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Students bringing the beat back
Times photos: Brenda Steurer Monroe high school band students practiced marching Friday as they prepare for the Cheese Days Parade in September. One hundred twenty students participated in a three-day marching band camp that was held at the high school in Monroe.
MONROE - Even though the school district doesn't have a marching band, Monroe High School students marched to the beat of several drummers at a band camp Friday to get ready for the Cheese Days parade in September.

Two years ago, the high school didn't have a marching band in the parade. Budget cuts had forced the school district to eliminate the marching band program.

The high school still doesn't have a marching band program. However, about 120 students, from freshmen to seniors, volunteered to march in the parade.

The students had their own reasons for wanting to be in the marching band.

Sophomore Abbey Pagel signed up for the parade because she wanted the experience of taking part in a marching band, she said.

"I wanted to learn new techniques," Brandy Dooley said.

Jadie Voegeli just wanted to be a part of the action.

"I just like Cheese Days," Voegeli said.

No matter what the students' motivation, the effort was all there own, said Dan Henkel, Monroe High School band teacher.

"They're doing this all on their own time," Henkel said. "The kids come in the morning or in the afternoon, whenever they can fit it into their schedules."

Some of the students had to fit in practice time between summer jobs and family events, but they still showed up, Henkel said.

Henkel and fellow Monroe High School band teacher Brian Bruggeman said it's important the students have a chance to take part in a marching band.

"It's good for the students and the community to have this," Henkel said.

Henkel marched in the University of Wisconsin marching band. He said there are students in Monroe who may want to march in a college band, and the three-day band camp will give them some needed experience.

"Being in the (UW) marching band opened a lot of doors of for me. I was able to march in the Rose Parade and at the Final Four," he said.

Parents have also gotten on the marching band wagon.

Henkel said parents supported the camp by brining in food for the students. The parents planned a picnic for all the parents and students who took part in the camp.

"They're happy to see we're doing this," he said.

Henkel and Bruggeman, along with assistant Breta Saganski, who marches with the UW marching band, gave the kids pointers on how to stay in line and how to turn corners. Those are two things that are important to a marching band, Saganski said.

"It takes practice," she said. "It's not as easy as it looks."

After two full days, however, Saganski was ready to grade the students on their efforts.

"I think they're doing a great job," she said.

As they marched around the high school parking lot Friday, Henkel critiqued their moves.

"Your rows are looking better," he said through a megaphone. "Your turns are getting better."

Learning how to stay in line and how to look like a marching band takes some time, Bruggeman said.

"You really have to concentrate on what you're doing," he said.

Henkel said he wanted the band camp to be a good experience for the stunts. He didn't want to overload the kids with too many instructions and he wanted them to learn the basics.

"We started with the fundamentals," he said. "We had them start marching without their instruments and then added them later on. We want them to have fun."