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Drum major and golden girl give final performances

BY JULIA JESSEN | NOVEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Dislocated ribs, back spasms, a broken foot, toes so cold they turn white. These are just a few of the ailments Chelsea Russell dealt with throughout her time as the Hawkeye Marching Band's golden girl.

"I could stay another year, but my body just can't handle it," she said.

This year is Russell's last as the golden girl. She and drum major Joe Piasecki will both move on, and newcomers will fill their shoes.

Before they part from the Hawkeye Marching Band, they have a few last performances, including the Band Extravaganza today at 7:30 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"I want people to know how grateful I am for their support and their loyalty and just the passion with which they support the Hawks," Russell said. "You don't see that everywhere, and I'm really lucky to have had that in my time at Iowa."

Russell is a graduate student in the UI MAT secondary English education program, and she hopes to teach high school English someday.

Baton twirling is her passion beyond her studies, one that she practiced and performed for 19 years.
Russell said when she performs, she feeds off the crowd's energy.

"If it's negative, I'm going to try to prove them wrong," she said." And if it's positive, I'm going to get better and better from that energy."

Though she has performed in huge competitions across the world, she said the experience of twirling for the Hawkeye Marching Band was incomparable.

"All of those experiences were really cool, but nothing can top twirling for the Hawkeye Marching Band," she said. "Just because the atmosphere was so wonderful."

The golden girl and drum major spend a lot of time together, working on adding to the experience of the Marching Band. Piasecki said the two feel like family.

"I think of Chelsea as my second sister, because we spend so much time together," he said.

Piasecki is a senior in political science and history. When he started college, he decided to hang on to his love of music and band.

"Even though I was going into school for something that wasn't music, I knew that I wanted to do Marching Band and stay involved in music as much as I could," he said.

Piasecki said the game-day experience is an inspiring one for any drum major.

"Performing as drum major, you actually get to look up and around and say, 'Wow, I'm actually performing in front of 70,000 plus people,' " he said. "It's awe-striking."

Band Extravaganza will also feature the Symphony Band and the Johnson County Landmark jazz band.

Kevin Kastens, the director of the Hawkeye Marching Band, said the event will bring the game-day atmosphere to a different setting.

"We're going to bring Kinnick Stadium to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and do the same kinds of things we do and highlights from the entire season," he said.

Kastens stressed the quality of his students, saying they are dedicated and bright. Only the golden girl receives scholarship money for participating in the Marching Band, and most of the players are not music majors.

"They do it for the love of the activity," Kastens said. "They are basically volunteering their service to the university … they're just very special students."


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