Minnesota’s largest gathering of music educators will feature nationally-recognized headliners, as well as Minnesota State’s own Mav Machine.
The Minnesota Music Educators Association, or MMEA, is bringing back the annual Midwinter Convention, a convention of professional development Feb. 15, where the Mav Machine will perform for educators, students and the general public.
“I’m just so proud of the students,” band director Michael Thursby said. “They’re the ones that do hours and hours of work and they attend all of the events and support the university, so for them to kind of get the reward for the work that they have put in– It’s a pretty incredible feeling.”
MSU junior Drew Burling recalls attending the conference years prior; however, instead of watching as a student, the trombonist will be playing for them.
“I’m just super excited as an aspiring music educator to get to have other people see us, and be able to see a bunch more people perform and learn a lot from the convention,” Burling said. “It’s always super educational and fun.”
With recent accomplishments like their march in last November’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago, the band’s success was recognized and selected for a spot for the first time in Mav Machine’s history.
“Most of these educators know of Mankato, but now this is going to be a chance for them to see us up close and personal,” Thursby said.
Their program titled, “Changing the Game,” contrasts from the regular, peppy music played during Maverick games, and instead focuses on a syncopated Cuban-type rhythm, incorporating pieces from well-known musicals such as “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” and “The Greatest Showman.” The concept as a whole draws attention to the importance of mental health in both the ensemble and audience.
“The music that we’re doing is where we look at using our platform and our voice to perform different music and to bring visibility to maybe underrepresented composers, composers that come from an LGBTQ+ background,” Thursby said.
The program is also considered to be more challenging than the band’s typical lineup. To prepare for the advanced selection, MSU sophomore Caiden Rademacker has focused on leading the team of strings and playing the electric guitar.
“I’ve had to step up my own guitar game in order to play it, and I’ve had to make sure that the other people in my section are able to do it, too,” Rademacker said.
For many band members with families in the Twin Cities area, this performance will be the first time they see their Maverick in action. Many students will also get to connect with former band and choir teachers.
“I think that this is a great chance for us to allow the students to be in front of people that they know, and that I think is a really big opportunity for them,” Thursby said.
The band itself, containing more than 150 members, has dedicated extra hours outside of regular practice times toward mastering the setlist.
“Seeing everything come together and all the work that everyone’s put in has been super cool because you can really tell that everyone really cares about being successful,” Burling said.
Despite the lengthy hours, the Mav Machine remains committed to showcasing their talent alongside support from colleagues.
“Being part of the band has been nothing short of awesome,” Rademacker said. “It lets me and a bunch of other people do stuff that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
The pressure of performing on a prestigious platform can be intimidating, but Burling stresses the importance of “always having fun with it.”
“A lot of times in music, we always strive for perfection or you just have to keep getting better, often to the point of frustration,” Burling said. “I think as long as people are having fun with it, that’s going to come across, and that often is something that people care about more than perfect technique.”
On a smaller scale, the Mav Machine will perform this program for free to the public at 11 a.m. in Myers Field House Sunday. The convention itself is also free with a ticket at the Minneapolis Convention Center at 6:45 p.m. Thursday. Students can reach out to Thursby at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
“They’re (Mav Machine) at almost every sporting event on campus and really bleed purple and gold,” Thursby said. It’s an attribute to the work that they do that they were selected for this honor.”
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Header Photo: The Mav Machine headed to MSU’s Ted Paul Theatre Sunday for a 4 hour rehearsal in preparation of MMEA’s Midwinter Convention. The convention is the largest gathering of music educators in the state, and will feature the Machine Feb. 15. (Courtesy Maverick Machine Athletic Bands)