Alexandria alumni will perform during NCAA championship football game

Five former students from Alexandria Area High School will perform with NDSU's Gold Star Marching Band during the NCAA FCS championship football game this Saturday, Jan. 8.

GSMB Alex kids.jpg
Alexandria Area High School Alum anticipates their upcoming performance with NDSU's Gold Star Marching Band in Frisco, Texas, for the Bison's NCAA FCS Division I championship against Montana State. From left, Ryla Johnson, Ki Blaser, Jackson Christensen, Tyler Jabas and Zach Kent. Contributed photo.

Five former Alexandria Area High School students will perform with North Dakota State University's Gold Star Marching Band at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas to support the Bison in the Division I FCS national title game on Saturday, Jan. 8.

The Gold Star Marching Band plays pregame and halftime performances for the NDSU Bison Football team to support the team and energize the crowd. It has formed a famous reputation with the Bison and Fargo community. The band plays at all home football games and one away game while also marching in the homecoming parade.

Tyler Jabas, Ki Blaser, Ryla Johnson, Jackson Christensen and Zach Kent are all a part of NDSU's Gold Star Marching Band and began their marching music careers with the Alexandria Area High School Band.

"Everyone on the football team has a great relationship with the marching band. The events are not the same without Gold Star. We like the football team, the football team likes us; we like the cheer team, the cheer team likes us, and when one of those pieces is missing, it just doesn't feel the same," said Jabas.

The marching band, along with the other Gold Star bands at NDSU, are referred to as the "Pride of North Dakota," according to the university's website.


"I think performing and reaching out to people while playing music is really important to the community, and we draw a lot of audience members to the games because of our catalog of modern and popular music," said Blaser, who plays the mellophone.

This year the GSMB will accompany the Bison football team to Frisco, Texas. The Bison put together a 13-1 season, clinching their spot in the NCAA Division I FCS championship game against Montana State.

North Dakota State University's Gold Star Marching Band forms a star in the center of the field at the Fargo Dome. Contributed photo

"I am very excited. Honestly, it means a lot. Band has always been a big part of my life, and Gold Star has provided a fun experience," said Jabas, who plays the baritone. "Not everyone can make it to Frisco for the football game, but the band gets the opportunity to go down and help support our team. Go Bison!"

Experiences, community and music keep Jabas and Blaser marching. They started their music careers in middle school.

Blaser joined for her love of music she inherited from her parents, both music educators. She is currently working on her music education degree at NDSU while learning to play all instruments.

"Music has always been there for me. If I had a terrible day, I'd go to band, and I would just forget about everything," said Blaser.


Blaser said she decided to join the GSMB after going to Bison football game.

"Before I was in the Gold Star marching band, I went to one of the games and was like, 'Wow, this is really boring; I should be in the marching band.' They looked like they were having fun," said Blaser.

To Blaser, the GSMB is a welcoming community of musicians, a family, that helped her grow and work with different people.

"I've become a better listener, more flexible and open-minded," said Blaser. "To those who don't know if they want to join band or continue with it, music is important, and it will always be there for you."

Jabas took up the baritone in middle school after there were already too many trumpet players. He says music and band have given him connections to a community he would not have had without band. It jump-started his college career.

"Being able to make so many connections quickly and be a part of something big on campus has allowed me to integrate faster than most students. I don't know if I would be me without band in my life. You meet many interesting people and have a lot of different experiences not everyone can get," said Jabas. "Band has always been a very exciting and a great way to meet new people while hanging out with a whole different crowd I wouldn't normally be around."

Casey Skalbeck, AAHS band instructor, said it's great to see former students continue with the music.

"I always tell students to continue playing regardless of what form it takes because they have been playing since 6th grade. A huge investment of something they love to do shouldn't just stop after high school. I am happy that so many take advantage of that at the college level," said Skalbek. "It is one of the best ways to connect and be involved in your school. It is such an experience at the college level, something they don't get in high school. You get to go to really cool places while playing with so many people. It is a great way to connect."

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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