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What has 600 feet, makes a lot of noise and never quits moving? The Cornhusker Marching Band! Every year, the band hits the field with new shows and new students, but the same unmatched enthusiasm. Faculty 101 goes behind the scenes with leaders Tony Falcone and Doug Bush to see what it takes to make the Pride of All Nebraska.
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[00:00:03.150]This is the sound that heralds the start of fall semester.
[00:00:09.090]The drum corps arrives on campus early.
[00:00:11.720]And they get a head start because they have a lot
[00:00:13.470]of extra stuff to learn, they've already--
[00:00:15.200]That's Tony Falcone, director of bands
[00:00:17.470]at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
[00:00:19.520]He's been doing this a long time,
[00:00:21.560]more than 20 years at Nebraska.
[00:00:23.750]And every year, it's a new band and a big job.
[00:00:27.510]Most people think of marching band as seven Saturdays,
[00:00:31.260]but then in between those seven Saturdays,
[00:00:33.150]there's about eighty other days
[00:00:35.070]that they're working first thing
[00:00:36.710]in the morning really hard. (laughs)
[00:00:38.640]Assistant director, Doug Bush, is there every week
[00:00:41.060]to help shape the show.
[00:00:42.390]And hopefully, by Friday, you have a product
[00:00:46.640]that you've rehearsed every day,
[00:00:47.760]and put on the field on Saturday.
[00:00:49.540]Next Monday, start all over. (laughs)
[00:00:51.290]That's right! (laughs)
[00:00:52.873](triumphant marching band music)
[00:00:57.110]What does it take to pull 300 students together
[00:00:59.980]to become the pride of all Nebraska?
[00:01:04.860]It starts every August with band camp.
[00:01:08.618]We are all over the place.
[00:01:10.538](band members responding)
[00:01:11.637]I'm Mary Jane Bruce, and this is Faculty 101.
[00:01:15.004](bright playful music)
[00:01:15.837]Okay, you should switch partners now.
[00:01:17.760]To be able to inspire young people.
[00:01:20.374]Today is your finals.
[00:01:21.300]It's really rewarding.
[00:01:22.360]I love the students.
[00:01:24.330]Welcome to Faculty 101,
[00:01:26.580]Life Hacks and Success Stories from Nebraska Faculty.
[00:01:36.010]Students in marching band represent more than 60 majors.
[00:01:39.540]They come from all over the state and the country
[00:01:42.260]but they share a common foundation.
[00:01:46.250]They love it!
[00:01:47.490]People choose to come to UNL because there's
[00:01:50.710]this outstanding academic program plus the band
[00:01:54.190]and we've had students turn down scholarships
[00:01:57.590]at other schools to come here
[00:01:59.010]because the band can be part of their experience.
[00:02:02.378]It's just when you're a part of it, you understand
[00:02:05.200]and it's a tremendous thing to do.
[00:02:11.230]On this Monday in August, we're still a week away
[00:02:13.890]from the start of classes
[00:02:15.370]but the band is here and ready to go.
[00:02:18.060]Students straggle into Memorial Stadium
[00:02:20.420]for a full band rehearsal on the field.
[00:02:22.960]There are verbal instructions.
[00:02:25.840]Tony wears dark glasses and a headset
[00:02:27.910]so he can talk to the students over a PA system.
[00:02:30.780]The sun beats down.
[00:02:33.288]Yeah, it's August in Nebraska. (laughs)
[00:02:35.960]And at this rehearsal, the students won't play a note.
[00:02:40.070]This is our very first visual rehearsal
[00:02:42.130]so we're starting our basics program
[00:02:45.230]for how we stand at attention,
[00:02:47.500]how we move forward, backwards, side to side, all of that
[00:02:50.570]and so there's a lot of details
[00:02:51.930]that we're defining right now.
[00:02:55.540]Backpacks, instrument cases, and water jugs
[00:02:58.230]pile up on the sidelines.
[00:03:02.470]Clarinet player, Angelica Gonzales wears an umbrella hat.
[00:03:06.340]This hat, it was kind of a joke
[00:03:08.290]but it also helps me when it's raining.
[00:03:10.910]And in her fourth year with the band, she's prepared.
[00:03:14.570]I actually bring a camelback,
[00:03:16.900]so like a backpack with water and stuff.
