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New River Valley Sound Director Hopes to Inspire

By Sara Nylin, 01/23/19, 11:00AM CST

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728 Cadets Blessed to Have Director Shannon Curtis

We are thrilled to have Shannon Curtis as the director of River Valley Sound. Curtis has been part of the 728 Cadets Marching Arts for several years. He is also the Director of Bands for grades 6-8 at Zimmerman Middle and High School. His primary duties involve teaching beginner band students and conducting the middle school bands. He also teaches high school instrumental lessons and works with students in preparation for Solo and Ensemble Contest and All-State auditions. He is the director of the Zimmerman Middle School Jazz Band and the Zimmerman Pit Orchestra. Curtis is a 2013 Magna Cum Laude graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He currently serves as the musical director of the North Suburban Concert Band, performs with the Twin Cities Trumpet Ensemble, and subs regularly in Twin Cities area bands and orchestras.

As the group prepares for the winter season, let’s get to know Director Shannon Curtis!

What led you to the 728 Cadets?

I was drawn to the Cadets when I first started teaching in Minnesota. I had been hired at Zimmerman, and I asked a mentor of mine who worked with Tri-State Judging in the summers about the group. He had nothing but great things to say about the Cadets. I marched in Waconia High School's band when I went to school there so I have very fond memories of the MN parade band circuit and marching band in general!

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by a lot of people. Mostly I am inspired by surprise student superstars! There seems to be an abundance in this organization. I love it when I see a student struggle, and then they come to me the next week and show me how much better they are. When asked about it they usually reply, "Yeah! I spent like 8 hours practicing it over the weekend!" That generally inspires me to go home and practice! I am also inspired by musicians and artists who create for their audience and try to portray a message. I think that all of my favorite bands go into projects with a specific feeling, goal, message, or sound in mind.

What are you passionate about?

MUSIC!.... I would guess that I spend about 75% of my week doing some sort of music activity, whether it is playing trumpet, conducting bands, working with marching band, or just listening to stuff I like. Once you get the music bug, it is hard to keep it from inching into your life in many ways.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

I think the most memorable things I have done always involve traveling. I had the chance to work with young music students in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and seeing how they reacted to our group was absolutely unforgettable. Spending two weeks in Brazil playing music and experiencing everything that culture had to offer was amazing.

Who would you most like to swap places with for the day?

I want to swap places with someone like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, or any other scientist at the top of their field. I'd love to know what it's like to understand the universe on such a fundamental level and to get to work with all of the awesome science machines!

What's your secret talent that nobody knows about?

I occasionally like to do wood carvings. I learned how to carve in the Norwegian folk style while in college, and I really enjoy making utensils, little figurines and other objects.

What advice do you have for current members of the Cadets?

Enjoy every minute of this experience and never accept anything less than your very best and the best from the people around you. Groups like this thrive on camaraderie and team-driven work ethic. When you are at rehearsal or a performance, truly be there. Music and groups like the Cadets have such a profound ability to unite, relieve stress, and inspire members and staff alike, but we have to work for it! Let's always put out a product we are proud of and one that we know was our best of the moment!

What would you like to accomplish this season?

I have TONS of goals for these groups that float through my head on a daily basis. I think this year is going to be about using marching music as a tool for self-reflection as well as to inspire people to explore the world around them. I want students and audience members to have that moment of contemplation. A moment where our show speaks to them on a deeper level than they were originally prepared for. I hope the show is truly entertaining and I really hope that the students love performing it as much as I have enjoyed working on it!