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Mary Dooley oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Deborah Anderson Silvers.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (52 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (28 p.)
USF history oral history project
Interview conducted November 14, 2007.
Oral history interview with Mary Dooley, band administrator and color guard director of the Herd of Thunder Marching Band. Dooley joined the band program in 1998, the year it started, having previously worked at a high school for twelve years. Some decisions about the band had already been made when she arrived, such as its name and uniform, but the first band director had to decide what style the band was going to be and design the shows. The first few years were a process of trial and error, since there were no established procedures or traditions for the Herd of Thunder. In this interview, Dooley describes the organization of the Herd of Thunder, how members are recruited, the logistics of traveling, the band's first football game, and her future hopes for the band.
University of South Florida.
University of South Florida.
Herd of Thunder Marching Band.
University of South Florida
University of South Florida
Silvers, Deborah Anderson.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
USF history oral history project.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Deborah Silvers: This is Deborah Anderson Silvers. Its November 14, 2007, 10:16 am. Were in the conference room of the Herd of Thunder Marching Band, and Im interviewing Mary Dooley, who is the band administrator. And Mary, you know youre being recorded and its okay with you.
Mary Dooley: Yes.
DS: Okay. Can you tell me how you came to USF? And when you came, how far along were the plans for the marching band?
MD: Lets see. How did I come to USF? The first band director, Sid Haton, who was the first band director, neededthe administrator role had just opened up. It wasthe administrating part was second. They didnt think about it at first. And then they said, Uh-oh, we need somebody to do all the logistics, and so they kind of opened up that position after the fact. But he also needed a color guard director.
DS: You fulfilled both?
MD: I fulfilled both, because Im also a color guard person. So he called me, actually. I was in semi-retirement. (laughs) I had just left a high schoolI was there for twelve yearsand he knew through other people that I had just resigned from there, so he had asked me to meet with him and do an interview. And then I did an interview with him, and he said hed be more than happy toif I would consider the job. And then I met with Chris Doane, who was the director at the School of Music at the time, and did an interview and filled out the papers.
DS: And this was in ninety-eight , ninety-nine ?
MD: Yeah, the first year of the marching band, the actual first year the marching band started.
DS: Uh-huh. It was ninety-nine , right?
MD: Right. They brought Sid Haton in, though, one year prior to thatnot a whole year though. They brought him in in the spring. So, Sid was here in the spring; I came in August, in the beginning of August; and then the band started that fall.
DS: Okay. You know, I know this is a very wide open question, but what was involved in beginning the band?
MD: In the beginning, when I got here, when Sid even got here, plans had already been made. The uniform had already been decided, the colors. The name of the band had already been decided. A lot of things had already been put in place. Chris Doane and Ivan Wansley and Betty Castor were very instrumental in getting that together.
Betty Castor was also interviewed for the USF History OHP, DOI number U30-00003. She was also interviewed U11-00088, and U23-00026.
They kind of formed a committee together. And Ivan Wansley is the one who picked out the Herd of Thunder name and the Herd of Thunder Marching Band uniform.
MD: So, he was the original person for that. So when Sid actually got here, the band director, that had already been decidedand even the color of our instruments, because they decided not to do any gold instruments.
MD: Right. They decided to go with all silver, which made it interesting because, you know, we have all silver instruments.
DS: You know, Ive been watching the band for ten years now and never noticed that.
MD: Yep. All our instruments were, you know, special ordered silver.
DS: Well, that leads me to ask: So the band members who come in, they dont play their own instruments, they play your instruments?
MD: They play our instruments. We have all our brass instruments, and weve just recently, in the last two years, started fulfilling the woodwind instrument area. We just bought ten new tenor saxes. We boughtthe year before we bought piccolos. So, were starting to fill in that area. But as far as brass go, yes, we supply all the brass instruments.
DS: Okay, so like the flute players or the clarinets, they supply their own.
DS: Which makes sense. Theyre smaller. Okay, that makes sense.
MD: We hope in the future to be able to supply an instrument for everyone.
DS: Okay, and so thats like an ongoing process.
MD: Buying instruments will be continuous, ongoing, as long as this band is in existence. Because as we buy new ones, the onesbecause were reaching our ten year
DS: What were the first ones that were bought?
MD: The tubas.
DS: Now, is there a difference between a tuba and a sousaphone as far as marching band goes, or did the tubas play sousaphones?
MD: The tubathe sousaphone is a tuba. But the tuba is the actual, likeits the bigger one.
DS: My daughter plays one.
MD: Right, she plays a tuba?
MD: Its is the bigger of the instruments.
DS: Okay, so you dont have both. You just have the sousaphone.
MD: No, we haveand thats basically for the looks. Marching band, it looks more impressive to have the big visual. You know, pumps out the sound straight forward. And our tubasyou know, moreusually most marching band tubas do a lot of visuals with the tuba, because its very big.
DS: Right, and you can put the logo.
MD: You put the logo in it. Its, you know, just more for visual effect.
DS: Oh, okay. Thats cool. I didnt know that.
