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Woebegone, but Not Without Honor

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Rolf Widstrand, the band director at Biwabik High School in rural Minnesota, didn't want to lead the pep band if wasn't going to sound good.

The problem was, there weren't any trumpets.

"You have to ask yourself," said Charles E. Mistek, principal of the 129-student school, "'How is "The Star Spangled Banner" going to sound without trumpets?"'

Well, pretty bad, he and Mr. Widstrand concluded. So they made a "professional" judgment--no trum-4pets, no pep band. It was a point of honor, Mr. Mistek said. "We pride ourselves on having a superior band."

The full 41-member pep band actually sounds fine, Mr. Mistek made clear. But this year, about half of the students in the band also are cheerleaders or players on the football team, roles that require their presence down on the field during the band's performance.

The lack of a trumpet section this year was kind of a fluke, Mr. Mistek added. In other years, despite enrollment declines that have reduced8the number of students at Biwabik High by about half in the past decade, the pep band has always been able to limp by, even with depleted numbers.

But the total absence of a trumpet section this year was the last straw for Rolf Widstrand. He asked the principal if he could tape the full band and play the music over the public-address system at the appropriate times.

Mr. Mistek agreed, but the community and school board would have none of it. There was a lot of talk after the "canned" music was played the first time, and last month the school board voted to require the trumpetless pep band to go on with the show.

It was then that Mr. Widstrand asked to be relieved of his pep-band duties. But the school board wouldn't hear of that either. So the band director, as an honorable man working under contract, did the only thing he could do--make the best of a bad situation.

This year, the pep band is just going to play without the trumpet section, Mr. Mistek said.

The Biwabik community, he explained, "has accepted the fact that things aren't going to be as they were."

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