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A conversation with Big MO's handlers

Thursday, October 13, 2011 | 4:37 p.m. CDT
Big MO crew members David Champlin and Adam Rau celebrate a touchdown by posing with the current Big MO.

"Big” doesn’t really cover it anymore. Try huge, ginormous, a MO-nstronsity. When MU’s new and improved Big MO drum is revealed on Nov. 12, the sound of the celebratory touchdown canon blast will pale in comparison to the 9 by 4 1/2-foot bass drum. The drum’s dimensions make it one of the biggest in the world. It is a growth spurt that arose out of necessity. As the original Big MO approached its 40th birthday, it was beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. When it came time to act on the issue this past January, Marching Mizzou alumni and Big MO’s crew members David Champlin and Adam Rau, along with band fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi member Will Bryan, decided to shoot for what seemed like the impossible.

The drum’s parts are being made in various states. The drumheads are coming from California, and its shell was made in Georgia. A special trailer is being made in Iowa just to transport the supersized instrument to Faurot Field once it’s put together. Approximately one year and $35,000 of private donations and fundraising later, Champlin, Rau and Bryan are ready to blow the University of Texas’ eight-foot Big Bertha out of the water.

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How did you get involved with Big MO?

David: I’ve been involved with Big MO since I graduated in 2006, and I was able to convince the band director at the time, Mike Knight, to have people outside of Marching Mizzou — alumni, employees and those in good standing with the University (participate in the Big MO tradition). At that time, we had a good relationship with the director of music, Tom O’Neill, and that allowed us to become an almost permanent fixture with Big MO.

Adam: Everyone was involved — alumni, Marching Mizzou and Kappa Kappa Psi.

David: That’s true. We were part of Kappa Kappa Psi, an organization that helps out the marching band and the School of Music bands in general. It’s a national band service fraternity; Adam and I were in the same pledge class.

Were you also in charge of Big MO as undergrads in Marching Mizzou?

David: Big MO, at the time we were undergrads, was given to senior members of Kappa Kappa Psi and Marching Mizzou, but then that stopped, and they asked for alumni outside of Marching Mizzou and undergraduates to volunteer.

Do you operate Big MO as a team?

David: Right now, only two people do it because of the size of the drum. We’d like to have more than three people to help with the bigger new drum.

What was the process like to fund this project?

David: We first drew up a plan of estimates and a plan for finding the correct drum maker. We decided on Neil Boumpani, a custom drum builder in Barnesvill, Ga. We found him through means of drum connections. He does a lot of percussion equipment, and we just did an Internet search. We went through a couple of other custom drum makers from California all the way to New York, and even as far as Germany. The Germans told us it was impossible, but the shipping costs would have been astronomical as well. Neil was really excited for the project.

At what point did you have the idea for a “bigger” Big MO?

David: Originally, we decided to make a nicer, original-sized Big MO. The one that we have is falling apart.

Adam: But since we’d have to get a custom drum made regardless, we decided to go ahead and see what we could do and just make it amazing.

David: If Purdue and Texas can have a giant drum, maybe we could shoot for it.

Getting a new Big MO has been about a year-long process. How does it feel to almost be done?

David: We came up with the initial plans in January, and then submitted them to the Student Fee Capital Improvement Committee and also the Mizzou Parents Association and the Missouri Students Association for funding. The school of music and the athletics department have also been awesome in supporting our endeavors. My heart goes out to all the people that donated. In perspective, this seems like a silly thing, but it’s an important Mizzou spirit symbol. I think this is a fun thing the entire university can get behind.

Adam: It’s great for Marching Mizzou and the school of music because people might not notice new things with the band — new uniforms, new megaphones. But a big drum people can see, and it really draws attention to the dedication of the band and what they do for the atmosphere of the stadium.

What is your main motivation to stay involved with Marching Mizzou?

Adam: We wanted to make sure that even with changes in leadership and organizations, Big MO kept going like it had in the past.

In the end, how much did it cost?  

Adam: The original bids were $48,000, and after doing a lot of negotiation and working with a lot of different people, we lowered the cost to $35,000.

Getting a new Big MO has been about a year-long process. How does it feel to almost be done?

Adam: For me, it’s down to the point where a lot of things are out of our hands. We’ve done all the planning, and now people need to do their jobs, and we’ll see if everything gets done on time. The three corners of America are meeting in the middle.


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