Tiger Marching Band takes dry run rehearsal in preparation for season opener
“I sat in the student section during my freshman year. But it was nothing like coming into the stadium with the band today. ” jennifer chaung, one of seven band managers
So it begins.
The first rush from the curb and on to Dalrymple Drive, the first whistle, the first step toward Tiger Stadium.
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting your 2012 LSU Tiger Marching Band.
Well, there actually are not any announcements at this point, and the smattering of LSU fans along the way are the only ones who will hear the band’s first performance of the “Pre-Game” song at the bottom of Victory Hill outside the stadium.
This is the band’s dry run rehearsal march from the Greek Theater to Tiger Stadium at the end of its two-week pre-season band camp. It happens every year on the Saturday morning before the first day of class in the fall semester, after the final roster cuts have been made.
More than 400 showed up at camp. Band director Roy King and new assistant director Dennis Llinas whittled the number down to the band’s seasonal 325 during the week.
And now, LSU Tiger fans, here’s your band, marching down Dalrymple toward Stadium Drive on a hot August morning. Again, some of the people along the parade route are parents. Others are fans who have claimed spots along the street just to watch.
“We heard about it last night on the news,” Melinda Bender said.
She stood on the curb, her 7-year-old son Russell next to her in his purple, No. 7 LSU jersey. It seems Russell Bender is a “Honey Badger” fan.
Tyrann Mathieu, The “Honey Badger,” won’t be here this year, but the band will, as it always has in the past. Even when it was relegated to rehearsing only outside.
For 50 years, the band really had no place to escape nature’s elements. Oh, it had a band room, but the hall was too small to house even the band’s 150 members in 1952, when it was built alongside the LSU Music and Dramatic Arts Building.
And through the years, as the band more than doubled in size, the practice field was the only place that could accommodate it. Until now.
Construction on the new Tiger Band Hall is complete, and it officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last spring. And for the first time in half a century, the band has a roof over its head.
“We love it,” Dario Scalco said.
Scalco is a junior from Dallas majoring in political science. He’s also the section leader for the baritones, who gathered at the top of the Greek Theater as he spoke.
“We have plenty of room now,” Scalco continued. “It’s a place where we can actually fit everyone, including the Golden Girls and the Colorguard. Before, the only places we could be inside were the Field House or the IFF.”
IFF is technical jargon for the LSU football team’s indoor football facility. The band also makes use of the facility, as it did later on this day.
“The section leaders and the staff came to campus early, and we were given a tour of the new band hall,” Scalco said. “Now it’s come full circle, and the whole band is in there. It’s a lot better. We can walk straight from the band room on to our practice field. We’re not cramped anymore, and we feel appreciated. But now we’re wishing for phase II to be completed.”
Phase II will be an administration building housing directors’ offices. But make no mistake. No one is complaining. Band members are grateful for their new home.
Later that morning, they left the stadium for the first march to their new digs. For now, fans watched, anticipated. Some later slipped through stadium gates to listen and cheer while the band rehearsed in the stands.
Sept. 1 can’t come soon enough for these onlookers. That’s the day LSU opens the 2012 season against North Texas State University.
The day Collin Barry will take the field as the band’s new drum major.
Barry sat in and marched in the trumpet section up until this time and was the section leader last year. He was drum major at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, before coming to LSU to major in music education. And besides getting his degree, his goal was to be the Tiger Band’s drum major.
Barry finally gets his chance in his senior year.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m just going to take the advice my mom and girlfriend gave me. They both told me just to have fun with it, and I will.”
Back to Melinda Bender, who let her 16-year-old daughter Caitlyn sleep in on this morning. Caitlyn, Bender said, plays trumpet at Christian Life Academy.
“But I just thought Russell and I would come out here and watch,” she said.
Standing near her was a family whose young daughter dressed for the occasion in a miniature LSU cheerleading outfit. Of course, almost everyone along the route was wearing some combination of purple and gold.