Once that small committee of three made the decisions, was it then delegated to, like, different people, or did you coordinate who got what, oryou know, for instance, instrument acquisition goes over here, uniform goes over here. What goes into the very beginning steps of the band?
MD: Well, the very beginning was developing a budget, and the university decided this is how much budget were going to have. And Athletics was involved in that, too, because they also help contribute towards the budget.
DS: I didnt know. Thats cool.
MD: So, the Athletic Department, the university, Student Government, all those hands kind of came together to put into the budget. So, the budget was created first. And then, once we had the uniformit was kind of the committee did it all. I mean, we got it, the Mullen Uniform Company came inthey did out three bids to Mullendid the original uniform. And they did our second uniform that we just got.
MD: So, at this point theyre
DS: They are your company.
MD: They are our uniform company. They won the bid. They did the original uniform. The instruments were bid out as well, and Yamaha did our original instruments. They continue to do our fulfilling of our new orders as well. So, Yamaha did the instruments. And Ivan Wansley was really the person whothey kind of gave him that job, to be in charge of all that in the beginning, even before Sid got here. So, he was instrumental in going to the accountant over at the School of Music, who at the time was Jean Cole-Spencer, and going to her and setting up all the POs [purchase orders] that it took. You know, the POs for the instruments, the POs for the uniforms, setting up all that.
And then, Chris Doane was instrumental in getting the lines here. Because the band director line and the administration line, they wanted to havethey wanted to be full-time lines with benefits. So, they were instrumental in having to write the job descriptions for both. And originallythe band administrator job has been altered, because in the beginning they didnt want to incorporate the budget into it. They wanted to keep all the budget handlings through the School of Music. And as they found out after the first three years, that just was such a catastrophe and it didnt work. So, the job description for that person changed.
DS: And its always been you, though.
MD: Its always been me. Its always been me, so it was an easy change.
DS: Okay. Well, that brings me to the next question. The marching band and the College of Music, in the beginning, was it treated just as an offshoot of the College of Music? I mean, is there
MD: Evil step-child. (laughs)
DS: That says it all. So, I mean, were there any, like, personnel that crossed over? You know, being married to a musician, Im very aware of the mindset of classical music is the end-all and be-all. And so, how much can you tell me about the setup of that?
MD: Well, prior to the marching band coming to University of South Florida, the School of Music was justit was jazz, it was orchestra, it was symphony band, wind ensemble. And then, all of a sudden, you know, a new major ensemble was coming in. And just like anything, people do not embrace change.
MD: And so, depending on who you ask, some people were very excited, and some people didnt open it with open arms at first. I think that in the beginning it was a little bit more tension. You know, there was definitely a divide, a division. But they did offer the music majors a very good incentive, $500, to be in the marching band. So thatyou know, a lot of music majors the first year did the marching band for that incentive. So, it kind of helped the bridge a little bit. But I would say over the lastand especially since Mike Robinson has been here, the bridge has gotten to be a little bit better. And I think the fit is much more comfortable now.
Ive been here for nine years. Mike has been here forthis is, I believe, his fifth year. Our new assistant director has been herethis is his third year. So, you know, the fit is getting better, and were feeling more comfortable. People over there are getting to know us better. And theyre seeing the results that the marching band is benefiting. We see over, you know, a million audience members a year. And with that publicity and with the success of the football, its going to help in the long run, with recruiting and budgetary items down the road. So, I think the fit is getting more comfortable. In the beginning, just like anything thats new, people have to get used to it.
DS: Right. Well, let me ask you the makeup of the band. What percentage of your band members are actually music majors?
MD: I think we justI dont want to misquote this, but this is one of the highest years, this year, that we have. And I would have to get back to you on it, because I dont want to misquote
DS: Oh, I dont need an exact.
MD: I would say its at leastthis year its between 5 and 10 percent.
DS: Really? To me, thats surprising that its that low.
MD: Oh, its low.
DS: But I think its cool that, you know, that you get so much of a representation of the
MD: We do. We get a very wide representation. One thing, too, is when you go to other colleges, a lot of other colleges in the Music Ed. Area, they require the students to be at least two years in the marching band. We dont have that requirement here. So, our numbers tend to be a little bit lower.
DS: Which brings up my next question. How is the membership of the marching bandis this like a class that you register for? Do you get credit hours and pay tuition? Or is it, you know, just like a campus organization? You know, how does that fit in?
MD: They did decide in the beginning to make it a class. Its actually Athletic Marching Band. Its a class. And they getits really nice. Its how they set it up in the beginning, because were new and they researched other universities, how they did it. They set it up as a flex credit. So they can take anywhere between one to three credit hours, depending on how they need it to fit in their schedule. But its the same amount of work for one to three credit hours. Of course you pay more, the more credits you get, but if your schedule needs it they can fulfill it for up to three credit hours. So, it is a class. And just as the Marching Band is a class in the fall, in the spring the Athletic Band, the Pep Band, is also a class. Its University Pep Band. So, the students can take two classes. They can take the fall Marching Band, and then if they are in the Pep Band, they can take the University Pep Band class in the spring.
DS: Now, are those elective credits?
