Marching Mizzou takes to the road for SEC football games

Friday, September 21, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:53 a.m. CDT, Friday, September 21, 2012
Before Missouri joined the SEC, Marching Mizzou sent a pep band to one or two away football games each season. Now, Marching Mizzou will travel to every away conference game.

COLUMBIA — Rebecca Phillips knows what it takes for a band to get in tune with the Southeastern Conference.

Phillips, who earned her doctorate at SEC school Louisiana State University, was hired as the band director at the University of South Carolina two seasons ago to help its marching band — the Mighty Sound of the Southeast — get in step with the SEC's core values of size, spectacle and Southern hospitality.

Traveling to away football games is common among marching bands in the SEC, and this fall marks the first time Marching Mizzou will have a presence at every away conference game.

"It's becoming a matter of pride," Phillips said. "There's an expectation they'll have a band at away games."

At 10 p.m. Thursday, 52 members of Marching Mizzou planned to board a bus for the 15-hour drive to Columbia, S.C., for Missouri's first away conference game as a member of the SEC. As they cross state lines, they will also be crossing into new marching band territory and its unwritten rules.

Previously, Marching Mizzou only traveled for one to two games a season along with bowl games. Now that MU has joined the SEC, Marching Mizzou's directors plan to send a pep band to play in the stands for every away conference game.

The athletics department has budgeted $100,000 for Marching Mizzou's travel going toward buses, hotels, food and game tickets, assistant director Chris Baumgartner said.

MU Missouri Athletics Director "Mike Alden knows what an important part of the package the band is,” said Brad Snow, Marching Mizzou director.

Unwritten rules

Now that Marching Mizzou is a part of the SEC, Phillips said there are a couple new traditions to watch out for.

SEC bands usually have 320 to 420 members. Bands need to be big and have a substantial brass section to fill the capacity of the stadium, Phillips said.

The marching band should involve the crowd throughout the game, Phillips said. The pregame is designed to be interactive. For South Carolina, this means the band members salute each corner of the stadium to get the crowd cheering along.

The band can lift the crowd's spirits any way it wants as long as it stays between the 45-yard line and their team's end zone — one of the few official rules of the conference.

This impacts the shape of the band's tunnel — the band divides into five rows on each side of the locker room and creates a tunnel for the team to run through as the band plays their fight song, Baumgartner said. As long as the tunnel doesn't cross the 45-yard line, the band is in regulation.

It's a courtesy to not play over the home band's pregame routine, Phillips said. It's also expected that a visiting band will play its school's fight song as its team runs out.

When the game starts, another official rule kicks in: no house music between downs.

"Between downs, you cannot pump in music, so the band does some sort of cheer to get the audience involved," Phillips said.

Both home and visiting bands need to have an extensive repertoire to ensure they can keep playing live music. At South Carolina, this meant redesigning the songbook, Phillips said. 

"I designed music that fit the mood and flow of the game," she said.

For the first down, South Carolina band members play a peppy tune to celebrate. The music gets darker and more imposing for the second and third downs.

Phillips said both bands are encouraged to play simultaneously during games. Obviously, there is a size difference between Marching Mizzou's 52-member pep band and South Carolina's 325-member full marching band, but this doesn't necessarily mean Marching Mizzou will be drowned out.

According to Phillips, visiting bands are placed right in the middle of their fans to make sure they can hear their band.

"This is why it's so important to have a band at every game," she said

CBS will have microphones positioned so television viewers can hear the visiting band as well, Phillips said.

"There's nothing better than being able to hear your fans and your band making an impact on that game," she said.

The visiting band also has the advantage of not having to adhere to marketing breaks. When there is a timeout for a commercial, the marketing department might tell the home band it cannot play during the advertisement, but the visiting band members don't have to follow this and can play as they please, Phillips said.

The home band is also expected to have a new halftime show for every game. Each year, Phillips finds 15 new songs to play in the stands, 21 to play at halftime and six for the pregame. Although songs can carry over from the year before, the rough total for South Carolina is 62 songs a year, with at least 36 of them being new.

There's also a third-quarter tradition, when the band plays its most popular song from the pregame while in the stands.

The SEC doesn't permit the visiting band to play more than two songs at the end of the game for security reasons, Phillips said. The goal is to clear out the stadium as quickly as possible to prevent an endless victory celebration.

Hitting the road

With the promise of travel has come an increase in membership.

 Of the 330 members of Marching Mizzou, Baumgartner said 138 are new this year. That puts the band in range of SEC expectations.

Marching Mizzou members said they're excited about traveling. The band directors said they would like everyone who wants to travel to have the opportunity, but it's up to the section leaders to decide who goes to each game. The pep bands will be a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen, Baumgartner said.

Fifth-year trumpet player Glenn Tigas wants to attend all of the away games and is looking forward to the game against the University of Florida the most.

“I want to see the sea of blue as opposed to red or oranges in the stadium,” he said.

The band members who travel to Columbia this weekend will get a taste of Southern hospitality when the Marching Mizzou bus parks in South Carolina, Phillips said.

A police escort will take band members from their hotel to the alumni pep rally. From there, police on motorcycles will escort the band to the stadium.

Phillips said Marching Mizzou doesn't have to worry too much about fitting into the SEC. Although there is a rivalry between SEC football teams, the marching band culture isn't competitive in the same way. 

"Yes, you want to be the best band in the SEC, of course, but you're not there to hope that someone else fails," Phillips said. "We cheer for the other band. We're there to support each other."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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Derrick Fogle September 21, 2012 | 7:46 a.m.

One of my favorite things about living in Columbia, is that I frequently get to hear the Mizzou Marching Band practice. Sometimes, from a couple miles away! It always puts a smile on my face.

Best wishes peeps, you rock!

(Report Comment)
frank christian September 21, 2012 | 1:46 p.m.

Coach Dan Devine once stated something like, One of my goals as coach has been to make our football team as successful, well known and as great an asset to the U of MO, as is our Marching Band.

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