And, it seemed, almost everyone was capturing the moment with cellphones, cameras and iPads. Such devices were lost on LSU’s live tiger mascot, Mike the Tiger, who began running circles around his habitat at the sound of approaching drums. This was his territory. And his band. His band that stopped at the bottom of Victory Hill outside Tiger Stadium to pound out the “Pre-Game” song for the morning faithful. His band that marched through North Gate 6 beneath the sign declaring, “Through this gate enters the All American Golden Band from Tigerland.”
His band that ran through “Hey Fightin’ Tigers,” “Tiger Bandits” and “Eye of the Tiger” in the merciless sun that left band members soaked in sweat.
Even in the blazing heat, Jennifer Chaung couldn’t hide her awe. She’s one of the band’s seven managers, the people who make sure everything runs smoothly. Managers handed out water to band members as they entered the stadium. The managers carry extra uniform parts to games in case someone loses something along the way.
They make sure everything is in its right place.
Chaung originally had tried out for the colorguard this season but didn’t make the final cut.
“Her attitude was so great, that we asked her to be one of the managers,” King said.
She is a sophomore from Dallas majoring in political science.
“I sat in the student section during my freshman year,” she said. “But it was nothing like coming into the stadium with the band today. This is a whole different perspective, and I love it. I can’t wait to see what it’s like on game day.”
And she enjoys her new manager’s position so much that she might decide to keep it in coming years.
“That’s not to say I wouldn’t try out for colorguard again,” Chaung said. “I might. But I really love what I’m doing now,.”
And speaking of the colorguard, it’s being fronted by two new co-captains this year, Suzanne Rewerts and Angelle Kerek.
Both are juniors, meaning they will automatically be back as co-captains next year. Rewerts is from Lake Charles and is majoring in fashion merchandising. Kerek is from Gonzales and is pursuing a double major in psychology and sociology.
Both have been colorguard members since their freshman year of college. Now they’re the leaders, which includes choreographing all routines for the stands and field.
“We don’t have a choreographer working with us — it’s just us,” Kerek said. “We usually get all of the music for the season during band camp, and we come up with the routines each week.”
Rewert and Kerek create the routines on Mondays, when the band is off from rehearsal. They teach it to the 30 other members of the colorguard on Tuesday, then add it to the band’s show.
“Then we perform it on Saturday,” Kerek said. “It’s intense.”
This year, the colorguard has 15 returning members and 15 new members. And though many fans’ eyes may be fixed on the Golden Girls during featured dance numbers, it’s a given that they would miss the colorguard if it weren’t there. For without the flags, there would be no flash.
She, Kerek and the rest of the team wore shorts and T-shirts on this day, and they were drenched in sweat. Imagine game day, when they’ll be decked out in velvet and sequins.
“Oh, it’s hot,” Rewert said. “The velvet just keeps the heat in.”
But it’s OK, because it’s all a part of being in the band, as is the hazard of marching back to the band hall after the game. Tuba leader Carson Allgood explained this to his section as the band lined up to exit the stadium.
“People will try to break through the line,” he said. “You never let them through.”
And trying this with the tuba section definitely isn’t recommended.
Carson is a junior from Shreveport majoring in biology.
“We don’t really have a big problem with this at home games,” he continued. “It happens more with fans from opposing teams at away games, especially if LSU beats them. They’re mad, and they try to break through the band. Last year, one guy was really mad. He was trying to break through the tubas, and he ended up getting elbowed in the face.”
Carson paused for a moment, then smiled.
“The rumor was that we killed somebody,” he concluded, laughing.
That’s last year’s history. This year’s history has already begun with the band’s trek to its new home. The band traditionally would halt at the Greek Theatre, but King mapped out a new route through the north campus parking lot leading to the band hall on Aster Street, stopping momentarily to allow a panicked coed to back her car out of a space.
Then stop and back it out again.
And finally drive off after going forward and backing up a third time.
“Women shouldn’t drive,” the drum section teasingly chanted, when finally moving forward.
Hey, it’s all in fun. It’s all a part of a new season filled with new possibilities.
And, ladies and gentlemen, it’s your 2012 LSU Tiger Marching Band.