WESTON – D.C. Everest band instructors Joe Finnegan and Ben Burish received in late October the Melvin F. Pontius Creative Sparks in Music Education Award at the 2023 Wisconsin State Music Conference hosted at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison.
The pair were honored alongside their fellow Northwoods Marching Band instructors Austin Knappel (Antigo High School), Forrest Mann (Northland Pines High School), Bethany Puffer (Three Lakes High School), William Richter (Lakeland Union High School), Tyler Schuster (Mosinee High School) and Elli Wilk (Merrill High School).
The eight band instructors were recognized for their collaboration and dedication in preparing their student-musicians for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in the 2023 Rose Bowl Parade.
“It has been a privilege to work with such talented and dedicated staff in north central Wisconsin,” Finnegan said in a news release. “We are all blessed to have so many talented students and hard working families in our programs. The planning and preparation to take on this task was immense, and this group of teachers not only took on the challenge, but successfully made a plan to create a memory of a lifetime.”
The nearly 400-member Northwoods band was the second largest marching band to ever perform for the Rose Parade. One of the ways in which students showcased the state was through a unique musical composition crafted by Joe Finnegan and legendary (now retired) Mike Leckrone, director of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band. The musical piece, “Beautiful Wisconsin,” was a combination of “On Wisconsin” and “America the Beautiful.” Leckrone composed the woodwind and brass portions of the piece while Finnegan composed the percussion portion.
Their work “serves as an inspiration for countless music educators across the state,” said Brad Schneider, Wisconsin Music Education Association president.