I Performed in the Super Bowl Halftime Show

Written by Kyle Tsuchiya

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The whole experience was unforgettable.


I’ve been a member of the University of Minnesota Marching Band for the past four years. The Gopher football team’s rather atrocious loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in November signified the end of the football season, which also meant the end of what was my final marching band season… Or so I thought.


On a gorgeous evening in December, the marching band members and their families gathered in a large ballroom inside the beautiful Minneapolis Marriott City Center for the end-of-season banquet. Everything was business as usual; speeches were made, awards were given, and mass-produced banquet food was hastily consumed. However, when our director, Betsy McCann, walked up to the podium to cap off the night, I noticed that she was acting a little strange. In the middle of her speech, she apologized because she had apparently left some of her notes at her table. She then proceeded to walk away from the podium to retrieve them, but before she got too far, Justin Timberlake’s face was suddenly projected onto the screen behind her. We all knew what that meant.


Pandemonium. Band kids were running around the room screaming, laughing, hugging… Some were even crying. I was just sitting in my seat in disbelief. Was this really happening? Yes… Yes, it was.


But it was a secret, and we were required to sign a confidentiality agreement so that we were legally bound to keep it a secret. It was SO HARD! I wanted to brag to everyone I knew. The only people I told were my professors, who were unbelievably supportive and flexible about my absence from class because of rehearsals.


Rehearsals started two weeks before the big event. It was a huge time commitment; we rehearsed for a total of just under 60 hours to perfect the show that would be seen by millions. It was really tough, especially for a marching band comprised of 320 full-time college students, but we knew it would be worth the stress and late nights doing homework.


Justin showed up about a week before game day, and he was as cool as he seems. He wasn’t afraid to get right out on the field and interact with us. It was clear that it wasn’t the appropriate setting for us to be fans and desperately ask for a selfie with him (as much as we all wanted to)... We did our best to treat him like a colleague, and he treated us with that same respect. I actually choreographed one of the moves he did in the show, and there was even a moment during a rehearsal when he touched my shoulder (I almost fainted).


Rehearsals were fun, but they were slow, which was to be expected with a production that large. Not only were there 320 marching band members, but there were 400+ dancers and hundreds more behind-the-scenes crew members as well. I’m still amazed at how they were able to corral that many people to rehearse efficiently and create such an amazing production. We did many full-runs of the show, and each time was like viewing a private Justin Timberlake concert. I was blown away the whole time; the guy is about as talented as one can be.


Finally, after hours and hours of rehearsing, the big day arrived. I could hardly sleep the night before because of sheer excitement. We loaded the ‘switchbacks’ inside U.S. Bank Stadium during the first quarter and waited there until halftime. Luckily, there were TVs lining the walls that allowed us watch the game to help pass the time. The hype slowly built as showtime neared. When the clock finally hit 0:00 and we put on our drums to head to the field, I could feel the electricity in the air.  The magnitude of what we were about to do suddenly hit me when we turned a corner and caught a glimpse of the sold-out crowd through the tunnel, which was only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of people that were about to watch us perform. However, I somehow didn’t really get that nervous… I was just thrilled and thankful to be there.



Thus began the fastest 15 minutes of my life. The show went off without a hitch. The drumline’s moment of fame was during the beginning of Justin’s hit song, “Suit and Tie”; you can very clearly see me and my friends, adjusting our ties and jamming out directly behind the star of the show (6:50 in the video). Since we had rehearsed the show so many times, we were able to just rely on muscle memory and enjoy the moment. It was an exhilarating feeling like none other. I also knew where the cameras would be, so I couldn’t help but flash a smile. I was just having so much fun.


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When the show concluded, I was filled with elation. It still hasn’t really sunk in that we were a part of something so cool. I’m beyond proud of my friends and fellow marching band members for being professional throughout the whole process and representing the University of Minnesota so well. We work really hard to be the best band we can be, and to be able to show off what we can do on a stage that huge was really fulfilling.


Thank you, Justin Timberlake, for being a bro and letting us perform with you. Thank you, Professor McCann, for your direction and care for every single member of the marching band. Thank you, KP, Vincent, and the rest of the amazing halftime show team for your direction, creativity, and kindness. And thank you to everyone that sent us your love and support; my phone blew up with messages of congratulations from people that saw me on TV… Your support means the world to me.