MD: It is elective credit. And its justthey do pay a lab fee with it. It is elective credit.
DS: Thats great. So, thats how you get the broad sampling from across the different majors.
MD: Broad sampling. We have biochemistry majors, we have premed majors, we haveevery major in the university, I think, is in the band, which is really neat.
DS: Yeah. So, are these people that have mainly come from high school bands?
MD: Mainly high school bands.
DS: Someone couldnt walk up and say, I want to be in band.
MD: Oh, anybody at the university cananybody can join the band in the university. But most of, you know, the students we have already have marching experience, and they already know how to play their instrument, and they come to us and they join the band at this point. The Marching Band, at this point, the only sections who do auditions in this stage of the young career of the band are the auxiliary and the drum line. They do auditions in May to be in the group. The Marching Band has not set auditions yet. Were getting there, though, because as soon as we get our number, which is about 325 to 350, then we will have to cap our numbers and start the audition process to be in it. So, were almost there.
DS: So right now, somebody can come up and say, I play a trombone, and they will
MD: And register for the band.
DS: So that reallythat is
MD: It helped build our numbers. Yes, it helps build our numbers. Were not turning people away, you know. And as our numbers build, and like I said, once we reach that magic number, then we can say, Okay, now its by audition.
DS: Thats great. Do you see that happening?
MD: Oh, we see it happening next year.
MD: Our tenth anniversary.
DS: Thats cool. So, how many people were in the first year?
MD: The first year had approximately 220 people. It was a high number. It was a big band the first year: the excitementyou know, everybody was really excited about the band; the $500 incentive for music majors to come over and be in the band.
DS: Thats a pretty good incentive.
MD: Its a good incentive. So, we had a lot of people in the first year of the band: the excitement. Of course, the next year the money went away, and our numbers went down. Ever since then
DS: By how much do youI mean, just an approximate figure?
MD: I would say it went down at least 20 percent. They just kept coming down. So, we went from having a real high number, and we kind of went on a slope down until we reachedI think the lowest the band has ever been is about 140 to 150. Weve never dropped below that.
MD: And then now were on the
MD: Upswing. And I dont think the band will ever be any smaller thanstarting next year, ever be any smaller than 300.
DS: That is good. Now, when you say 300, is that just marching numbers, or does that include, like, the guards and the majorettes?
MD: Thats total marching number. It includes everybody: winds, auxiliary, percussion.
DS: Is there a formula that says a marching band should have X number of tubas, X number of trombones, X number of majorettes?
MD: There is a formula, to a certain degree. Auxiliary, you can have large auxiliary, you know, as long as its not too large, and it looksit needs to look balanced. As far as the band goes, they will start capping, you know, more the woodwind numbers. Right now we allow HCC students and all community college students into the marching band. But as we grow and we have to start capping our numbers and capping our sections, well also have to start capping the number of HCC and community college students that we let into the program. And well give the first choice of course to the students that go to USF.
DS: Makes sense. Makes absolutely perfect sense. And so, do you recruit from high schools at all, or is it totally incentive from students?
MD: Its all of it. We recruit heavy from high school, especially the freshmen coming in; we feel like if we can get them their freshmen year, hopefully theyll stay with us through their senior year. So, we do recruit every year. We do at least one to two exhibitions a year, where we go out and well go to a marching band contest where we dont compete, but we just do exhibition.
MD: And we go to the exhibition and we perform at the end in hopes to, you know, recruit some of the high school seniors that will be at the show that day. And we go around to other shows. The shows we go to, we always have a recruiting booth there, and they set up and theyre there for the whole day. You know, kids come by and we give out our information, our flyers. In addition, we make a poster every year, a recruiting poster, and we send it to every high school in Florida.
DS: And then the band directors will put it up on their boards.
MD: The band directors put it on their boards. And you know, weve gotten a lot of kids that way. So, were very fortunate. And the popularity of the football helps a lot.
DS: Oh, yes, it does. (laughs) Well, lets see. Did all of the components of a marching band, did they all come together at once from that committee? Or did you start on, like, the band and add the rest of the stuff as it was feasible? Or was it all feasible from the beginning?
MD: It was all feasible from the beginning. Right from the beginning, it was a full band. It hadthe only thing that weve added since the beginning are featured twirlers.
MD: Thats the only thing weve added, and that was three years ago. But we do not have a majorette line, we just have featured twirlers. So, we want them to be the best in the state, and we audition them as if, you know, the best in the state featured twirlers. And weve added featured twirlers this year: we have three, and, that will probably be the highest number well ever have of the featured twirlers. But in the very beginning, the color guard, the flags, the rifles, the sabers, and the band, everybody started at the same time. All the components were thought about in the beginning to start.
DS: Tell me about the very first day of band practice, the first day when you had all of your pieces in line, and whoosh, here come the students.
