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Major Commitment

Fall 2012
The U's 'fool up front," drum major Brandon Folkes
by Erin Peterson
Photographs by Dan Marshall

He calls himself “the fool up front,” but Brandon Folkes is nothing of the sort. The self-deprecating senior from Long Valley, New Jersey, is beginning his second year as drum major for the University of Minnesota Marching Band. A double major in entrepreneurial management and nonprofit management, Folkes would add a third without thinking twice. “If I could major in marching band, I would do so in a heartbeat,” he says.

During the summer, Folkes rises every day at 5 a.m. to run up to five miles to build endurance for leading the 325-member band’s pregame and halftime shows. During the season he arrives at TCF Bank Stadium nearly eight hours before kickoff—that’s 3:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. game—to prepare his uniform, review schedules, stretch, check in with the director, and attend to countless other details.

 See a five-minute interview and clips of Brandon in action
During games, Folkes is the one who chooses songs to energize fans in between plays. He risks the wrath of coaches, players, and fans if the band plays too long and incurs a 15-yard penalty against the Gophers for interfering with the opposing team’s playcalling.

Still, he loves it. “There’s nothing quite like doing a backbend on the center of the field during pregame and touching your forehead to the ground in front of 50,000 spectators,” he says. “It’s a magnificent upside down sea of maroon and gold.”

This season, he says fans should keep an eye out for new tricks. “I’m working on my front flips,” he says—a move that hasn’t been performed by a drum major yet in the new stadium. The most important skills, he says, are often the basics: “You can always get your knees a little bit higher.”

   12:42 PM 8/29/2012

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