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Alumni band returns for MJ tribute show
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff
Photo from Internet
The No. 1 single "I Want You Back" was performed by UNK band members at the halftime show on Sept. 12.

Band director Gary Davis may have been inspired by the lyrics of a Michael Jackson tune to call alumni back to join in a tribute to the late entertainer.  

Upon invitation, for the first time in around 10 years, alumni band members answered the call to come back to campus and took the field during halftime of the Loper football game on Sept.12.

About 60 alumni joined the current band to play “I Want You Back”  (No. 1 single recorded by The Jackson 5 for the Motown label in 1969) and “Thriller” (1982, currently the best-selling album of all time) as a tribute.

Director Gary Davis, who is retiring from his role in the music department after 20 years of involvement, decided on the tribute as a way to tie together the last two decades. “Michael Jackson has been at the forefront of music for the last 20 years,” Davis said.

Guest alumni seemed to agree. “He was an icon. His music will live on after him for a long time,” said alumna band member and 2008 UNK graduate, Megan Burkle.

Alumni members brought the total number in the band near 200 and created a sound so loud it echoed across campus, according to freshman tuba player, Mark Messner, from Ogallala.

The call for alumni attracted the usual suspects, such as Lexington native Barry McFarland, an elementary principal and 2000 UNK graduate. More out-of-the-mold alumni included Burkle, who is four and one-half months pregnant, and Adam Jaworski, a Marine still on active duty until Oct. 5. Jaworski was able to attend by using his saved leave time, which was enough to keep
him on leave until his active duty ends.

The show offered an opportunity to “turn back the pages of time and forget about how hot it was or how hard you worked. All you remember are the good things, the good friends that you developed, the great music you played and all the fun you had,” Davis said.

Burkle described the chance to return to Kearney for the show as “really exciting, beyond exciting.”

“It was good to see everyone again, and the current band sounds outstanding,” McFarland said.

Other returning alumni also offered a great deal of praise for the current band.

“The band is sounding great,” Jaworski said.

“This group is full of great people and lots of fresh college kids to cover up my mistakes,” Burkle said.

Alumni, who were only expected to play the tribute, got a bit more than they bargained for. In street clothes, they joined in the marching both onto and off the field, as well as being in charge of the drills in the parking lot, according to Messner.

After the show, band members and alumni band members were invited to a skybox reception hosted by Chancellor Douglas Kristensen in the Nebraskan. The reception gave alumni a chance to catch up over lunch provided by the university.


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