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Football Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing

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The TCU Marching Band performed at AT&T Stadium when the Horned Frogs battled LSU

The TCU Marching Band performed at AT&T Stadium when the Horned Frogs battled LSU.

By: Jill Sangl

Pardon the improper grammar in this blog title, but I couldn’t resist.  After all, what is football without the fanfare behind it?  What makes the college football game day atmosphere different from that of the NFL experience?   For me, it’s the marching band.   I love it when the Frog Pride song rattles the bleachers in Amon G. Carter Stadium.  Wanna hear it?  Click here.

Over Labor Day weekend, a friend and I flew to Texas from Chicago to attend the Cowboy Classic at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Cowboys Stadium).   Before the TCU vs. LSU match-up began, the announcer presented the LSU marching band and soon nearly all 100 yards of the field were filled with perfectly pressed band uniforms, hundreds of white shoes, and glitzy gold sequined unitards.  The LSU band not only sounded impressive, but they resembled an army of musicians and dancers – loud, strong, and proud.  After the Tigers left the field, it was time for the TCU Marching Band to take center stage.  As the Horned Frog musicians stepped into their first on-field formation, it became clear that not only was our football team the underdog in that evening’s event, but our band (in terms of size) was as well.

A group of LSU fans sitting two rows behind me shouted out something to the effect of, “Hey, where’s the TCU band?”  Being a good sport, I chuckled and then turned around and counteracted with, “Come on…we’re a small school.  LSU is a huge school.  Their band is about the size of TCU’s entire freshman class!”  We exchanged good-natured laughs and I think everyone around me realized that I had exaggerated a bit.  Our freshman class is a little over 1,900 and the LSU band has a cap of 325 students.  In comparison, the Horned Frog Marching Band is comprised of fewer than 200 students.

While it might appear that I am speaking negatively about our marching band, in fact, I’m attempting to point out exactly the opposite.  The TCU Marching Band is amazing!  Not only am I a huge fan of our marching band, but I was a band kid during both my high school and college days, and am even the proud mother of twin 13-year-old sons who play the trombone and baritone.  I am about as band-friendly as a person can be, which is why it perplexes me that so many students don’t join the college marching band.   According to TCU Director of Bands, Dr. Bobby R. Francis, informal polls among college band directors typically reflect that the average marching band size (nationwide) is a ratio of about one marching band member for every 100 undergraduate students.  In that sense, TCU’s 8,600 undergraduate population should equate to a band of only 86, but we tend to hover just below the 200 band member mark.  Interestingly, back in Fall 2010, the TCU band reached the largest size ever with about 235 members (a 1:32 band member to undergraduate student body ratio).  It’s a good thing the band was larger that year, since they ended up performing at the Tournament of Roses Parade, Disneyland, and The Rose Bowl (among other appearances).

Not only is being part of the marching band fun, there are many perks.  Marching band students get to move onto campus early.  Dr. Francis indicates that the TCU drum line, color guard, and leadership team arrive on campus nine days before classes begin, while the full band arrives one week prior to the start of the school year.  Moving to TCU early helps band members make a smoother transition from summer to the academic year, begin developing campus friendships with both first-year and upperclass students, and also allows them to begin practicing for the football season.

Nick VandenBush, a junior Music Education major from McKinney (TX) and a TCU drum major, told me, “I love the TCU Marching Band because it provides a home away from home. The TCU Marching Band is one of the largest student organizations on campus, which allows its members to become close to a variety of personalities. Through my time here at TCU so far, all of my closest friends have come from the TCU Marching Band. The TCU Band was extremely welcoming when I was a freshman, allowing me to connect with around 200 peers and learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ from upperclassmen. The TCU Marching Band has given me so many opportunities, including performances and trips such as the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, exhibitions at local marching band contests, and even halftime at the opening Dallas Cowboys game. My college experience would not be the same without the TCU Marching Band!”

