Reading Erin’s article in the DA today and hearing the stories from Band Camp over the past week has made me reflect on my own time with the Mountaineer Marching Band. My story is probably not the typical WVU Band geek story… but it’s mine.
My mother has been a part of the organization for decades… yea, mom… I said it. I went to Band Camp all wrapped up when I was 10 days old. Hell, when I was a kid I thought to count you went:
“One, Two, Three, Four, Five Six, Seven, Eight, UP, Nine Ten…”
Mom is one of the Sponsors for the Omicron Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi. This co-ed college honorary service fraternity is a group of dedicated bands people who pull together (through thick and thin) to make the band work.
It may sound weird to you, but having college buddies when you’re all of 13 was super for me. I fell absolutely head over heels obsessed with the people on the podium conducting the band. Nikki Gross, Andi Frush, Jen Kirby, Smokey Clay, Dan De Leon, Allen Heath and many more were my hands down heroes. I specifically remember going to practice with little ribbons in my pigtails and standing under the podium when Nikki Gross was Drum Major and trying to do exactly what she did while Don Wilcox laughed.
I joined the WVU Marching Band in 2003 as a freshman. Although there was a solid group of people who knew me as “Deb’s Kiid” or more likely “That creepy high school kid that’s always hanging around” I tried to act like I wasn’t a doe eyed freshman, but a vet. Those first few days, I thought I knew what the band was about. I had seen them rehearse literally thousands of times. I had seen them perform… went on road trips with them on the staff bus with my mom… I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. I had NO idea the emotions that went behind being “The Pride” and earning that title every day.
I met some of my best friends those first few days at band camp. People always say that about band… that’s where they met their best friends… because it’s true. Although there are friends that have since moved away or on with their lives and friends I don’t talk to nearly as often as I’d like, while we were all in the band together… it was magic. Each year, more new faces came and more new friends were made. Some mere acquaintances now, some are so dear to me that the thought of not having them in my life seems illogical. Some might shutter when picturing hours upon hours on a bus with 45 people. For us… well, at least me… Bus 5 was hours of uninterrupted fun singing songs and watching movies while travelling around the nation with my friends. Sometimes when I’m on Bus 1 now, as staff, I hum to myself the cheers and songs we used to share.
The traditional pre-game show for the WVU Marching Band is the most intense pre-game show in the nation. Barreling out of the tunnels at the stadium at 220 beats per minute to a roar of screaming fans is incredible. Although, when you’re an overweight Drum Major… the extra fear of falling or getting trampled by the band behind you is also screaming in your head. You’re out of breath and march down the field in the “Flying WV” formation to get into “Mountain Dew.”
Then… the band starts to play “Simple Gifts.” Most band members and fans will say that this is their favorite part of pre-game. It is truly amazing. The band collapses into tight circles in the exact center of the field. The highest bass drum gives the cue and the band high mark time turns to face out to the crowd. The front row (which I was lucky enough to be in all 3 years I marched with trombone) kneels and the crowd goes absolutely wild. When the front row stands and horn pops to expand the outer circle, you feel this surge of energy the crowd is giving you. Although this is an amazing feeling, and brings WVU Band Alums to tears after their first year out of band… it’s my second favorite moment.
My favorite moment is in the next song, “Country Roads. “…When the band is making its move into the WV State Outline. There’s electricity in the air. The fans realize that we’re making our funky looking state and about 8 counts before the south east part of the state does their snap turn to the front… that’s what does it for me. Maybe it’s the way I could see the crowd react from the podium… maybe it’s a born and bred WV gal thing… for some reason, right before the state outline hits is where I have and feel I always will get emotional. It’s the ultimate feeling of “Pride.”
I realize that my experience and emotions with the band are totally different from others. Some have had not so nice experiences and some have been impacted by the band far greater than I have… But, this was how it was for me…
The time a Tuba player saved my life at a bowl game my freshman year from a rowdy opposing fan by smacking him with his tuba… the time John Hendricks yelled at us in the “old band stands” for throwing snow balls during a cold home football game… the time I almost fell off of the podium during my last performance at the Fiesta Bowl (it was you, Ryan!)… the time I twisted my ankle on run-on and Dan and Dean Bernie Schultz carried me to my seat with the section so I could play in the stands and during half time… Operation Meat Shield… Jay figuring out my hair clip wasn’t real… having the best roomies over 5 years… grey squirrels… ROLL OUT… the Drum Major hand shake and the High Five on the 50… convincing Chris to let me include “Sister Act 2” music in the Trombone Section Song… all the shenanigans on Bus 5… New Years, every year together… The stairwell during Key Notes…
…so many more that I can’t even begin to finish here… that would be an entirely new blog thread that would take years and I’m pretty sure some of that information would be incriminating 😉
My advice to the WVU Band members :
1.)Don’t let a second escape you because you “have to go back to page 3 and run it again”… don’t whine and be negative because your time in the band will be over before you know it and you will wish that you had one more time to play on the practice field with all those people.
2.) Practice… people will know when you haven’t.
3.) Be kind to everyone – even when you don’t want to.
4.) Befriend the person who’s sitting by themselves.
5.) Laugh it off… Don’t take yourself too seriously.
6.) Don’t be afraid… of anything… not yourself, others, love, taking risks, doing the right thing.
And… a quick plug for the WVU Foundation’s Pride Travel Fund. Without this fund, the band would be unable to go to away football games, parades and exhibitions around the state and region and more. If you would like to donate, please go to
Every donor gets a “Pride Travel Fund” window decal, over $100 donations get the decal and a 2010 WVU Band CD, over $500 donations get a decal, CD and a Pride of West Virginia Decal Pin. I’m actually the person who sends these out to donors, so it would be nice to see a name I knew 😉