The Yellow Jacket Marching Band is one of the oldest institutions on Tech’s campus and is preparing for another season of performances in the stands and on the field. The 350-member band has been working hard over the past two weeks to practice its music and learn all of the marching routines that will be conducted on the field.
Kyle Schadt is a Baritone player in his fifth year as a member of the marching band. He has plenty of experience performing at football games for the Tech faithful and has seen his fair share of exciting games.
“[My favorite game] used to be the 2011 Clemson game, but now I would say that it’s the UGA game from last year,” Schadt said. “Both the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl were great, but nothing beats beating UGA. We [the band] were just playing our hearts out.”
Tech’s band is different compared to most marching bands across the nation, since it does not include any music majors (a major not offered at the Institute). Contrary to some people’s intuition, Schadt thinks that this situation actually benefits the band.
“A lot of schools with music majors force their students to do marching band for at least a semester, and not everyone wants to do that,” Schadt said. “Since we do not have music majors, everyone that is in this band wants to be here, and we do not end up with any bad members. Everyone definitely has the talent.”
The band’s first practices of the year occur at band camp, which takes place one week before the first day of classes. The band spends nine hours each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week learning the music and practicing their marching drills in the August heat. Since the band does not use sheet music during games, all of the songs must be memorized.
“People have different methods for [memorizing the music],” Schadt said. “Some will take some time outside of practice to memorize each song; some may wait until we learn the whole drill. I like to keep my music with me as we’re learning drill so I can better memorize them together.”
During the semester, the band rehearses for six hours per week. Most of the music is learned during band camp, though occasionally the band practices new material at the end of rehearsals throughout the season.
Director of Athletic Bands Chris Moore is responsible for writing the music for all of the band’s halftime shows.
“He’s really good,” Schadt said. “He’s very talented at combining lots of pieces. In my freshman year, we had a superhero show with 19 or 20 themes in one movement, and it’s really incredible how he can weave the pieces together, even if it’s just for a measure.”
Moore also chooses the songs that the band plays over the course of the season while also taking some input from the senior members. These songs include mainstays such as “Rubber Band Man” and “Fire,” as well as pop songs like “Happy” and “Get Lucky.” “Uptown Funk” and “Bang Bang” will be new to the lineup this year.
“One of my favorites is ‘All the Small Things,’” Schadt said. “It’s great because the fans sing along, which was a surprise at first.”
This year the theme for the halftime shows is “Killer ‘B,’” meaning that all of the song titles or artist names start with the letter “B.” Tech fans can expect to hear songs by Bernstein, Beethoven, and the Beatles, among others.
Schadt says one little-known pressure involved with being in the marching band is the constant responsibility of representing the Institute when in uniform.
“We travel a lot with the football team, and it’s emphasized that every member is representing both the band and the Institute,” Schadt said. “It’s very important for us to play well, perform well and act well and general. A regular student at a game does not necessarily have to worry about that. For example, we can’t rush the field after a big win.”
The band is an integral part of the gameday experience, from the pregame warmup and march down Freshman Hill to playing the fight songs after a score. It is involved with Tech traditions, most notably by having all of the freshman members wear their RAT caps throughout the season.
“There are a lot of little traditions too,” Schadt said. “Like when we’re warming up physically and stretching our quads, the drum major will say ‘ankle’ and everyone yells ‘ankle!’ in response. I have no idea why, it’s just something that happens. Little things like that make the band special.”