MD: Well, the first daythe first day was crazy. I have to admit, the very first day of marching band practice, like when we went to the field, we really didnt start until a good forty-five minutes to an hour after rehearsal started because we had so many kids late. And the funny part about it isthe kids kept showing up, and they were saying We were lost. We were lost. And the general comments were, We kept asking people where the marching band practice is, and every student they asked said, We have a marching band? (both laugh) That waswe got tickled after a while, because that was always the response. We have a marching band? And thatreally, that stayed with us for a good three to four years. Oh, USF has a marching band? So, that wasthats definitely been a thought process that has changed on campus. Pretty much everybody on campus knows now we have a marching band. But that was funny, because we had a lot of people late, and they were trying to get directions to our field. Our original field was where we practice nowit was over someand we were the only field out there at the time, right next to the Alumni Center.
MD: It was a beautiful field. And it was fenced in, and it hadI mean, the grass was like carpet. They groomed it, they groomed it. It was beautiful, and it was just our field. We got to shut the gate, lock it, and only the marching band was on that field. But since then, that field has been torn up, and Athletic Department got a new building. Those intramural fields had to be moved somewhere, so they got moved over to where we are. So, they tore our field up and they made numerous intramural fields there. And so now were just part of that, so we dont have our own field.
But where we are now will not be our final resting ground, either. Im sure well be moved again. And at some point we would like to have our own marching band field, becausefor the purpose of the tower that the director stands on. We have to rent one. We have to rent one every year, and its very expensive. The cost that we rent one in one year, we could build the nicest tower of any marching band. And weve rented them for nine years, just to give you an estimate of how much that weve spent on renting a lift.
DS: Thats whatis that thing portable?
MD: Yes, its portable, and it goes up. But they will not allow us, where our field is, to have a permanent structure, because its beautification and its Fowler Avenue in front.
DS: Oh, so it would be a mountain of paperwork and approvals. Oh, my.
MD: And we know thats not our final place that thats going to be our field, so we dont want to build this huge beautiful tower and have to move in two years or three years down the road.
DS: Right, that makes sense.
MD: Sort of.
DS: But that first day of practice, that mass confusion. How did you start? Did you break people into sections?
MD: Yep. Yeah, everybody came in. We had graduate assistants already assigned. The Marching Band from the very beginning has had three graduate assistants, positions. We had field tech people. We had the marching band director. We had a drum instructor. We had myself, the guard instructor. So, every area had a person.
DS: Who was recruited from outside?
MD: Recruited from outside. Nobody was here prior tonobody came over from another area. None of the faculty came over. Everybody startedeverybody on the staff the first year were brand new people coming into the organization.
DS: How was that? Was that exciting?
MD: It was exciting. You know, it was a lot of people getting to know each other. So, you know, everybody was new. So, everything we did was experimental, because everything was new. Even the drum majors, we had to wait until everybody met, and then we had drum major auditions because there wasyou know, we couldnt have any rules like you have to be in the band ten years before you, you know, try out for drum major.
MD: Because there was never a marching band prior to that. And the first year we did have five drum majors. We had five.
DS: Did you have to have five (inaudible)?
MD: They took turns. They took turns.
DS: And so, for instance, the drum majors that you selected, they had high school experience?
MD: They had high school experience, right. They were probably, you know, the main drum major in their high school.
DS: Oh, okay.
MD: So, they did have experience. But now, you know, you have to be in the marching band for at least a year. You need to be in a leadership position, because the drum major is a leader of the band. So, now we can have requirements.
DS: You can have requirements. I heard about those. (both laugh)
MD: But it was fun. It was mass confusion. When we first got together, everybody went into their sections and we rehearsed for about an hour prior to all coming together. And then we all came together, it was like wow. Everybody was new. You know, how we read drill charts. You know, how Sid gotthe first band director, Sid, got up on the podium and directed the rehearsal. Everything was new. So, we just waited for instructions on how everything should go.
DS: And he was the one that made the finalyou know, the ultimate, this is how were going to bring it all together?
MD: Right. Hes the director, and he would run the rehearsal from the tower, once all the components had individually rehearsed, bring it together, and start on the field. And at that point, all the individual instructors go around and help, but the director will run the rehearsal. And he did. And it all came together. Lots of pictures were taken, lots of cameras going.
DS: If you happen to have one, I would love to have one.
MD: I can probably pull one up. Theyre on a post-it board in our archives.
DS: That would be great.
MD: And our first show was a Latin show, which weve stayed with that theme. Every year we do a Spanish/Latin show. And since the very beginning, we did it and it kind of stuck. And its great for this area and it works well.
DS: Its perfect for this area.
MD: And that was our very first show.
DS: Planned that way?
MD: It was planned that way.
DS: That is great. So, when you guys were getting together and planning for that initial season and everything, were yousince you were starting from scratch, did that give you a lot of latitude to bring in new ideas, things that you might have always wanted to try, or did you try to stick with a formula?
MD: Well, it was really up to the first band director, what our style was going to be. I mean, he really set what our style was going to be. He could have come in and whatever style he said, thats what we were. And what was really neat is that we have no traditions at this point. So we have nobody who has, you know, Well, this is the way the bands always done it, and we dont have to change anything. So, everything we introduce is going to be Thats how it is, with changes along the way.
