Late October is a busy time of year for the NAU Lumberjack Marching Band. This upcoming homecoming season, members of the band tirelessly prepare for participation in an electrifying lineup of events.
In addition to a fiercely anticipated football game against California Polytechnic State University, this year’s Homecoming festivities will include many exciting performances from the marching band.
The Homecoming celebration will commence when the band takes Heritage Square for a downtown pep rally Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Flagstaff residents of all ages are welcome to attend this community display of school spirit. The next morning, on Oct. 27 at Café au Louie, an alumni breakfast will be accompanied by a musical performance from the band.
Adisplay of NAU pride will be shown later during the Homecoming Parade. Beginning at 11 a.m., the band will lead an armada of decorative floats around the school’s perimeter and play selections from their repertoire.
After the tailgate, the weekend will culminate with the Homecoming football game on Saturday at 4 p.m. The band will march at halftime and play cherished fight songs in support of NAU’s football team.
Gabriel Gamboa, freshman band member and elementary education major is excited about this year’s Homecoming. Gamboa described the significance of the event and its impact on the student body.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” said Gamboa. “All of the band alumni come back and perform with us. The people who graduated become your family again.”
Gamboa is a first-year member of the marching band’s color guard. Gamboa said participation in the band helped alleviate some of the stress inherent to early college life. Joining such a tight-knit community came with a wealth of crucial advice from peer mentors.
“Its made things easier. You have people from every grade here,” Gamboa said. “You can ask them questions [or] ask for advice. You have a big family that can help you.”
Junior history education major Jordan Spann assumes a high position of leadership within the band. As drum major, Spann is one of the few students responsible for conducting the group during performances. Spann shared his reasons for joining the band and some of the ways being in a position of leadership has led to personal growth.
“People do this to be part of something greater than themselves,” said Spann. “I’ve definitely become significantly more responsible in the way that I handle myself.”
For some members, performing in the band means more than putting on a show. Spann said it’s about community, friendship and dedication to a common goal. Spann spoke about his level of responsibility to the group and how his actions have the potential to greatly affect his peers.
“If I don’t uphold to the schedule and to the path that I’ve set myself upon, then everything we’re doing here falls apart,” Spann said. “This is very important to me, and I know it’s important to a lot of people [marching].”
Being in a band is no small feat. Sophomore mechanical engineering major Bruce Ferguson said active members of the band take on a sizeable time commitment. As the flute section leader, he devotes nearly 20 hours per week to rehearsals and games.
“We practice two hours a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said Ferguson. “Color guard and percussion practice three hours on those days. Most of the time we’re outside in any weather.”
Ferguson said he believes the band’s efforts are often unseen by students. Ferguson feels that many of his classmates don’t recognize the hard work and planning involved in performing the halftime show each week.
“The band sometimes gets overlooked. It’s not something that people think of,” Ferguson said. “It’s often seen to be less taxing than other sports, but it involves a major time commitment. There are a lot of sacrifices the students have to make. We just don’t get nearly as much recognition from students as other athletes do.”
Associate Director of Bands William Kinne said despite the challenges faced by members of the ensemble, he is appreciative of endorsements given by university officials. Kinne said he feels the program is constantly improving.
“Our students don’t do it for the course credit. They do it for the love of performing and of being in the band,” said Kinne. “We’ve had a really great season so far. There’s a lot of excitement around the band because we’re continuing to grow. We’ve received tremendous support from administration.”
This year’s halftime show is titled “The Music of Queen” and features some of the rock band Queen’s most acclaimed hits. Kinne said this year’s show has been a hit and spoke about some of its influences and the timelessness of the music.
“With the new “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie coming out, we figured it’d be a popular topic to feature,” Kinne said. “We’ve had a great response from members in the band, alumni and the fans. There’s just something about the marching band that can blend nostalgia, tradition, school spirit and innovation all at once. I think that’s really special.”
Band members work together to cultivate a sense of pride throughout the homecoming season. With 140 students enrolled this year, the group continues to grow and to promote fine arts education on campus. They are constantly seeking highly-motivated students to step up and join the ranks as new members of the Lumberjack Marching Band.