[00:03:19.100]I brought some sunscreen, some bug spray,
[00:03:22.010]I usually bring fruit snacks, chips, crackers.
[00:03:25.970]To freshman drummer, Tamario Brooks, it's all new.
[00:03:29.500]I'm mostly excited for going to the games and everything
[00:03:31.930]'cause they're pretty fun
[00:03:33.240]from what I've heard and everything.
[00:03:34.826]Alright, last time!
[00:03:35.659]We'll bring our arms up again!
[00:03:38.610]and bring it back down,
[00:03:40.110]lower your bodies down to the ground.
[00:03:41.757]The band starts with a warmup, a lap around the field,
[00:03:45.430]and some stretching exercises.
[00:03:47.280]Tony says wellness is a priority.
[00:03:50.057]We have representatives from the health center
[00:03:51.660]will come in and talk about hydration, talk about nutrition,
[00:03:54.830]protection from the sun, hearing protection,
[00:03:57.860]getting enough rest.
[00:03:58.693]The marching band is more of a physical activity
[00:04:00.980]than most people might imagine
[00:04:03.510]and especially these days,
[00:04:04.950]the activity has really gone in a direction
[00:04:08.330]which has high physical demands.
[00:04:12.590]If you're not physically prepared for it,
[00:04:14.380]if you're not stretched out,
[00:04:15.260]if you're not in shape, you can get injured.
[00:04:17.730]Five, six, seven, eight. (humming)
[00:04:22.880]Students are put through a series of drills
[00:04:24.850]that look like an awkward ballet.
[00:04:30.560]Kids are from many different high school bands
[00:04:33.130]so they're learning the Cornhusker way to march.
[00:04:36.423]Tamario, the freshman drummer I talked to earlier
[00:04:38.860]says it's all about looking good on the field.
[00:04:42.250]We're practicing ton-doos and marching basics
[00:04:44.710]so that when we apply it on the field,
[00:04:47.340]that we can have a good technique
[00:04:48.370]and all would look together in uniform.
[00:04:50.332]One, two, three, four, five, six--
[00:04:52.830]They march back and forth.
[00:04:54.180]Sometimes, holding instruments, sometimes not.
[00:04:57.070]Later in the afternoon, there were sectionals,
[00:04:59.150]separate rehearsals for the different instruments.
[00:05:02.036](orchestral band music)
[00:05:04.390]In a music room, trumpet players practice Hail Varsity.
[00:05:08.090]Outside, the trombone players practice their part
[00:05:11.140]of the iconic Nebraska Fight Song.
[00:05:17.240]Band camp is a full week of 10-hour days,
[00:05:20.210]culminating in an exhibition performance on Friday.
[00:05:24.570]I'm trying to build all the habits and muscle memory
[00:05:28.840]so that they're able to function throughout the season.
[00:05:31.800]And then we have to learn a pregame show
[00:05:33.170]which is 11--
Right around 11 minutes.
[00:05:35.820]11 minutes long and about 40 different pictures
[00:05:39.220]on the field.
[00:05:40.560]But for Tony and Doug, it's really a year-long process.
[00:05:44.150]In the spring, they kick around ideas for themes.
[00:05:47.350]Tony arranges most of the music and passes it on to Doug.
[00:05:51.460]Then I'll sit down and start story boarding
[00:05:53.750]and figuring out the phrases, just the chunks of music
[00:05:58.700]and what picture is going to happen during each chunk.
[00:06:01.630]What are the students gonna be doing?
[00:06:02.920]Are they gonna be moving individually
[00:06:05.590]or are they gonna be moving as a group?
[00:06:08.440]Are they gonna be standing still
[00:06:09.273]in a particular form or spell something?
[00:06:11.750]Doug uses a software program called Pyware
[00:06:14.140]to design the show.
[00:06:15.590]And for this generation,
[00:06:16.920]music and movement is shared on an iPad.
[00:06:19.920]Each member of the band has one.
[00:06:22.080]This will be the third year
[00:06:23.220]that we've used iPad minis with the band.
[00:06:27.760]I was really skeptical going into this
[00:06:29.300]so I was hearing about other groups doing it.
[00:06:30.970]Okay, it's flashy but it really has impacted our learning.
[00:06:37.822]The old days, like three years ago,
[00:06:39.480]you would get a print out--
Way back in 2015.
[00:06:41.480]Way back in 2015.