So, the first band director decided that our style basically was going to be more of a contemporary style, more of what they call a drum corps type style, marching and playing. Weve kind of stuck through that, with a little bit of variation. Weve stayed with that style from the beginning, thatyou know, that our auxiliary components were going to be a little bit more contemporary and they were going to do more of the modern type auxiliary work. And weve stuck with that, and its worked well. And our audience has no problem with it, because thats what theyve known from the beginning. Where, you know, you go out to a lot of these big SEC schools, they want to move a little bit more into this century and get a little more updated. But they fight terribly with the alumni and the boosters, because theyre like, No, the majorettes have to wear those ankle boots, because thats how its always been. And we dont have that, and that was one of the really neat things, starting a brand new marching band: we brought the style in that we wanted everybody to know that this is USF, from the beginning.
DS: Thats cool now. So, that decision was made by the band director?
MD: The band director.
DS: As opposed to that initial committee of three before you got there.
MD: Right, right. Now, the initial committee decided what instrument color was going to be, the uniform design, the name of the band. But the band director, hes the one who decided what is our style going to be.
DS: Thats very cool. And you know, when you were deciding that and everything, was part of that decision that we are a newer college, and we can take intoyou know, we have no traditions, so lets start them.
MD: Right. It was taken in. It was basically whereyou know, college bands, not that all of them go that way, because you have your very traditional type marching bands, you have your FAMU type style marching bands, you have your Big Ten type marching bands, and we decided that this was going to be our style marching band.
DS: And started from scratch.
MD: Right, started from scratch.
DS: That is so cool. Tell me, are therewere there, at the very beginning, moments that you can say Well, we can laugh about it now, but at the time you wanted to pull your hair out?
MD: Oh, you know, there was probably so many I should have written them down. (both laugh) Well, a lot of it was not necessarily on the field, it was behind the scenes.
MD: Oh, we have a marching band now. No, we dont march parades. Were not a high school band. One of the probably biggest ones that we just wanted to pull our hair out, was that they wanted us to march parades second semester. We kept saying, Well, second semester, the marching band doesnt meet. Were done first semester. Well, it was probably 19maybe 2000, 2000. They were veryyou know, You willyou have to march the Gasparilla Parade. You have to bring the band back. And were like Well, there need to be incentives. So, they actually scholarshipped everybody in the band to come back second semester. They paid for uniform cleaning. And we actually marched the Gasparilla Parade one time.
DS: One time!
MD: One time! It was such a big expense they decided never to do it again. But we tried to warn them it was going to be a big expense to bring the marching band back a second semester. So, I mean, those kind of things. It was basically internal, getting used to, Theres a marching band, this is what we have to do. Like I said, in the beginning my job description changed tremendously, that I wasnt going to be in charge of the budget. But then by third year, I was in charge of the budget. So, you know, a lot of things they kind of said, Oh, this is how it works. Oh, no, we need to do this. So, it was all trial and error for a good three years.
DS: How much of that did you learn on the job?
MD: Everything. There was no job description when I got here. So, everything I learned, Ive justits been, you know, from the beginning.
DS: By doing it.
MD: By doing it, right! So, everything has beenIve been trained by USF. And you know, all the financial programs change every year.
DS: At least.
MD: So, everything Ive done is just training.
DS: So, who did the initial choreography?
MD: Of the band?
MD: The band director. He actually wrote the music and wrote the drill.
MD: Yeah, he did. Yep. That was his gig and he liked to do it, so he actually did it all. He had some help in some of the marching band areas, but he overall did the choreography and the general theme. In the color guard area, my choreographer is Michael James, and he has been here ever since the beginning. So, weve had a consistent style from the very beginning.
DS: So with the choreography and everything, how does that change from year to year? Do you have certain formations that you, like, re-assemble from one set to another, or do you start from scratch every year? Or, you know, I knowevery year, do you do three completely different sets? And how are those organized and assembled?
MD: The only thing that stays the same from year to year is pre-game. Pre-game is the same drill sets and songs every year. Thats tradition. Weve made our pre-game, doesnt change. So, every year we run out of the tunnel in the beginning of the show and we do pre-game. That doesnt change. However, we do three shows. We have usually six home games, and we rotate shows every third game. So, we do three home shows. Those shows, those sets change every year. So, we start from scratch. Every year its a new show, new drill, new music, new routines. Everything is new.
DS: And that is decided upon by Dr. Robinson?
MD: By Dr. Robinson. He decideshe has the overall decision on what our shows are going to be. He asks the students and he sends out emails, and he makes a long, long list of show ideas. He says, Give me your show ideas, and they send in all these crazy show ideas. And he goes, Okay, nowhe makes a list of them and he goes Now, vote. And he takes like the top ten and he goes Vote again. And he narrows it down. And when theyto areas, so if they want to do jazz or pop or rock. And then he decides what the musics going to be at that point.
MD: On the top three shows. So the students have, you know, a say to a certain degree on where the stylisticwhere the shows are going to be.
DS: Thats cool. Now, is that a newis that a USF thing?
MD: Thats a Dr. Robinson thing.
DS: Cause I was going to say, I dont think a lot of colleges give that much input.
