Game day’s other uniform: GT marching band

Photo by John Nakano

She takes the field and looks around—thousands of people look down in anticipation as the first notes escape the instruments on the field and begin to fill the stadium.

It’s finally here, the moment she’s been preparing and waiting for all week has finally arrived.

It’s game day on the Flats.

Game day, according to many of the band members, is an event unlike any other for the Tech Yellow Jacket Band. It is an event members spend hours throughout the week preparing and practicing for and one that adds uniqueness to the game day experience.

Sarah Smith, a first-year BA major, has been playing percussion since she began taking lessons in fourth grade. She joined her school band in sixth grade and knew immediately that it was something she wanted to commit a large portion of her life to.

Now part of the pit section in Tech’s marching band, Smith spends several hours throughout the week preparing for and playing at the school’s football game days.

“Every time I step out onto the field,” Smith said, “I know I made the right decision both in joining band and in coming to [Tech].”

Game day starts early for Smith, who wakes up with the sun the morning before games and immediately begins getting ready for the day’s events. Like other band members, she must don an all-white uniform underneath her actual uniform. After getting dressed and grabbing breakfast, she heads to Fowler Street to behind unloading instruments for the percussion section and then carries them to the stadium.

“The truck area looks crazy to anyone looking on,” Smith said, “but in reality it’s very productive chaos. Everyone is running with a purpose.”

Photo by John Nakano
Photo by John Nakano

Amidst the sea of white uniformed members running back and forth, the members of the drum line begin to warm up for their performance on Yellow Jacket Alley. The paradiddles and notes echo across campus and hype up both the members and the spectators.

The line leads the football players down the alley and then goes to join the pep band for the fight songs.

Smith and other members of the Pit get ready to perform their pregame performance, at the plaza in front of the stadium. This performance takes place two hours before kickoff.

The band plays current songs, including hits like “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons and “Little Talks” by Monsters and Men. The crowd grows and grows as the performance goes on and so too does the morale of the spectators. After the applause, Smith heads into the stadium and begins to prepare for pregame.

Smith spends the game actively following every play, playing whatever song is cued. What little downtime the band has between songs is spend yelling at the crowd and getting into the game.

“You can’t hear anything,” Smith said. “Everything is just so loud.”

As halftime approaches, she begins to get the jitters, worrying that the tempo will tear or something will go wrong. Their show is played and things go off without a hitch. The crowd cheers and the band returns to the stands energized and relieved.

“Home game atmospheres are great,” said Ryan Alain, a first-year ME major who plays bass drum in the band. “Away games are so different. We don’t wear full uniforms, we don’t march and there aren’t as many fans to feed off of our energy.”

The third quarter marks break time for the band members, who flock to the concession stand to spend their meal ticket. Smith goes for the nachos and returns back to the stands in time to for Tech’s signature “Budweiser Song.”

As the game nears the end, the band once again prepares for a show. The horse and the fight song are staple post-game traditions; post-game is especially exciting if the team wins.

After a Tech victory, the football team makes their way to the North End zone, where the band and loyal members of The Swarm are waiting patiently. The band belts out the fight song as the team raises their helmets in the air and sings along.

“It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced,” Smith said. “It shows all of the spirit coming together as everyone celebrates together in the moment.”

As the final notes of “Horse” are played, Smith and other band members prepare to leave. Exhausted, she files out of the stadium alongside the rest of the fans. Once she’s home free, she heads to the dining hall, ready to eat and sleep. Until the next game, that is.