Monday presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to members of the Tomah High School Wind Ensemble — they performed at the pre-inauguration ceremony for Wisconsin’s new governor Tony Evers.

THS band director Charlie O’Brien, said it was a special feeling to perform inside the state capitol building in Madison, especially after he thought the voicemail he received asking his musicians to perform was a joke. At first, he believed someone was “pulling my leg.”

“After I had called the number back, I realized we were actually invited to this opportunity, and I didn’t want to tell the students yet because I needed to make sure we were able to commit to the date, and it was really hard to keep that a secret,” he said. “I was able to keep it a secret for a few hours, and luckily that’s all I needed because I was able to check our calendar and get all the permission we needed to make this happen, and I was able to tell the students who were beyond thrilled.”

Evers, a former teacher and principal in the Tomah Area School District, was elected governor last November.

Band member Clara Krause said it was ‘”overwhelmingly amazing just to get there and perform in a space that our sound echoed and sounded amazing and to be able to perform for people. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime, I’ll-remember-for-the-rest-of-my-life, opportunity.”

O’Brien said it still didn’t sink in that they were going to be performing at the inauguration ceremony until the band was actually inside the capitol building.

“After we started playing, it finally set into me that this was actually happening, and I was just in a place of just joy and happiness that my students were able to receive this opportunity and that I was able to share it with them,” he said. “It was surreal, and I was in a state of musical bliss.”

Krause said it also didn’t sink in for her until they were there, playing music for a huge crowd.

“(When I heard) I was kind of like ‘oh, that’s super cool,’ but I couldn’t fathom how cool it was at the time,” she said. “I was like the governor’s inauguration, that’s important, I know it is, but when you get there and you see all the people and you see the shiny capitol it’s like, ‘this is a big deal.’”

Band member Sam Burbach thought it was cool to play at the ceremony, something he would typically only see when watching the news.

“It’s humbling to be chosen for such a big event because there are thousands of high schools in Wisconsin, and there are who knows how many other professional groups who could be playing what we’re playing, but they chose us,” he said. “It’s really cool.”

Band member Brielle Lueck said she was excited when she found out they would be performing, and the actual experience surpassed her imagination of what it would be like.

“When we got there it was just bigger than I thought it would be,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be nervous, but I was actually. ... (I remember) hearing all their speeches and how important it seemed that we were actually there at a governor’s inauguration.”

The ensemble played three songs, Flourish for Wind Band by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst’s Second Suite in F and Corcoran Cadet’s March by John Philip Sousa.

The students performed at a high level, O’Brien said.

“They’re superb musicians, but even better people,” he said. “Throughout the whole day I told them that we were acting as professionals, and how we carried ourselves in our performance and exceeded my expectations as they always do.”

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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