MD: No. Dr. Robinson, he lets the students have input in that area.
DS: I gotta ask. My all-time favorite show was the Thriller one. (laughs)
MD: Thats a lot of peoples all-time favorite. We did a big recruiting event down in Orlando with that show, and I think we won a lot of students over that year, with that show.
DS: That was awesome.
MD: Yeah. A lot of people liked the Thriller show.
DS: Was that a Dr. Robinson invention as well?
MD: Well, you know, Dr. Robinson, along with our grad assistant, Keith Sands, wrote all the music for that show.
MD: And then Stephen Alia wrote the drill for it.
DS: Okay, so just about all the routines and everything are in-house?
MD: Yeah, to a certain degree. You know, our drill writer is out of house, and like I said, the color guard person is out of house. But theyve been with us for so long that we feel like they are in-house.
DS: They know you.
DS: They absolutely know you. Tell me about the first time the Herd of Thunder Marching Band took the field. Tell me, like, from say two hours before the game, or the day of the game. You know, tell me about it.
MD: Well, it was real exciting. We had a Friday night rehearsal, as we always do the day before the game, and we had so many people come to that rehearsal. It was really neat, because it felt very collegiate, having so many people come the night before a game to watch the marching band rehearsal, which happens at, you know, a lot of schools that have traditional type marching bands where theyve been established for many years. And we actually had that. That was real exciting for the students, because
DS: Now, was that at Ray Jay, or was it here?
MD: No, it was here at practice the day before. So, we had a very wall thick of people watching the last, you know, quote unquote rehearsal before the big showing. And that was real exciting. And you know, The Oracle came out. Everybody wanted to, you know, get in on the action, so to speak. So, that was very excitingthe day before. And then, Saturday, game day, it was exciting. But just on the way down to Raymond James Stadiumwe take charter buses. We meet here and take charter buses down to Raymond James Stadium. The skies got a little grey, and we were like, Oh, no. And just sure enough, the band director turned around to me and he looked and goes, Theres one plan that we didnt plan for. And I said, Yeah. And he goes, That would be rain. I said, Yeah. He said, The original people, they didnt buy raincoats. So, in the bid, in the beginning, there was no raincoat bid.
DS: Is there now?
MD: Yes. Yes, there is. But we didnt have raincoats in the beginning. So, we werent prepared for rain. (laughs) And we get to the stadium and its very exciting. And you know, everybodys really, you know, excited. And actually, that was probablyeven though we have a bigger attendance at games, that was probably the most people Ive ever seen in the stands prior to the game starting.
MD: Because thats one area that we havent quite gotten there yet. Get into the stands for pre-game. Our fans havent quite gotten there yet. But on that day, they were there because they wanted to see the Marching Band, which was really neat. And from that very first game, we ran out of the tunnels, and thats how we made our pre-game different. They wanted it to be like, you know, a herd coming out, running on, you know, the bulls running onto the field. And we did the two-tunnel entrance. So, that tradition established from the very beginning. And we ran out.
Now, pre-game has changed. The actual pre-game has changed slightly with the new director coming in. He changed up, but he kept a lot of the same traditions that we had, like running of the bull. And certain things he didnt change, that were traditions already started. He was very good. When he came in, he assessed all the traditions that had already started. He kept all the ones he felt like they were the important ones, and then he started new ones as well.
So, that day was very exciting. But just sure as we finished pre-game, it started raining. And it was one of those good Florida rains. It never stopped. And it wasnt just a rain, it was a pouring downpour. But it didnt damper the bands spirits any. They played and played and played in the stands. But, unfortunately, they werent able to take the field again.
DS: Oh, no! (laughs)
MD: So, they were scared that we might hurt the field. So, that was okay. That was all right, because we had a good time. We never left the stands. We played through the downpour.
DS: And that was the old stadium then?
DS is referring to Tampa Stadium/Houlihans Stadium where the Bulls played until Raymond James Stadium opened in 1998.
MD: And we won, and actuallywhich was really important, I feelon that day, we won a fan base on that day. Because they were like, Wow, the Band stayed in the stands and they played and played and played until the very end. And it poured rain, poured. Without a raincoat, they stayed in those stands and played to the very end of the game.
And we got so many emails, and just, you know, just how impressed they were that the band held out and played through the rain and what a great addition it was, and just proud, proud alumni. And ever since then, weve had a very good relationship with our Alumni Department. And I think since that very first game when we sat in the rain and we played through it, I think thats what established it.
DS: But you didnt get to take the field.
MD: We didnt get to take the field. For pre-game we did.
DS: Now that was the old stadium, right?
MD: No, we were always at Raymond James.
DS: Always at Ray Jay.
MD: Always at Raymond James.
DS: I cant remember when it opened.
MD: The football team was at the old stadium. But thats when theybefore the Marching Band was developed and they hired high school bands to come perform.
DS: I remember that. Its so cool. So, you actually got to take the field the second
MD: For pre-game. For the second show
DS: For the second game you got to do
MD: We got to do our show. And it didnt rain.
DS: So, how did it feel when they first got out? Were you nervous?