[00:06:43.040]You would get a print out
[00:06:45.190]and it would be like an XY coordinate.
[00:06:47.270]So you would find your spot using this XY coordinate.
[00:06:51.410]Now, if there's something that's unclear right away,
[00:06:55.190]they can take the iPad while they're standing on the field
[00:06:57.557]and they can animate the pictures
[00:07:00.510]to see how they're supposed to move.
[00:07:02.760]Technology is one of the big changes for marching bands,
[00:07:05.700]a far cry from the experience Tony and Doug had
[00:07:08.410]in their own college bands decades ago.
[00:07:11.060]But other experiences are the same,
[00:07:13.240]no matter the era or the school.
[00:07:16.930]The game day excitement, the hard work, the friendships,
[00:07:20.270]that's what makes marching band unforgettable.
[00:07:23.780]Just ask senior drum major, Rachel Hoffman.
[00:07:27.040]My first pregame was like
[00:07:30.330]probably my favorite moment in band ever
[00:07:32.440]because nothing can prepare you
[00:07:34.500]for how exciting it's gonna be
[00:07:36.180]and I just remember when we were standing in the tunnel
[00:07:40.650]waiting for the football team to run out,
[00:07:42.250]I was honestly almost crying because it was just so amazing.
[00:07:49.520]Ben Herbil is a trumpet player
[00:07:51.440]and this is his last year with the band.
[00:07:54.460]Kinda sentimental honestly,
[00:07:55.730]going through everything for the last time.
[00:07:57.520]It's really fun just with some of my best friends
[00:07:59.797]for the past four years to get to hang out.
[00:08:02.500]Yeah, actually, a little sad last night.
[00:08:03.820]I started tearing up a little bit.
[00:08:04.890]It's like, "Oh, just beautiful!"
[00:08:07.430]Tony and Doug have fond memories
[00:08:09.310]of their college marching bands.
[00:08:11.530]Tony played percussion
[00:08:12.960]at James Madison University in Virginia
[00:08:15.540]where the marching band was maybe
[00:08:17.450]more popular than the football team.
[00:08:19.930]There was a game there once when the game was canceled
[00:08:23.140]because the visiting team had a outbreak of measles
[00:08:26.920]and it was right at game time.
[00:08:28.380]They said, "Oh, we can't do this because of this situation."
[00:08:33.430]And the fans all stayed and the band went
[00:08:36.110]and played everything that they knew
[00:08:38.220]and the band played without the football game.
[00:08:41.460]Doug went to The University of Kentucky
[00:08:43.290]and played the trumpet.
[00:08:44.700]The biggest game he remembers?
[00:08:46.900]'Member going to Alabama
[00:08:49.000]and they were number one in the country
[00:08:50.240]and the band at halftime formed a number one
[00:08:52.950]like every 15 seconds in the show to remind everybody
[00:08:56.470]and they beat us 45 to six.
[00:08:58.860]Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!
[00:09:00.910]Now entering the field is the pride of all Nebraska!
[00:09:04.178]Nebraska's strong football tradition
[00:09:06.290]makes Memorial Stadium an exciting
[00:09:08.510]and challenging performance arena for the marching band.
[00:09:13.110]It's a magic hat,
[00:09:14.520]trying to find music that appeals to many generations,
[00:09:18.010]staying current and fresh while still honoring tradition,
[00:09:22.090]fighting a space where not everyone
[00:09:24.280]can always hear what you're playing.
[00:09:26.780]Here's Doug again.
[00:09:28.160]Just the size of the venue and trying
[00:09:30.320]to project your performance all the way
[00:09:32.347]to the top of the stadium
[00:09:34.380]where you can climb up there and see Wyoming.
[00:09:39.060]You know, it's so high.
[00:09:42.260]That changes how you design and think about your show
[00:09:45.300]and what kind of music you're gonna program,
[00:09:47.380]who you'll write the music for.
[00:09:48.903](marching band music)
[00:09:55.850]And then, there's the practice schedule.
[00:09:58.420]Every weekday morning at seven, that's every morning.
[00:10:02.380]As Tony and Doug like to remind the students,
[00:10:04.840]marching band is an outdoor activity.
[00:10:07.390]'Cause there's some mornings in November
[00:10:10.350]when it's cold and dark.
