Norway grad gets Final Four experience

MICHIGAN BAND MEMBER and Norway grad Tor Thorne gets some screen time Saturday after the Wolverines defeated Loyola, 69-57, to advance to tonight’s title game against Villanova. (Submitted photo)

Tonight, Tor Thorne will have an almost courtside seat to see Michigan square off against Villanova for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Thorne, a 2015 graduate of Norway High School, is among the 29 members on the Wolverine’s basketball band that will make sure the team has a proper soundtrack as they play in San Antonio, Texas.

It’s been a wild ride for the band this season, following the team as they became a title contender, Thorne said. Michigan hasn’t lost since Feb. 6 to Northwestern.

“It’s been pretty amazing, to see it all happen right in front of you,” Thorne said.

The 21-year-old junior plays euphonium — a baritone brass instrument that’s larger than a trumpet, smaller than a tuba. He followed his sister, Brita, both in attending University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and being part of the band. Her involvement from 2009 to 2013 persuaded him to try out.

“I wasn’t really expecting to make it, but I got in,” Thorne said. He credits his teachers for support, Jacqueline Leiker, Greg Hunt and Dawn Kranz, along with Norway City Band director Ed McBroom.

Now in his third year with the band, he’s getting to experience something only a handful of past Michigan bands have enjoyed — a trip to the Final Four. Michigan has only won the title once, in 1989, roughly a decade before Thorne was born.

“It’s not a thing very many get to do … it’s been a pretty magical run,” Thorne said. “It’s an overall experience we’re not going to forget.”

Considering the Upper Peninsula has only 3 percent of the state’s population, the odds of having someone from the region be in the traveling band are long. But this year’s Michigan band actually has two Yoopers — Eric Cousineau, from Escanaba, plays drums.

His mother, Barb Thorne, said she and husband Rob have gotten glimpses of their son during game broadcasts as the team advanced from New York City to Los Angeles and now San Antonio.

“We’re just so excited about it, we’ve been just glued to the TV. It’s exciting for us and it’s a good experience for him,” Barb Thorne said.

“It’s pretty great … I’m looking at the screen and he pops up,” Rob Thorne said.

Most predictions have Villanova as the heavy favorite tonight. Tor Thorne concedes it will be a tall task that will hinge on Michigan being as strong on offense as they have been on defense.

“Our defense has been great,” Thorne said. “If they can make their shots, I think they have a good chance.”


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