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Ian Black oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Deborah Anderson Silvers.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (45 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (21 p.)
USF history oral history project
Interview conducted November 2, 2007.
Oral history interview with Ian Black, drum major in the Herd of Thunder Marching Band. Black, a music major, began playing clarinet in sixth grade and was a drum major in his high school's marching band. Being in Herd of Thunder was one of his goals upon entering USF, and in his sophomore year he auditioned for drum major. This interview was conducted during his junior year, his second year as drum major. In this interview, Black describes his first year in the band, the process of becoming a drum major, and explains some of the band's traditions.
University of South Florida.
Herd of Thunder Marching Band.
University of South Florida.
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 Anderson Silvers: This is Deborah Anderson Silvers. It is Friday, November 2, and we are in the fourth floor of the library. I am here with Ian Black. He is one of the current drum majors for the University of South Floridas Herd of Thunder Marching Band. And we are going to be conducting an interview today. Ian, is this okaythis is your name?
Ian Black: Absolutely.
DS: Okay. Lets see if we can clip this on.
IB: Without getting feedback.
DS: Without getting feedback. There we go. And its still moving, so were good. Okay, lets start. You are one of three drum majors for the band.
DS: Tell me about your background. When did you begin in band, and when did you begin to be interested in being a drum major?
IB: I began in band in sixth grade, middle school, playing clarinet. And at the time, I didnt really know what a marching band was at all. So I kept studying music. My father went to Oberlin [College] briefly, so he had an interest in music, and my mothers father was in the New York Philharmonicno, mother, sorry, on cello. So the musical background was there. I continued in high school and didnt do marching band my first year, but then after seeing the marching bandand all of my friends in band were also in marching bandfigured it would probably be a good idea to join.
DS: Have you always played the clarinet?
IB: Yes, so ten years now, maybe.
DS: Awesome, thats great. So when you came to USF, did you know you were going to be in the marching band?
IB: Oh, yeah.
DS: Were you a drum major in high school?
DS: Okay, and so this was a goal from the beginning?
DS: Now, in the Herd of Thunder, do they have any requirements that say you have to be a band member?
IB: Yes. To be drum major?
IB: To audition, you have to have been in the band for at least a year. Then from there, theres a conducting audition where they evaluate you based on a prepared piece, then you conduct the Star Spangled Banner with a live group, which is always absolutely terrible. And then finally a rather grueling interview process which, especially for returning drum majors, is not really that fun.
DS: I bet not. So who is the interview with? Is it current drum majors?
IB: Well, not current drum majors, with maybe ex-drum majors. The director of H.O.T. Band, which is Dr. Michael Robinson. At the time that I first did it there was the now assistant director of bands, John Schnettler. Mary Dooley.
Mary Dooley was also interviewed for the USF History Oral History Project. The DOI for her interview is U30-00007.
Shawn Harlan. There were lots of people who were involved in the band, on staff, who each had their own view ofmaybe bias, I dont knowof who should be drum major. Supposedly the thing that we always hear is they always know whos going to be drum major before the auditions even start.
DS: But they want to make you sweat?
IB: Oh, yeah, and they do!
DS: Oh, yeah, chill-bumps. Â So tell me about when you first came to USF, your first day of band practice.
IB: The first day of band camp ever here at USF, I showed up with my clarinet and everything. Actually my parentslike a lot of people, their parents help them move. My parents just said, Bye, cause I lived in Pinellas County, so really its not that far away. And so I set up in my dorm and all that, and then band camp was the day after that. So I went and filled out the form and was greeted by all these people. Hey, welcome to band! Â How ya doing? really overly excited to see you, and it was interesting to me. Everybody started making friends. I only had one other person from my schoolin the band from my high schoolso I had to branch out and meet people. But immediately I felt like it was going to be a good choice, just because there were so many people and its a different environment, cause its college as opposed to high school or anything else like that. So I was pretty excited, just not only to be away from home, but to be away from home making music and being in a band that was really loud. That was exciting.
DS: Having all these friends, new friends, that did music. Was it scary at all?
IB: I didnt think so.
DS: Was it organized, or was it mass confusion the first day?
IB: It was pretty organized, and after being a drum major nowthis is my second yearIve realized that there is a lot of organization that goes in it. I took part in all that, the
DS: Thats cool. Speaking of high school, do they recruit in high school?
IB: Yes. Oh, yeah!
DS: Thats a big part of your
IB: We go to competitions and blow peoples faces off. And that really gets the kidsthat got me. They had Festival of Winds here, which takes in studentsmusical students from high schools all over the state, brings them here. They do wind ensemble, concert band, stuff for a few days. They get to see a lot of the ensembles that we offer here at USF. But the big draw for a lot of these kids is the marching band.
