COLUMBIA- Almost 300 MU students stood in a circle Tuesday morning warming up under the hot August sun for the first full day of Marching Mizzou’s band camp.
“Make sure you are breathing, especially bearded people and trombones,” said Head Drum Major Bryan Koerner, his voice blaring through a speaker loaded in the back of a pickup truck in the Hearnes Center parking lot.
Koerner, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, was encircled by a mass of marchers, barking orders through his microphone headset.
The MU marching band’s practice signalled the beginning of the football season, the start of the school year and the promise of cooler weather around the corner. Though Marching Mizzou only performs during football season, it is a nearly yearlong process for everyone involved.
Michael Knight, the associate director of bands at MU, said preparation for this year’s edition of Marching Mizzou began in April with freshmen auditions and the musical lineup.
Marching Mizzou will be practicing from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day this week as they seek to perfect dazzling displays to wow the masses of Missouri football fans starting with the first football game against Illinois on Sept. 1 in St. Louis.
“I am beyond excited,” said first-year drum major Chris Barchesky. “I’ve been looking forward to this all summer.”
Marching Mizzou has a lot to be excited about this year. Enrollment is up in the band due to more than a hundred freshman joining, including one of the nation’s most decorated twirlers, Candice Canida. Preseason buzz points to the Tigers as a Big 12 favorite, and that means the team — and Marching Mizzou — may get the chance to go to a bowl game.
“Honestly, I am looking at 11-1 and a BCS bowl,” said the third drum major Nate Edwards, of Columbia.
A winning team is not the only thing that motivates Marching Mizzou.
Marchers usually put in about 20 hours a week practicing and performing on game days during the fall semester while studying full-time.
A positive attitude is another source of inspiration for the marchers. Throughout Tuesday’s steamy practice, they shared smiles and laughs, reminiscing about past trips with the band, friendships built around Marching Mizzou and Knight’s uncanny knowledge of all of the marcher’s names.
“We like to be a bit of a spark that gets everyone in the crowd going,” Koerner said. “At the end (of a game) when you look back, and the Tigers win, it’s a fantastic feeling and it’s all worth it.”
The culmination of this week’s Marching Mizzou practices will come at 7 p.m. Sunday on Francis Quadrangle, with the annual Concert on the Quad. The public is invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy the free event.
And Marching Mizzou, as always, will march on.
“Words can’t describe being in control of this sound,” Edwards said. “It’s one of the most incredible experiences in my life.”