Super Frog showed his admiration to a clarinet player

Super Frog showed his admiration to a clarinet player.

Rene’ Zerfas, a first-year TCU student from North Aurora (IL), offers prospective students her view of being a marching band member.  “In high school, I participated in the marching band for all four years. It became my source of fun and friendship. So far, college has not been any different.  Each weekend includes a new adventure that calls for the Horned Frog Band.”

Truth be known, there are even benefits for non-band members when it comes to the TCU Marching Band experience.  During home games, the public has an opportunity to eat breakfast or lunch with band members and park in a special area for a very reasonable fee.  But perhaps the most interesting band perk I’ve ever caught wind of occurred a few years ago.  Back in December 2010, the TCU football team had ended a perfect regular season and learned that they had been invited to the Granddaddy of all bowl games – The Rose Bowl.  Not only was this an incredible honor for our football team, but it offered our marching band a great opportunity, as well.  I distinctively remember a conversation I had with David, then a TCU junior from Wisconsin.  When I asked him if he’d be going to the game against his home state team (the University of Wisconsin Badgers), he told me that he wouldn’t miss it.  David and I soon began a conversation about his quest to purchase Rose Bowl tickets.  At one point in time during the conversation he told me that he and his friends had planned to audition as “fill-ins” for the marching band.  I gave him a puzzled look as he continued to tell me that the marching band had held auditions (of sorts) to help round out the size of the band.  I still looked confused, because I had been David’s admission counselor two years prior and I knew that “band” was not listed on his extra-curricular resume.  David laughed as I questioned his musicianship and told me that the band was looking for people who could play, as well as “pretend” to play an instrument.  Too bad that David and his friends missed the auditions, but kudos to the TCU Marching Band staff for thinking outside the box!  As it turned out, our band did a fabulous job in the Tournament of Roses Parade and during the bowl game itself.  Yes, the Wisconsin Badgers marching band was an enormous sea of red and white uniformed, high-stepping musicians, but the TCU band played with big hearts and endless enthusiasm.  Judging by the smiles on the faces of the band members, they had absolutely no concerns that the opposing team’s band outnumbered them by a ratio of nearly three to one.

That’s exactly the attitude we have at TCU.  We know that smaller schools like TCU may have fewer band members than our Big 12 rivals, but all that matters on the field (whether a Horned Frog student wearing a football helmet or a marching band hat with a flume) is how hard you’ve practiced, how much you want to perform your best, and how excited and supportive the rest of the Frog Family is as they cheer you on from the stands.  Sure, the LSU band was bigger and their football team (on that night) played better than we, but the Frogs showed up and gave their fans a fantastic show.  The football game ended with an LSU victory and 37-27 final score that night, but if the scoreboard would have reflected the marching band match-up, the scoreboard would have read:  LSU – 32, TCU – 13 (the number of sousaphones, not points, that is).

Go Frogs!  Go Band!

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7 thoughts on “Football Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing

  1. Hey, just wanted to say I’m a member of the band, and we REALLY appreciate when we see things like this pop up online!

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it! We work our butts off and try to put on a good show for you guys, so it means a lot to hear things like this!

  2. Wow, this author sure sounds like a wonderful woman! Sounds pretty cute too :o)

  3. Thank you so much for your contribution to our community. And thanks for reading the blog! Go Frogs!

  4. As a parent of one of the TCU Marching Band students, nothing makes me happier than reading an article like this one. As a band director I personally know how much work goes in to a show, and the TCU Marching Band is no exception to that rule. They are a world class marching band, and I am so proud that my daughter is a member of that band! Go Frogs!

    • Dr. Stone, we appreciate your thoughtful response. These students work incredibly hard, and we are proud of their significant contribution to our campus community.

  5. As a proud parent of one of the 13 Sousaphone players, I am very glad that he has continued participating in band at TCU. Thank you for the wonderful blog post about the TCU Marching Band.

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