DS: Of course.
IB: So wethey get to sit in the stadium, or actually when we had the Special Events Center; in there it echoed, and that was amazing. But they know its coming, and they hear the drum tap and they go nuts. And then we come out and play really loud, and from there, theyre sold.
DS: Oh, yeah. So is it cool having been on both sides; you heard it in high school?
IB: And now, seeingwell, being a part of it, its interesting, because I guess at the time I thought, Wow! They must practice so much and do so many drill things, and I dont even know. And now when I got to college it was like, Wow, okay, never mind. Its time consuming but its a lot different than high school. Its really notI dont want to say glamorous, but its probably the best word I can think of at the moment. Its not as glamorous. Thats actually a terrible word for it. Its more entertainment-oriented, as opposed to trying to perfect a show over the course of a semester. Its, Here, were going to do three shows, hope you enjoy all of them. Laying it out for you.
DS: (laughs) Thats cool, though. So the end result is amazing when you see it. So, when youve been getting yourself prepared for both drum major and to playyou dont get to play, do you?
IB: No, not anymore. I initially did clarinet my freshman year and knew I was going to go for drum major, so I just left that in the dust. But no more playing. I mean, Im still in ensembles and all that stuff, but not in marching band.
DS: Right, right. You get your clarinet playing in other ways.
DS: Cant do without that. Tell me about your first performance.
IB: As a?
DS: As a drum major.
IB: Oh, as a drum major?
DS: Were you nervous?
IB: Oh, yeah! Because the way it works is that we do three shows, and each drum major gets a different show that they are center for, which centeryou have to know the show inside and out as far as drill moves [and] music is concerned. Know what the drums are doing and where theyre going to be, because you have to watch them constantly. And its a lot of pressure, and especiallyI was a sophomore, and usually people become drum majors when theyre juniors and seniors, so a sophomore who is in the third rotation or the third show.
So Id seen the past two drum majors do it, and theyd set a pretty good standard. And then the new guy comes up, and to help it out, it wasnt actually a show that many people enjoyed, but thats another story. So I was really nervous. And during practices wed practiced with tempos on, so that everybody hears it including the drum line; the drum line really drives it, and the center drum major has to watch the center snares feet or else sound waves and science things thatIm a music major, I dont really care about that (DS laughs)and the band falls apart.
So we practice with the metronome on and then we take it off. And then its up to the center drum major entirely to figure out tempos and get everything going, but there is a sound delay and that reallyunless youre up there, you dont know what its like. Being in the audience you might not notice it that much cause youre listening to the band, youre watching, but being that conduit between band organization to audience enjoyment is a rough, rough position to be in. Yes, I was very nervous, and there were many tempo changes, did not help at all. Really, really could have done without all that.
DS: So when youre the center, and the other twowhat are the other oneswhat are they doing?
IB: They look and they mirror whatever the center drum major does. So during our practice, if the center drum major messes up, as far as we were supposed to only go twenty counts and the center drum major went twenty-two, we all better go twenty-two counts or else we look bad. We all have to look bad together, its not good to look bad as an individual. Really, its not good to look bad at all.
DS: But if youre all together, maybe nobodytheyll think you meant to do it that way.
IB: Yeah, exactly. And we have towhen the metronomes on, we can usually get away with not watching the center drum major if youre on the side. But once the metronomes off, you have to see where their hands are falling and mirror that, because then theres phasing across the field and thats bad. But also, from more of a leadership standpoint, we all try to work together. The center drum major has to drive rehearsal, has to get things going. And thats arguable, because each of us have our own different leadership style, I suppose. And when one persons up there, its completely different than when another persons up there and when another persons up there. But on the sides, I guess, its more relaxed. But its stillyou have to be really focused, you have to know what youre doing, and you have to be ready to step in, take charge, and let yourself be accountable for everything.
DS: So what do you do when something goes all to pot?
IB: Try not to look sheepish, I think, is what Ithe avenue I take. (DS laughs) Recognizing the mistake is the biggest point, so that you dont ever make it again. We went to FAU [Florida Atlantic University] just a few weeks ago, and I was center drum major for that. Made the mistake when we went out to lunch before the game.
We caravanned up there in buses, and we stopped off at some mall and went to the Cheesecake Factory and I ordered a barbecue pulled pork sandwich. Those things are gigantic! Im not trying to plug the Cheesecake Factory or anything. But by the time we got to the game, I was so uncomfortably stuffed that I couldnt focus on anything. So in the stands, the assistant directorJohn Schnettler right nowcalls out the stands tunes and taps the foot. Were standing and hes kind of sitting on the podium, and were looking at the band ready to go, make sure we have their attention, and he taps your foot when to go. But he called out the tune and I was trying to think of the tempo, but I was so distracted by porkthats my excuse and Im sticking to it
DS: Sounds good to me.
