Trailblazer music instructor joins Michigan Marching Band for homecoming

September 23 – TRAVERSE CITY – A former Traverse City school music instructor and administrator will climb the Big House Tower this weekend.

Lynn Hansen isn’t shy about leading the Michigan Marching and Alumni groups past the 107,000-seat crowd at Michigan Stadium — all podium time as the 22-year-old Traverse City-area public school group leader with more than 500 children per term has prepared her a lot.

“I was often the center of my life,” Hansen said.

But what really sold Hansen, who describes himself as “the shy personality type away from the spotlight,” was his ability to mark the times, commemorating an important chapter in Michigan history.

Hansen was one of 12 women to join the Michigan Marching Band the first year women were allowed. The state’s Title IX Education Amendment Act stated that no education program receiving federal dollars could discriminate on the basis of gender. It came into effect in 1972, the year she joined.

And while the women in Michigan’s education program hadn’t received notice of an audition for the college group, a dozen women showed up.

“There were so many emotions related to this experience,” Hansen said. “It was a huge challenge.”

Then a tenor saxophonist from the south of Lyon, Hansen said she felt little resistance from her male peers.

“What I remember very clearly is that we had the backing of the guys, they weren’t the enemy. Some acted like big brothers to support us,” Hansen said.

The conductor at the time was another story. He was unwelcoming and “over-provoked” the presence of women musically and physically, she recalls. Conversations with him about auditions “haunt her a bit,” she said.

But they kept pushing and working hard, and by the end of her time in Michigan — where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music education — the group “was like a family.”

“Overall, it was just a phenomenal experience to be in the front row and to be able to chart that course for everyone to follow and continue to follow,” Hansen said.

After graduating, Hansen worked for Albion Schools before moving to Traverse City in 1979 to be the college’s music teacher. She then transitioned into a leading role after earning an additional master’s degree in educational administration from Central Michigan University, a role she played for 11 years.

Hansen also played oboe in the Traverse City Symphony for 42 years. Now 68, she retired 10 years ago.

This spring, the invitation to lead the Michigan Marching Band at Homecoming at the nation’s largest stadium first made him think as “a private person living his own life,” Hansen said. But the understanding that the event would mark the 50th anniversary of the Title IX forays and the 125th anniversary of the band itself convinced her.

“It touched me deeply to think that 50 years later, my experience would matter now. It was so moving on that level. I’m so honored to be the center of attention when it’s not normally where I want to be,” Hansen said.

Additionally, the concert came with other opportunities to revisit this period of her life, including a visit to campus where she told her story to potential marching band members, and a webinar panel discussion with d other members of the group during and before this period.

“It was fascinating to hear what the individual perceptions were and what we took with us,” Hansen said.

This Saturday in Ann Arbor, Hansen will lead the “Star-Spangled Banner” with the Michigan Marching Band and the alumni band during the pregame, and fittingly, “About Damn Time” with the bands in the mid -time. Halftime and post-game shows feature programming from all female conductors.

Hansen’s family and friends from Traverse City will be there to cheer him on.

“I’m going to have a blast,” Hansen said. “It will be a great way to end this special adventure.”

Recognizing her role in moving the country forward is a special honor, she said.

“Today other people are pushing us forward as a country,” Hansen said.

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