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Championship season starts now for band

Four months of practice and preparation hits its peak with a pair of high-level competitions starting this weekend for the Rosemount High School marching band.

The band will compete in the Youth in Music state championship Saturday at the Metrodome and the following weekend will travel to St. Louis, Mo., for a Bands of America super-regional competition.

Band director Steve Olsen has high hopes for both competitions, and history gives him some reason to be optimistic. The Irish have won the Youth in Music title each of the six years it has been held, and made finals eight straight years, finishing as high as third overall, at a St. Louis competition that each year draws some of the best marching bands in the country. This year's Bands of America field includes a record 58 bands from 14 states, including the defending national champion from Dallas, Texas.

"Texas is where marching bands and football - that's the center of their world down there," Olsen said.

Marching band has become a big deal over the years at RHS, too. The Irish have been dominant in local competitions. A second-place finish to Eden Prairie earlier this year in a marching band festival at Eastview High School was the first time in years the Irish finished as anything other than champions in a Minnesota competition. Olsen attributed the rare runner-up showing to a couple of factors. First, other Minnesota bands are starting to get better. And second, Rosemount's show -- a complicated performance that blends classic rock music with Ravel's Bolero, an opera aria and music by Wagner -- was still a work in progress.

"It's a different kind of show for us in that we're using pop music," Olsen said. "We didn't have all of the elements on the field yet because we were experimenting with some different things.

"One of the things we try to do is keep people guessing," he said. "We think it's kind of fun to not fall into the same routine.... We like the fact that it keeps it fresh for our kids and us."

The band seems to be rolling now, though. The Irish finished as champions last weekend in a field of 26 bands at a competition in Sioux Falls, So. Dak. The band's color guard and hornline also received recognition.

That should put the band in good position for Saturday, which is actually two competitions in one. Minnesota bands will compete in the afternoon for the state title, and in the evening bands from Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin will compete for a separate title.

Olsen is optimistic about Rosemount's chances, although he doesn't like to predict where the band will place. He takes the same approach with the St. Louis competition. He said he likes the band's chances of making a ninth straight finals appearance, but he doesn't talk much about where they might finish if they get there.

"Our expectation is, we enjoy performing at a high level," Olsen said. "Because we are the current state champions and we've done really well in the past there, we want to continue to do well and represent our state well."