I was raised in the South and grew up looking forward to game-day: the sights and sounds of tailgaters outside the stadium days before kickoff, watching other games, reading or listening to any sports channel I could to hear what others had to say about the odds. The anticipation would build to a point where it was almost like electricity flowing through the crowds.
While it’s not the holiday it is back home, there is one thing that can always be counted on to help bring gameday to its climax: the Aggie Marching Band. No matter what happens on the field, nothing can take away from their performances during halftime or in the stands. The drumline can be heard in the distance, slowly but surely getting closer, louder, dancing and leading the crowd in chants. There’s no gameday without the band, yet nobody really seems to know what goes into the performances as the 142-person group storms the field for a different show at each game.
As students walk around Utah State University, getting accustomed to campus, drums, brass and maybe a piccolo can be heard from the Daryl Chase Fine Arts Center or by the Maverik Stadium. The band put in about sixty-six hours of practice during band camp this year in the week before school started.
At camp, band members spent about 12 hours each day learning how to march like an Aggie, learning new instruments, memorizing music and field movements. Some new members came with no music experience at all.
Band camp week has been nicknamed “Hell Week” by bands everywhere. As a three-year tuba veteran, I would say it is an accurate description. It’s hot, it hurts and there’s a lot of whining from the woodwinds, but it means marching season is here and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was easier than I thought,” said Taryn Burnett, a freshman clarinetist. “Granted, I went in thinking we had to have everything memorized on day one.”
We rehearse more in this week than we do for the rest of the year combined. At the end of “Hell Week”, we entered Maverik Stadium for one of our first performances of the year, the Connections pep rally. We left feeling good about the impact we made and the sound we produced, and felt ready for our first show.
On September 7, the Hurd found out the Aggie Marching Band had some surprises up its sleeve. In the middle of playing “Shake It Off”, the band turned around, put their instruments down and started to cut the rug.
“It was fun to mix things up a little,” said Blake Dixon, a third-year veteran and tuba section leader. “The student section liked it so maybe we’ll do more stuff like that.”
Playing and dancing on the field during halftime is a different beast compared to playing in the stands. Stephanie England, a five-year marching band veteran and drum major at USU, believes conducting in the stands is more stressful.
“Trying to be consistent with (the other drum major) is important,” she said. “The two of us need to stay on top of everything so we can better direct (the band) to be successful”.
In the stands, we become an extension of the Hurd, working together to amplify the energy that only a united front can deliver. However, there can be moments of discord.
“I just wish we got a little more cooperation from the Hurd for our shows and stand tunes,” said Alex Trani, one of the piccolo section leaders.
For example, we would love for the Hurd to join in on cadences. These happen when the drums are groovin’ with vocals interspersed. We have recorded and shared these cadences on Facebook and YouTube from the USU Marching Band’s accounts for people to learn for gameday.
“I love when (the Hurd) sings along to the songs, even when we stop playing,” said Kelsey Gittins, a trumpet player.
Carrie Pike, a three-year trombone veteran, wishes everyone in the student section stayed on their feet during the game.
“We lose a lot of energy as people start to sit,” she said.
When the Hurd gets loud and excited at a game, we feed off each others’ energy. We feel honored to be a part of the enthusiasm the Hurd brings to every event. The Aggie Marching Band is happy to work hard to help make the gameday experience one to remember.