the reputation the Waconia Marching Band and the high school music department have in music circles. So, when the opportunity came to become the new band director here after the departure of former director John Pohland, he jumped at the chance even if it meant living away from his new wife for nearly a year while she remained in Colorado where they both had been teaching music.
Now, he’s about to direct his first marching band season with “Big Black.” His 160-strong student musicians have been practicing for several weeks this spring and just returned from band camp at St. John’s University to hone their show.
They will take it to the streets tonight (Wednesday) for the first time for an opening performance at 6 p.m. at City Square Park and begin a full competitive season next week with parades in Benson, Minn. (June 14), Milaca (June 16), and Owatonna (June 18). The Waconia Marching Band hosts its own Lake Waconia Band Festival the evening of Saturday, June 18, with 13 bands participating.
The theme of its show this year is “Once.”
Most fairytales start “Once upon a time…” The marching band’s version is a fractured or twisted fairytale, Hansberry explains, with elements of Cinderella, the 2019 fantasy film “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the song Mad World, and haunting strains of Russian composer Rachmaninoff.
Street marching is about capturing the attention of audiences along the way and judges who score the show, and Hansberry believes this show will do that with music and marching complemented by colorful color guard costumes and flags.
As the new marching band director, Hansberry acknowledges that he has large shoes and a considerable presence to fill in John Pohland, Waconia’s marching band director for 15 years before he departed for a position in New Prague. In fact, the first few weeks Hansberry said he found himself saying, “What am I getting into?”
But Hansberry’s credentials are strong, while his colleagues Phil Snyder, Ali Wilmes and Sue Snorek are seasoned and supportive, he says, and his marching band students are talented and hard working. Those students also are aware of the WMB tradition that has been drummed into them through a succession of drum majors and section leaders.
At least one of his students says that Hansberry “might have more energy even than Mr. P.,” while a marching band parent points out that some of the younger band members didn’t have the former director as a teacher, so there’s no comparison to be drawn. Meanwhile, Hansberry says he does stay in touch with the former director to share ideas and get advice.
In terms of introductions, the new band director is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where he earned his Bachelor of Music Education in instrumental music in 2015. Hansberry is currently pursuing his Master of Music at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul.
Upon graduation from UW-Eau Claire, from 2016-2019, Hansberry served as associate director of bands at La Crosse Central High in La Crosse, Wis., and also director of the La Crosse Area Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Hansberry relocated to Colorado to become director of instrumental music at Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colo., from 2019-2021. His now-wife Hannah a violinist joined him there.
She’s from Stillwater, Minn., and the pair felt so strongly about the Waconia position and returning to Minnesota that Hansberry has been living in a friend’s basement in Chaska until the school year ends when she can rejoin him to look for a home.
Meanwhile, in addition to preparing for the 2022 Waconia Marching Band show, Hansberry remains active with various drum and bugle corps, most recently with the Music City corps based out of Nashville, Tenn.
Whether it’s field marching or street marching, Hansberry calls marching band a collaborative process. And with this year’s show, marching band fans may want to see the show “Once” more than once.
Waconia colleague and marching band assistant Phil Snyder recently received the American School Band Director’s Association “Distinguished Young Band Director Award,” presented to a young director who exhibits the qualities of a future outstanding director.