Most UConn students can confidently say they have seen the University of Connecticut marching band in action at least once. Not all, however, understand the hard work and dedication that goes into putting on a marching band performance. Beyond that, the UConn Marching Band (UCMB) is more than just a source of entertainment at football games: it’s a family.
According to Dr. David Mills, the UCMB's director since 1990, it has been a challenge to build the band up from a mere 130 members to the over 300-piece band that it is today. Part of the difficulty in recruiting for university marching bands in New England is the lack of high schoolers in marching bands in the region.
“In the South,” Mills said, “high school bands are much larger and football is so much more popular.”
To spread awareness and start recruitment young, the band puts on three yearly exhibitions at high school marching band competitions. Maintaining the marching band is also challenging, as Mills works not only to recruit members, but also to train leaders and plan the intricate movements and music that make up a show.
From drum major Justina Strycharz’s perspective, the hard work that goes into being a part of the marching band is worth it.
“There’s a sense of ownership. Everyone... has a unique role since there is a leader for each section, but also… each section delegates many roles,” Strycharz said. “Students are uniquely responsible for making the show sound great.”
These responsibilities may be time-consuming, but they also come with a hidden benefit. Having such limited free time encourages band members to make the most of this time in terms of studying and doing homework.
“In the fall, [participation in] marching band actually raises grades,” Strycharz said.
When asked to describe her favorite part of marching band, drum major Kayla Pardue is quick with her answer: “game days.” “From the stands to being on the field in half-time,” Pardue said she lives for “entertaining the crowd.”
Fellow drum major Tim Paproski said marching band is “one big family” with members from “every school in the university. It’s a big sampling of people, all united by music.” Mills echoes these sentiments, declaring his gratitude at “developing student relationships over four years and seeing the growth from 18-year-olds… to adults.” He loves the family created by the mentoring and support system of the band. Motivated students from “pre-med to engineering to actuaries” are all there to help one another.
Members of the UConn Marching Band put in major time and effort to create a lively and spirited atmosphere for UConn students at games and other campus events. Along the way, members improve their musical ability and learn essential time management skills. At the end of their undergraduate careers, students walk away with life-long bonds and a permanent spot in the marching band family.
Veronica Eskander is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.