BRANDON, S.D. (KELO) – In the words of band director and former Brandon Valley High School alumni Tyler Nettestad, the Brandon Valley Marching Lynx has a “rich tradition of excellence” that he has no plans of changing in the future. 

The 165 students that make up the band are ready for the community and competition judges to see their 2023 show, “Solstice.” Their first performance is Friday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m. The Marching Lynx will preview their show and serve fresh watermelon at the Brandon Valley High School. Admission to the show and the melon is free. 

“It’s about the sun and the longest day of the year,” Nettestad said. “So think sun, summertime, fun, energetic type of show.”

This is Nettestad’s sixth year teaching at his alma mater. He graduated from BVHS in 2003 and played the trumpet for the Marching Lynx. 

“I went through this program so it’s awesome to come back and actually teach at the band that you went through,” he said. “This band is very special to me. I’m glad that I’m in this role and hopefully I can uphold those same expectations.”

Nettestad noted changes to marching band culture during the 20 years since his time playing from Brandon. He said there’s a lot more focus now on the visual aspect of marching which lends itself to a more theatrical performance where the style back in the day was more militarized. 

“But, the expectations and the quality of the band are the same as they’ve always been,” he said.

For senior drum major Jaci Stemwedel, holding and meeting those high expectations gives her a great sense of accomplishment. Stemwedel joined the Marching Lynx as a freshman clarinet player, but when she was only a sophomore, she was asked to be a drum major and helped lead the band for the past three years. 

“At first, it was kind of a weird dynamic, being a sophomore and telling seniors what to do, but I think as time went on, we just improved mutual respect for each other and I’ve been able to build relationships I wouldn’t have been able to build otherwise,” she said. “I get to help the kids from day one to the final day of the season and I love seeing the results.”

Her favorite memory from her years with the band is the award section at competitions, especially their final show at the Youth in Music competition in Minneapolis. Last year, Brandon Valley got 3rd place out of over 30 schools, which is the highest they’ve won in school history. 

“When we stand there and they announce that Brandon Valley got first, you can hear the whole band behind you screaming that they’re so happy,” Stemwedel said.  

This year will not only be her final season with Brandon, but her last season marching all together. Planning to pursue education after graduation, Stemwedel said this year will be her last chance to take the field as a marching musician. 

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I think everything needs to come to an end. Four years is a long time to do something but leaving this group is going to be very hard for me. I’ve been watching them since I was five at football games, so saying my last goodbye is not going to be easy.”