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Minnesota Pep Band Is All Guitars And Drums

WINONA, Minn. (AP) -- What do you do when most pep bands have more members than your school has students?

Suffer in silence?

Or start a smaller band?

With fewer than 50 students, just putting a basketball team on the court takes a significant portion of the student body, so, at first blush, putting a band in the stands might seem out of reach ... and, in a literal sense, it was.

Members of the Hope High Pep Band play on the floor in a corner of the gym -- all three of them.

For the record, that's Jacob Finke on lead guitar, Michael Hoepner on bass and Alex Butenhoff on drums.

A power trio as a pep band.

"We're the only one we know of," Alex said.

The school tried to put together a more traditional pep band last year -- "with trumpets and stuff," Jacob said. "But it didn't get off the ground."

A similar attempt this year "didn't generate enough interest."

"So we got together and decided to play for basketball games," Michael said.

The response was better than the band could have imagined.

"They are awesome," Hope High athletic director Angie Meyer said. "The first night they played, everything changed."

The repertoire isn't John Philip Sousa -- there's no arrangement of "Stars and Stripes Forever" for electric bass -- but the boys get the crowd going with their own full power covers of classic rock and roll.

"We do CCR," Jacob said.

"I definitely enjoy Jimi Hendrix covers," Alex said.

"Mr. Going, our science teacher, wanted Led Zeppelin, so we learned a couple of their songs," Michael said. "And the Batman Theme Song -- everybody likes that one."

All told, the trio has developed a repertoire of 15 to 20 songs since they got together in September and are adding to that on a regular basis.

"We learned two new ones last night for tonight," Michael said.

The boys limit themselves to instrumental renditions.

"We don't exactly have the voices of angels," Alex confessed.

That's the secret, really.

"Our real excuse is that pep bands don't have singers," Jacob injected.

The band practices two to two-and-a-half hours a week in Alex's father's garage in Rollingstone, Minn.

"We can get as loud as we need to be," Michael said.

The boys credit Jacob's father, Larry Finke, Hope High music director, with helping them get going and inspiring their repertoire.

"Dad's a big fan of classic rock," Jacob said.

The band faces a membership crisis next year as one third of their membership is due to graduate at the end of this school year. Michael said he plans to go to Winona State and intends to stay in touch and keep playing with his bandmates.

"I might even play some basketball games next year," he said.

Meanwhile, the band has hit a positive note with their fellow students.

"They're pretty much the big hit of the school," Meyer said. "It's wonderful for them to pop up and do this."

Winona Daily News

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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