November 28, 2011
Indiana State University senior music education major Paige Hill has participated in marching band since high school, where she performed at state competitions, but she has never performed in front of bands from across America, until this month.
Hill, along with the Pride of Indiana, was in front of an audience of more than 50,000 people between two performances during the Bands of America high school marching band competition at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.
"It was truly an honor to be able to perform at both weekends of Bands of America," Hill said.
The 100-member ISU band, also known as the Marching Sycamores, first performed at the Super Regional on Nov. 5. The Super Regional hosted 34 bands from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.
"When I heard that we were going to be doing the Bands of America performance, my heart literally almost skipped a beat," said Kayla Sturm, a freshman member of the color guard. "I had performed at the Lucas Oil Stadium once before during my sophomore year of high school, but to be able to do it in college once again was a big highlight of the season."
After performing at the ISU home football game earlier that day, the band packed up and traveled to Indianapolis to perform a similar show, with some added crowd pleasers, said J. Corey Francis, director of athletic bands. The Marching Sycamores performed songs that are also played during its halftime show, including "El Toro Caliente," which was arranged by Francis for the band.
"It was a good experience, for us all, to have the band perform a piece that I got to write for them," Francis said.
The big show, however, came when the Marching Sycamores played at the Bands of America Grand National Finals. The ensemble was asked to play the National Anthem at the event before the top twelve bands competed.
This performance was in front of bands from states across the nation such as Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.
"It was a big honor, usually there are only a couple of schools that get to do that every year and to be here my first year and have that fall in our lap was great," Francis said. "It is something that this organization has never done. It gets us on the national stage in front of a marching band audience. It really does present us and ISU in a great light in front of a huge audience."
"This [performance] opened our doors to many other high school students who can check out our School of Music and see what we have to offer," Hill said. "We are on our way up, improving every day."
The band's presence at the Bands of America became a positive experience in terms of recruiting, as they set up an informational booth and handed out more than 40 applications for admission to ISU, Francis said.
Students involved with marching band do not have to be music majors. The band is currently comprised of music majors and minors and also students majoring in English, criminology, and more so they represent the university as a whole, Francis said.
Any ISU student can join the band but in order to hold a leadership position there is an interview and audition process. When conducting interviews, Francis said he is looking for students who have "achieved academic success and are responsible and trustworthy people who possess quality characters."
Francis became director of athletic bands at ISU in July, after completing his doctoral degree at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Although he admits he has not made many, one change Francis has made since his start with the Marching Sycamores is allowing students to take on more responsibility, which includes allowing drum majors to conduct the band while in the football stands.
Hill is one of three drum majors.
"To be a drum major again in college is amazing," Hill said. "I love music in all its aspects, but my real passion lies in conducting. When you conduct you guide the ensemble to make beautiful music. While I serve as a conductor, I am also seen as a leader. To know that I was chosen to be someone the ensemble looks up to is a great feeling."
The band practices up to six hours per week, performs at weekend home football games and some community events and also occasionally travels, such as to the Bands of America performance. This means that members must manage their time with class and work schedule appropriately.
"[Being a member of the Marching Sycamores] has helped me to learn time management skills and become more active on campus with my peers," Sturm said.
Although there are no scholarships given for involvement in the marching band, students participate because they enjoy the atmosphere, the camaraderie with the other students, performing in front of the audiences, Francis said.
"The biggest reward is the enjoyment and being around their friends and building those relationships," he said. "The students have been very hard working and they are a good bunch to be around."
The Pride of Indiana, also known as the Marching Sycamores, performs during the Bands of America, a high school marching band competition. ISU/Courtesy Photo
J. Corey Francis, director of athletic bands, leads the band in a rehearsal prior to performing at Bands of America.
Contact: J. Corey Francis, Indiana State University, director of athletic bands, at 812-237-2754 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Alexa Larkin, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, at 812-237-3773
The Pride of Indiana recently performed during the Bands of America high school marching band competition at Lucas Oil Stadium.