MD: Everybody was a little bit nervous, cause everything was new, you know, but it went fine. We didnt fall apart. And ever since, the Herd of Thunder has represented very well from the very beginning, and its only gotten stronger every year.
DS: Is it the Herd of Thunder or is it the Athletic Department, for instance, that determines, you know, when the band comes out on the field for the players to run through? How much does the Athletic Department have input into where the band is and what they do at what times?
MD: Well, we have timing. The Athletic Department tells us what time we need to be down on the tunnel. Certain games, like this game coming up is Senior Night and theyre bringing in parachute jumpers, so, you know, our timing has changed. We have to take a little bit out of pre-game to get to the tunnel a little bit sooner. Every Monday there is an Athletic meeting prior to a game. And thats where everybody sits at a table and we learn what we need to do that game. You know, whats our timing going to be? When do we need to start? Where do we need to be?
And one little interesting fact that a lot of people dont know is that tunnel that we run out of right now was not the original tunnel. Coach [Jim] Leavittit was supposed to be the other tunnel, the same side but the other tunnel. That was supposed to be our original tunnel, which we had practiced for that tunnel, for the team to run out of that tunnel. But on game day, Coach Leavitt had a vision of some sort that made him nervous and he didnt want to run out of that tunnel. So, he switched it to the other tunnel, where we all scrambled and we moved to the other tunnel. Hes very superstitious, and for some reason he didnt like that tunnel. Theres something wrong with that tunnel; Im not sure what exactly the reason is. But we all switched to the other tunnel. And thats the tunnel weve run out ever since. So, thats our tunnel.
DS: Thats interesting. That is very interesting. Lets see, where am I? Well, one thing I wanted that occurred to me is with the new band, when actually do you do, for instance, competition season? Do you do that? And is it during the same semester as the marching season?
MD: The marching band doesnt compete.
MD: We dont compete at all. Its not athis is just college marching band. We go to competitions and we do exhibitions. But the marching band does not compete. Second semester, theres different components that come out of the marching band. We have a winter drum line and a winter guard. Now, those components do go out and theytheres different circuits for them. And those components are basically for recruiting. We do recruit for the drum line with that group, we recruit for the winter guard second semester. Those organizations do do competitions. Its part of what they call WGI, Winter Guard International, and Percussion International, and they actually do do those circuits. So, those component groups do compete second semester. But as far as the marching band in general, were not a competition band. So, we just are there for entertainment purposes only.
DS: Okay. Let me ask you, now that the football team is getting bigger and more recognized and everything, what does this mean for the band? For instance, travel. Will the band be going more? And you know, what are the logistics for that? I know it requires transportation, transportation of instruments, podiums
MD: Well, it does. The popularity of the football team, it will help the marching bandnot only with recruiting, it will help our numbers. We know that. We know that this will be a boost. And thats why I dont think the Marching Band will ever fall behind under 300, because I think our football team is only going to be better and bigger and stronger. And that will make the marching bandwill dictate that as well.
As far as travel goes, you know, its still new. I mean everybodys kind of entering into the Big Eastwhat, three years ago ? And now were, you knownow all of a sudden were going to travel more. And its something that the Athletic Department has to get used to, you know? And they have to budget for it, you know. This year
DS: So, thats under the Athletic Department?
MD: Athletic. The Athletic Department pays for the marching band travel.
DS: Oh, okay.
MD: So, whatever they decide they want us to go to, they pay for. And so like, right now, as soon as marching band season ends, we will meet with the Athletic Department and well discuss next year. Okay, where do you want to commit the marching band to going? How much money are you going to commit to it? And its new, and its trial and error. As time goes on, we will travel more. And eventually what we really want to see is the Athletic Department committing to the marching band two full band trips away, and everything else is a pep band, anything further. You know, so every game theres representation of music.
DS: The Pep Band. Does one usually go with the?
MD: No, no, not at this point. That travel hasnt happened yet. But we do see that in the future. So, at this point we dont fly anywhere. The only thing weve done is bus.
DS: Okay, so I know at Florida Atlantic [University]
MD: Right, we bus. We bused. So, you know, logistically, we just had to set up hotel rooms, the buses, the per diems, you knowand its a lot to set up for 300 people. But we havent had to set up yet a flight for 300 people, because we havent flown anywhere. We havent quite gotten to that point yet. We will be there, though.
DS: Yes. Thats the thing with the Big East, everything seems so far away.
MD: Everything is far away. So, you know, thats why every year we need to look at the schedule and decide what is the closest game that we can take a full band trip. You know, besides a bowl game.
DS: Now, bowl games. Ive been to all of them. The bands been there.
MD: Right, and theyve committed the band being there to every bowl game. As long as its in driving distance, we will go. If its something like, lets say, the International Bowl, where its in [Toronto] Canada, they will not take a full marching band. They will take a pep band. They cannotthey wouldnt be able to afford for the full marching band to fly to a bowl game at this point. If it was a BCS bowl, they would be able to.
