Ishpeming High School band heading downstate for state football championship

ISHPEMING – With the help of the Ishpeming High School Pep Band, the Hematites hope to make the Detroit Loyola Bulldogs face the music Saturday.

The band will follow the defending Division 7 state football champs downstate for the third year in a row as the team defends its title in a rematch of last year’s game against Detroit Loyola at Ford Field.

This year will be the first the band will stay the night downstate, said Dennis Korpi, the high school band teacher and director. The school district has chartered a bus for the young musicians and the band will travel down Friday and spend the night in Auburn Hills before Saturday’s game.

“We’ve been fortunate in that the last two times that the band did travel all the way to Ford Field, the school district has found the money to pay for the bus,” Korpi said. “(But) this year we’re excited that the band is going to spend the night. This’ll be a first for us.”

Korpi said the band’s presence on the gridiron and the blue-and-white pomp of their music is all the more important this year because the football team doesn’t have cheerleaders.

“This year … the band has taken on more of a role (in) fan participation, the energy in the stands for the cheers,” he said. He emphasized the “importance of the band for the noise and the cheering and the leadership and joining with the students.”

This role in leading the student body, parents and fans in their support of the team becomes even more important on the road, Korpi said.

“It’s important that the band travels, because it carries the spirit of … following and supporting the Hematites all the way down to the state (finals),” he said. “That’s important for our school. It’s not so much just, ‘Do we want to go?’ It’s a matter of realizing the importance, that the band is part of the team spirit and the winning spirit.”

Kaitlyn Nebel, an IHS sophomore and alto saxophone player, agreed.

“I think it’s actually really important,” she said.

She mentioned a speech that IHS Middle/High School Assistant Principal Bernie Anderson gave at the beginning of the year about the effect the band’s music has on the football players.

“Mr. Anderson actually gave a speech at the beginning of the year saying that when they hear that music, they get really pumped up and they get it in their blood,” she said.

Nebel, who also went downstate with the band last year, said she’s really excited and that last year’s experience “was a blast.”

For Nebel, the power that music can have, not only to motivate athletes, but to emotionally affect us all, cannot be overstated.

“Usually when I think of music, music is the one thing I love the most,” she said. “It picks me up. It can also help me out when I’m sad, so definitely I think that it’s gotta motivate them … especially when they’re feeling tired. Even when you’re sad or tired or whatever, you always get in the mood when you hear inspiring things or hear great songs.”

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is