The sounds of drumline cadences and marching drill rehearsals resonated across the empty campus a week before classes started as Bearcat Marching Band started its camp where freshmen members were the first to arrive. 

BMB has 195 members, and 81 are freshmen. It also has the biggest drumline its had since Band Director and Chair of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts Katy Strickland started in 2013. 

“It’s the biggest freshman class since I’ve been here — we call them rookies, so some of them are transfer students,” Strickland said. 

With a large influx of new members, upperclassmen often work harder to help them adjust to BMB’s style. Senior tuba player Hailey Rosemann was impressed with how well the freshmen were prepared.

“I think the freshmen add a lot to the band,” Rosemann said. “They’re not slackers, so they’re doing a lot of really good work.”

The majority of band members are not music majors. Freshmen choose to continue band for a number of different reasons. 

Trombone player Nick Shutts, a double major in business and studio arts with an emphasis in photography, is playing in the band to extend his experience from high school.

“I thought it’d be fun to branch out because this is a bigger version of (band in high school),” Shutts said. “I also wanted to meet people so that when I came to college I had a bunch of people that I already knew.” 

Advertising major Josh Nazworthy plays in the drumline and is excited for a different environment. 

“For me, drumline in high school was really competitive,” Nazworthy said. “We got good so we can win, but here … it’s a whole different atmosphere. You’re not playing to win, you’re playing to make people happy.”

All members of the color guard and drumline arrived Aug. 13 and the rest of the freshman started Aug. 15. They had full days of rehearsal — lasting an average of eight hours — preparing for their performance at the Freshman Convocation. 

The first day for most of the freshmen lasted nearly 12 hours because they started moving in at 8 a.m. and practice ended at 8:15 p.m.

“It’s tough,” Strickland said. “We work them hard.” 

Some parts of Advantage Weekend were scheduled early for the freshmen in BMB so they could still get prepared for the school year while being at band camp. 

“The folks that run Advantage are really good with trying to blend that schedule in ours,” Strickland said. “They let us pull some things out and place them around some of our rehearsals, the things that we can. Some things we can’t, and we just send our people to what they need to go to. We’re trying to make their life not too hard.”

Flautist and psychology major Layla Holtz appreciated the parts of Advantage being incorporated into their band schedule, but she wished she could participate in some of the optional activities. 

“They have Advantage stuff going on at like 8:30 at night, which is right after band, and I just want to sleep,” Holtz said. “They’re doing Advantage stuff after that like movies and stuff that I want to be a part of, but it’s hard to be part of that because I’m going to be so tired and not want to go.”

Nerves are common for freshmen because coming to college is a completely new environment with many changes to adapt to. A big change for agriculture education and business major GiGi Goolsby was the size of her color guard team.

“I went from three girls on my guard team to 23,” Goolsby said. “That was a shock for me. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot to critique, a lot more to nail down.’ It’s a huge difference … That’s a lot more trust in other people and learning everyone’s different styles, attitudes and inputs to take it all in to create something new.”

Convocation showed freshmen the rewards of their long week of rehearsals.

“The audience is so receptive, and they get to put out there this thing they’ve worked hard on because we work them hard,” Strickland said. “I can tell you they’re a diligent and hard-working bunch. We finally get a pay off and finally get appreciated and pats on the back. It’s fun to see their faces; they’re very happy at the end of that day. It’s a sense of accomplishment.”

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