IB: that I just had the complete wrong tempo. So it was supposed to be (sings the correct tempo), and it came off as (sings the tempo he used)two, and as Im counting it off I realize on the third beat, Oh, my God, what am I doing? But I had to keep going anyway. And everyone, as soon as were done playing, looks at you and youre in the spotlight. And not only that, not only is the band looking, but all the fans in the stadium that know all of our stands tunes because theyreyou know, if USF were a religion they would be devout Bulls. But theyre all doing the slow turn of the head over to us. Im just, Oh, why did I do that? Why did I do that?
But thats the kind of, I guess, responsibilities, and then whatwhen I made that mistake, I made light of it or try to, and so do the other drum majors. If we make mistakes its always, Oh, Im going to make the same mistake again! Just kidding, ha ha ha! No, Im not really going to. But it is tough to have responsibility in that manner sometimes. But its also an enjoyable challenge, I guess.
DS: The three of you work together very well?
IB: Yeah, I really think so. One of the other drum majors, Melissa (inaudible), she has been drum major now this is her third year. So, she and I are drum major together before this year. And then theres this new drum major, Crystal (inaudible), and shes doing a great job. So, we all know how we work by now, and we know how to deal with each other. If anything gets tense, which it never doesit has once or twice, but we work together very well.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, as far as Melodys bettershe has the respect of being in the band for four years. She knows how everything is run. I dont want to say band mom, cause that would be Mary Dooley. But everyone sees her and knows that shes the authority. I have the benefit, hopefully, of being known as a nice guy and not yelling at practice and just wanting to get things done. And Crystal tries a lot to get everyone motivated, because thats what we should be doing as drum majors, be more motivational and inspirational as farin my opinion, more so than task master Were going to have to do this or Im going to yell at you type thing.
DS: Like, before the beginning of band season, how long does it take the three of you to get your act together, you know, as far as beginning the practices and everything? How is it divided up? Like, are some of you in charge of certain sectionals? I know you have section leaders.
IB: Yeah, we have section leaders who take sectionals. However, we did initially this year go over to sectionals that pertained to whatever instrument we played, which were flute, clarinet, and euphonium, trombone, low brass. But then we have staff and we have section leaders. They just took care of it. So, we focused more on preparing the score, making sure we know where all the cut-offs are, what cues are we going to do, whats the drum line doing at this point?
DS: You always have to watch the drum line. (laughs)
IB: Yeah, but a lot of times we goof off. But I didnt say that into the microphone.
DS: No, you didnt.
IB: Yeah. I guess that we just know how to do it because weve seen other people do it before us, and also having done it for a year. Crystal picked up on it quick. There are certain responsibilities that we have to take care of. But its not so much drum major intensive, I think, for the band. The drum major is not above the members of the bandonly height-wise, which for once is awesome because Im short. (DS laughs) But we just have different responsibilities than the other band members. They have to play, we have to conduct. So, I try to approach it from that point of view, that were not, you know, trying to get things to run in this way or take over, take control of it. Were just doing our job.
DS: Hows it feel to be on the podium?
IB: Amazing, for lack of the ability to use an expletive.
DS: (laughs) I can imagine.
IB: Its so intensely loud, especially when theyre warming up and you can just feel the sound waves pushing your cheeks back and its (makes noise) going crazy. But the unfortunate part about that, cause I get carried away very easily with that. I love the sound of the band. It really just drives me when Im at rehearsal, hearing them play. But I get really carried away, and I like to dance on the podium. And thatsIve been reprimanded for that, to only have fun from the waist up and also to stay focused on the drum line, cause I just like to listen to the music.
DS: The drum line again.
IB: I like to listen to the music and get down, which I think Im the only drum major who expresses that desire. But whatever the case may be, its really exciting to be up on the podium. Being out in the audience is probably still really good. But right there, you know, like I said, being the conduit between band and audience. Its so intense and its exciting. But you have to stay focused and stay calm. But you cant. Its two opposites meeting, and its ridiculous.
DS: Awesome experience.
IB: It really is.
DS: Tell me about when you are not on the field, when you are in the section in the stadium. Is there a set order for the way that you play, or the songs?