[00:10:11.810]It's like, "Oh, man, I gotta go to band.
[00:10:14.407]"Gotta be outside, it's gonna be 25 degrees.
[00:10:16.467]"We have to be out today 'cause it's Friday
[00:10:18.077]"and we have a game tomorrow."
[00:10:19.230]Or, "I have a test today and I was up 'til two studying
[00:10:22.227]"and my girlfriend just broke up with me."
[00:10:24.510]and (laughs) that we rehearse everyday
[00:10:27.980]takes grit right there.
[00:10:29.698](clapping and singing)
[00:10:35.490]But it all pays off.
[00:10:36.920]Memories are made while marching.
[00:10:39.240]That trip to the Rose Bowl,
[00:10:40.679](crowd cheering and clapping)
[00:10:41.750]a 23-hour bus ride to the Alamo Bowl through an ice storm,
[00:10:47.510]the first pregame show,
[00:10:51.450]On game day, it's like, whoosh!
[00:10:54.540]The rush you get from performing
[00:10:55.960]in front of 95,000 people is part of it
[00:10:58.700]but then also, they love their school,
[00:11:01.660]they love supporting what's happening at their school,
[00:11:05.210]and being part of that.
[00:11:06.980]And they love each other.
[00:11:09.810]If you ask them, what makes band meaningful for you?
[00:11:13.550]Most of the answers, without hesitation, it's the people.
[00:11:16.920]Could we watch it one more time and just try it?
[00:11:19.170]Yeah, let's do that in section again.
[00:11:21.040]We are friends but also having that
[00:11:25.080]concept of striving towards a common goal,
[00:11:27.190]I think, brings us even closer.
[00:11:29.570]These are the people that
[00:11:31.490]they're gonna be their best friends
[00:11:32.580]for the rest of their lives.
[00:11:33.430]These is the people that
[00:11:34.770]they're gonna invite to their wedding,
[00:11:36.170]these are the people that they're gonna marry.
[00:11:38.210]Doug and Tony always have a few wedding invitations
[00:11:40.900]on their desks from band members whose romance was sparked
[00:11:44.190]during those endless drills on the field.
[00:11:49.460]We had a freshman in the tuba section
[00:11:51.460]whose parents were in band my first year here.
How does that make you feel?
[00:11:57.030]Happy to be alive!
[00:11:59.322](triumphant marching band music)
[00:12:05.410]When the band marches out onto the field this year,
[00:12:07.910]Tony promises another spectacular show.
[00:12:11.320]It's a new era with football coach,
[00:12:13.470]Scott Frost leading the team.
[00:12:15.770]Our first show is really
[00:12:16.610]kind of a Welcome Home, Scott Frost show
[00:12:19.350]so that all of the tunes in the first show
[00:12:22.220]have a theme of home in them.
[00:12:24.920]So we're saying, "Welcome home, coach."
[00:12:27.260]It's one more year to lead the pride
[00:12:29.580]of all Nebraska out on to the field.
[00:12:32.009](triumphant band music)
[00:12:37.160]It's probably the best job in the world for me.
[00:12:40.220]I get to do what I love and watch these wonderful students,
[00:12:45.370]some of the best students.
[00:12:46.660]I heard a great quote and they said that
[00:12:48.747]"The marching band is a snapshot
[00:12:50.357]"of the best of your university."
[00:12:52.760]And I get to work with those people everyday.
[00:12:55.860]It's a great university to work for,
[00:12:57.530]it's a great town to live in,
[00:12:59.600]just everything about working here has been wonderful.
[00:13:02.277](triumphant band music)
[00:13:11.590]That's it for Faculty 101.
[00:13:13.240]Thanks to Tony Falcone and Doug Bush
[00:13:15.210]for letting us tag along
[00:13:16.540]on one of the busiest weeks of the year.
[00:13:19.060]In the show notes, we linked to the Nebraska band website.
[00:13:22.512](bright playful music)
[00:13:24.840]Next time on the podcast,
[00:13:26.870]The space, the light, the wind.
[00:13:30.980]Nebraska nature as an inspiration for art.
[00:13:34.740]Faculty 101 is produced
[00:13:36.480]by The University of Nebraska Lincoln.
[00:13:38.930]And now, here's the band to march us out.
[00:13:42.265](upbeat marching band music)
[00:13:51.789](crowd cheering and applauding)
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