As I may have mentioned before, I am a member of the University of Georgia Redcoat Marching Band. I play saxophone, if you were wondering.
I wanted to give you guys a peak behind the curtains of what the band goes through on a game day in Athens, so I had it documented.
Big thanks to my girlfriend, Brittany Taylor, for taking all of these pictures, and generally putting up with me being a nuisance.
So, let’s get started. Bright and early.
This is the start of our morning practice at the Woodruff practice fields next to Stegeman Coliseum. We have one every home game, and their starting time varies based on kickoff. For the South Carolina game, we started at 8:30 a.m., with breakfast being served an hour beforehand. The picture above is the “Hindu Stretch” that helps us maintain a strong posture on the field. I know, it really looks like we just fell asleep standing up. And perhaps some people actually did.
Now it’s time to practice marching! It’s all about maintaining those lines and taking equal step sizes. For those unfamiliar with marching band, the most basic step is called “eight-to-five” which means that it takes eight steps to go five yards. The Redcoats use this step quite a bit in the pre-game show, especially when we are marching down the field in a giant block.
After we are done with that, we break off into sections to work on individual music. Alto saxes also do some yoga. Be the tree.
And of course, the auxiliaries are always practicing, too. And they work harder than every other section in the band (save, perhaps, the drum line). They’ve won a boatload of awards, including a few national championships. When they get the flaming batons going at halftime, the crowd always goes crazy.
We’re 90 minutes into this three-hour rehearsal. Time for a water break.
Dr. Robinson approves.
(Director of the Redcoat Band)
Time to start a run-through. Drum majors Brooke VanKempen (L) and Michael Kobito (R) salute the “crowd” before the pre-game show. They are two of the four drum majors in the band.
And it wouldn’t be a proper pre-game show without the drum major flag toss.
Now that we’ve worked on pre-game, it’s time to fine-tune the halftime show. That’s me. And I look like I’m about to sneeze. We work through both songs (“Ballet in Brass” and “Malaga”) by singing through chunks of each song once, then playing. We have a final run-through, then grab a Dickey’s BBQ lunch on the way out. It’s shortly before 11:00 a.m., so we have a bit of time to kill before the Dawg Walk, which starts at 2:35.
Fortunately, my parents are season ticket holders. And they know how to tailgate.
We have a few other Redcoats join us. Most importantly, it’s in a parking deck, which means that we’ve got plenty of shade on those hot Georgia afternoons.
Now it’s time to line up for the Dawg Walk. We get into lines of four and wait for the signal from the drum majors to start. There are over 400 of us, so communication is vital.
Then we split and form a lane for the team to walk through. Saturday’s Dawg Walk was extremely fast, too. The team got there earlier than expected, I guess. That’s why we always have to be on our toes!
And there they are! Long snappers Trent Frix (L) and Nate Theus (R) walk through the lane. Both of them have siblings that are/were Bulldogs. Trent’s older brother Ty was also a long snapper for Georgia from 2009-2012, and Nate’s younger brother John is a starting tackle on the offensive line.
After the Dawg Walk, we march into the stadium while shouting out the Redcoat Chant. We file into out section in the northeast corner of the stadium to hang out for a while.
South Carolina’s band files in, too. I don’t know much about the prospects of their band other than they are smaller than the Redcoats. It is hard to hear them from our section, especially when their sound has to cross our student section, which is always rowdy.
We watch the teams warm-up, and provide a little musical background with the Krypton Fanfare (Superman) as the team does their march down the field.
The teams head into the locker rooms, and the Redcoats perform the pre-game show. Here is where we form the famous UGA arch. From this position we play the UGA Alma Mater and the National Anthem. We throw in a run through of Glory Glory just for good measure.
Then comes the most electric part of pre-game: the Battle Hymn. In case you can’t see, there is a trumpet player just over the “T” in “SOUTH.” He is mic’d to play the opening solo that always gets the crowd pumped. Larry Munson’s voice takes over with a monologue about the illustrious history of the University of Georgia as a highlight video rolls on the jumbotron. The band keeps playing until the final pause, where Munson and crowd always shout in unison: Go Dawgs! It really is one of the greatest traditions in all of college football.
We march down the field (using eight-to-five!) to set up the lane for the team to run out. Again, we play the Krypton Fanfare, which always brings the crowds hands up in unison holding up a solid “four.” Again, it really is something worth seeing when everyone is cheering together.
Here come the team and cheerleaders! At this point, it is impossible to hear anything on field level. The band makes its way off the field and we wait out the final minutes before the start of the game.
But we have to get back in the stands and stay loud! We pride ourselves in being the heart of the Bulldog Nation, and we try to set the tone. And it feeds off of everyone else. If we get loud, we want everyone else to be loud. Once they get loud, it only makes us want to be louder. That hasn’t happened much in Sanford in recent years, but this Saturday’s game was crazy, to say the least. Sanford was rockin’.
After the crazy first half, where both teams scored inside the final 2:00 to keep it tied up 24-24, the bands take the field for halftime. USC went first. I was positioned in the endzone (the one at the bottom of the screen) during their show, so I really couldn’t hear them. Our show went pretty well, though. The only complaint was that it was very, very hot, but then again that happens every single time we take the field. My face was dripping with sweat once we were done.
And now it’s back to stands to cheer on the Dawgs for the second half, which proved just as exciting as the first! Seeing the defense make the key plays (though still giving up a ton of yards) and Aaron Murray come through in the clutch was spectacular.
And seeing the final score was totally worth it…
…so good, in fact, that we’ll give a post game concert! The team and Coach Richt come over the celebrate. We played a song called “Vica Versa,” which is a rap song meant to pump the team up. It’s written by Pastor Troy, who Tweeted after the game “The #UGA Band played Vica Versa” which setup a frenzy of social media buzz from the Redcoats. And, of course, we also played the traditional post-game songs like “Tara’s Theme” and “Glory, Glory, Dixieland.” There’s always a good chunk of fans who come over for our concert, and we love celebrating a win with them.
This is the best way to leave Sanford. Walking right under this beautiful banner.
And remember. Ain’t nothin’ finer in the land, than the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band.