LSU PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY THE LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT AND UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY UGA ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
There was only one occasion in my time with the University of Georgia Redcoat Band that I didn’t play “Glory” after a game. It was following the 2018 Rose Bowl – and between shedding tears, jumping up and down and embracing every friend and stranger sitting around me, I physically couldn’t play my trumpet (believe me, I tried).
I was not alone. Our directors would admit that the “Glory” played after the Rose Bowl was one of the worst, if not the worst, one in recent Georgia history. We were all too overcome with emotion to play our horns at that moment. Sony Michel’s run into the endzone in double overtime was like something out of a movie that we could’ve never imagined would happen to us.
Though the Rose Bowl win is at the top of my list of incredible moments I was lucky enough to experience while in the Redcoat Band, the special thing about being in an SEC band is that there are many of these moments. Each week I was awe-struck by something new. When I walked into the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at UGA as an 18-year-old straight out of Rome High School, and for the very first time as a Redcoat, I had no idea what was in store for me.
Each Saturday we were treated like celebrities within our fan base. People would ask for pictures with us and their children, and they would high-five every one of us just for being one of their own. Larry Munson said it best when he described the Redcoat Band as the “heartbeat of the Bulldog nation,” and we sometimes felt like we were a part of the team because of it. Coach Kirby Smart even surprised us with a visit at one of our practices to express the team’s unwavering appreciation for us.
Though what was most memorable wasn’t always the wins, or even the inevitable camaraderie between us “band nerds” and our fellow football fans, but experiencing other schools’ traditions too.
The 2015 Georgia-Auburn game at Jordan-Hare Stadium was the first time I experienced Nova, or War Eagle VII, flying from the upper deck in a pre-game tradition, and it sent chills down my spine. I still think about the atmosphere in Lexington, Kentucky, where the fans, all decked in blue, went absolutely wild when their team ran out to a hype video of a horse in the Kentucky Derby leading the football team. Another moment took place in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the sold-out crowd of Volunteer faithful checkered out Neyland Stadium– only to be beat 41-0 by Georgia in the end. In a more humbling experience, I’ll never forget the crowd in Death Valley chanting “Neck” to us as LSU gave us a beat-down on their home turf. And as always, the intense rivalry that takes place each year in Jacksonville, Florida at the annual Georgia-Florida game (Florida-Georgia Line is a band, y’all).
However, one of my favorite experiences took place in South Bend, Indiana. The ringing sound of the bagpipes in “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys overtook Notre Dame stadium when the Fighting Irish took the field to play us on their turf for only the second time in history. We watched a four-quarter fight to the end from the upper deck with Touchdown Jesus looking over us beyond the far endzone.
Each week, we felt all the same emotions as everyone else. The overwhelming joy when we beat a team we weren’t supposed to, the grieving sadness that comes with a loss – and then playing those teams that make your blood boil just by looking at them.The college band experience – especially that of an SEC band, creates an unconditional love for not only your team, but also your school, that will last a lifetime.
The college marching band experience is special for any band member, but it means something more in the SEC.
When prospective freshmen ask me why they should audition for Tiger Band, I like to set the scene for them.
Imagine you’re on the field on a cool October night. The biggest game of the year is about to begin, and the entire country is tuned in. You get in formation in front of the tunnel, and after a few seconds of exhilarating silence, you check up and play your school’s beloved fight song as the team runs past you and fireworks stream upwards in your periphery. 100,000 fans envelop you for three hours as you will your team to victory.
Goosebumps then set in as the incoming freshman is convinced the marching life is for them.
This experience is a small fraction of the incredible experiences one gains in an SEC marching band. The grueling fall practices make way for lifelong memories made in the coveted SEC away trips. Some of my fondest memories come from the away trips that bring us to parts of the country we’ve never experienced before. A weekend with some of my closest friends in the outskirts of an SEC town is a weekend well spent.
Bowl game trips are another cherished memory most SEC bands get to experience. With the best conference in football comes the exclusive privilege of traveling to more games than most bands in any other conference. The privilege of likely traveling to a bowl game for at least one of your undergraduate years makes for a common thread amongst SEC band members. Not to mention the camaraderie that SEC band members develop through free time on away trips. The experience of being in an SEC band is something members should never take for granted, because it’s an experience unlike any other in the country.