DS: Definitely. But I mean, like, for instance, say the International Bowl, because its one of the things Im running into with my own arrangements. Would you, as the logistic person, literally tear your hair out at the thought of passports, for instance?
MD: Yes. Just the fact of converting the money, the nightmare of thebecause one thing the university does, and I said it in the very beginning, we changethe university changes its systems every year. Well, travel module has just changed, and so the traveling is very hard now. You have to input everything into computer, and its still in test mode right now. But I just hope that that module does not come out until after the bowl game, just in case we do travel to Canada, because logistically that will be very hard to set up. But well manage. But it will befrom the logistics end of it, it will be much harder converting the money and the plane ticket and the passports, and do you need a passport and do you not need a passport?
DS: Actually, I know the answer to that. If youre going by plane, you need a passport. If youre going by train, bus or boat, you can get by with a drivers license and birth certificate.
MD: Okay. Well, that will be the logistical nightmare there. So, yeah, weI mean, where the International Bowl would be exciting, as a full organization and staff, we hope that its going to be somewhere close, where not only the full band can travel but our fan base can travel, because that is just better for everybody. So, thats what we hope for.
DS: Now, how does that work, cause by the time the bowl game happens, schools out. Your band members disperse.
MD: They do. But what we do in the very beginningand this was trial and error, too, because this came after the first bowl appearance.
DS: Oh, the one in Charlotte?
DS is referring to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
MD: Yeah. We put it in the course syllabus the second year, that we put itbecause anything in the syllabus is your class. Well, we put in there, These are all your possible bowls. Do not make plans during this time until we know what bowl youre going to, because your grade will be affected. You know, this is part of your class. We didnt have that put in there the first year. So the second year, just like I said, all trial and error, because everything isyou know, we do a lot of firsts, a lot of firsts here. And so, you know, that was our first bowl. So we knew the second year what logistics we need to put in place for the students to make sure that we have full representation.
DS: Now, do they have to get there on their own, or do, like, they all have to come to one point and ride a bus?
MD: We travel by bus. We travel by bus. I know that in other organizations, other band programs, if somebodys in Oklahoma and theyre home for Christmas, they will fly them back to wherever they need to be. We dont have too many of those people who are really, really far away yet. Im sure as time goes on
DS: Nobody in Toronto.
MD: As time goes on and the Bulls get bigger, Im sure that will be something that will happen with USF, too. You know, were going to have to fly students in. We do put them up in hotel rooms, because the dorms do close. And if we are asking them to be here for rehearsal and to stay for a certain amount of time, we do supply hotel rooms for the students that need to stay.
DS: Okay, and what about the instruments? How do they get from here to there?
MD: Well, since were now busing only, we actually have a Ryder truck thats donated to us by a very nice alumni. And he donates the truck to us for the whole season, actually. He gives us a very nice donation of a truck, and we take that truck wherever we need to take it.
DS: Thats cool. Speaking of alumni, let me ask you, high school bands are generally organized and financed with parent/band booster associations. Does the Herd of Thunder have anything like that? Or is it alumni, band alumni, alumni associations?
MD: Well, high school bands, they have band/parent organizations for fundraising, basically for the needs of money. And since we have a budget supplied to us and theyre in college, we do not have a parent organization or parent base. Which is really exciting this year is that we are starting our first alumni organization this year. Its new, and its still in the development stages. But this is our first year that we have solicited alumni to start joining the Herd of Thunder Marching Band and coming back. The assistant director is mainly in charge of the alumni portion of the organization right now, and we have our first president. They are starting to get all the bylaws together and stuff like that. So, we hope by this time next year, the group is fully developed and a running organization.
DS: What do you anticipate its purpose being?
MD: Its purpose is going to beits basically just like any alumni association: to be there for support, both spiritually and financially in the long run. You know, right now, were not going to see that. But in the long runwell, you know, in 100 years, theres going to be somebody from this alumni association whos going to want to give back to the Herd of Thunder.
MD: You know. And everything helps. Were thinking ahead. Like I said in the beginning, were here temporarily; the marching bands going to be here forever. So, were setting it up now for the future.
DS: Thats awesome. Thats good. Which brings me, actually, to my final question. The bands been in existence for a decade now. How far do you think the program has come, and where do you see the band in the next five years or the next twenty years?
MD: Well, since Ive been here from the beginning, I can tell you that the band has come a very long way, not only in size, but musically, visually. The whole program has grown tremendously. And its very exciting because I only see it getting better. And, thats really neat. And, you know, in its small time of existence, its already one of the better marching bands in the state of Florida, which is really neat because we dont have that 100 years of tradition behind us. We have almost ten. So, you think, if weve done this much in ten years, what are we going to do in the next ten years? Which makes it very exciting how this programs just going to get better, bigger, stronger. Our alumni associations going to be there; its going to get bigger and stronger. You know, our fan base is stronger. The team is going to be stronger.
So, I envision this band, like I said in the beginning, never dropping below 300 and probably capping out somewhere between 350-375 and always being that strong; and always being every year, when everybody sees the Herd of Thunder, youre going to get the same product every single year, being a consistent, just strong marching band.
DS: Thank you. That is awesome.
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