IB: Its based on timing. And we have downs cheers, so those are played whenever the certain down is. We will, like I saidcause we have thatthe director has the headset on with the guys up in the box, who are, in our experience, often highly disorganized. So, what we hear, or what the director hears, is, Okay, band, go, you have ten seconds. And so we have a list that says this song lasts for this long. Can we pull it off? So, theres the center drum major being yelled at and being told to go. The other two drum majors have to get everybody up, ready to play, and have to know what song were doing. The center drum major not only has to get everybody ready to play, but know what tempo it is and then just start it almost immediately as the director says Go! Then once you play, then football for a while, and it goes back to band.
We do have someI dont know, I guess youd call it traditionsin the stands. Fourth quarter, for the pastI think its been three years, or maybe its two yearsweve been playing the theme from Superman; thats the Fanfare from Superman, right before fourth quarter. And that usually gets the crowd pumped up, cause they see the drum major. Our signal for it is we stick our hands out in the air like were Superman. And some people in the crowd have caught on to it, and it catches on.
DS: Ill watch for it tomorrow.
IB: Oh, yeah. Do it. And the clarinets and the flutes stick their hands up in the air. Thats a tradition that we do. We have that in the stands. We also, at the end of the game, play the fight song, the Alma Mater. And then we have a song called The Mission, which is actually an oboe solo that was taken from a movie called The Mission and somehow worked into being something that we play at the end of each game. And some people like this thing that we do in the stands; other people couldnt care less. But its something we do, nevertheless. But theres no real set way. Its just whatever works out when it works out.
DS: Okay. Do you often get people yelling from the student section, Play number nine!
IB: Sometimes some of the H.O.T. Band alumni, or some of the students in the other musical fraternities, will come, and theyve been in the band before, probably, or know people whove been in the bandor just know the band so well that its like the back of their hand to them. So, they come up and they try to heckle us and say, Hey, you should play this, you should play this!
Theres a certain gentleman that started coming to the games last year, or maybe hes been to the games, but theres a song we play called Apache. And he loves that song, and sits conveniently right across from the band in the student section, and can yell loud enough so that we can hear him, Play Apache! Play Apache! So, we dont ever reallywere not going to play Apache because he does it, but whenever we play it, he gets all excited. And some of the peopleyou know, theres songs that students maybe dont know they want to hear, but they want to hear them when we play it. They go nuts for it.
We get yelled ator not yelled at. People yell to us often to playwhat is it? I wish I could think of what it is. Well, besides Apache, Shout It Out, which is anotherkind of a rap song I guess, and everybody goes crazy for that stuff, especially the high school kids, which theyve heard the band play it. We were at a competition recently, and the center drum major at the time forgot what we were supposed to play next. And so people in the stands just started shouting out options for what to play, and that was one of them. But then eventually the director of the band said Playplay this, Melody, and so she did.
DS: The one Ive heard yelling for is Soldier Boy. (laughs)
IB: Oh, we dontthats three notes, and I dont think we need to play three notes, like that. Id rather just have the band dance to it, although we already tried to dance to it. Its more of a very poor attempt at dancing, and I dont think we should do it. I enjoy doing it.
DS: Itll be something else next year.
IB: Yes, exactly. It changes every year.
DS: It will. It will. Is there any traditional song that you play after, say, a touchdown or
IB: Fight song.
IB: March Victorious for a field goal. That kind of stuff. Nothing really special about that.
IB: I mean, its special that were winning, especially now recently its been great, but
DS: Yes, now that we actually have occasion to.
IB: Yeah! Oh, and I think it takes on morelike now that were doing soour football is doing so successful, that when we play the fight song it starts engraining, if you will, that pride in their organization. Â So they hopefully become less fair-weather fans and more devoted to your alma mater type thing. And hearing your fight song played should be a big part of that, in my opinion, but thats from a music guy. And I think the next step would be learning the words, cause a lot of times they justits on the screen, USF Bulls (hums song) and they dont know whats going on.
DS: Until it goes S-o-u-t-h.
IB: And even then they rush, and its absolutely terrible. Its supposed to be in time, S-o-u-t-h F-l-o-r-i-d-a, but we hear, S-o-u-t-h F-l-o-r-i-d-a. South Florida! South Florida! Go Bulls! (DS laughs)
So, Im just glad that the team is doing better so that the band gets more recognition, the fight song takes on more meaning, and that we can start building these traditions thatpeople actually know our fight song now. Schools like Auburn, when we went there, we did not realize how steeped in tradition the school was. They take football and their band seriously, seriously. Ive never seen anything like that. Im not that big into football, honestly, not that big into college football. But going to Auburn and seeing the craziness that it gets to blew me away, and it blew a lot of people away, actually. You know, wow. Our fans, the only thing theyve got going for them is they come drunk to the games, whereas these people are there because they are supporting their programs, supporting the Bulls, and they have pride in their organization. That was an eye-opener for us.
DS: And they all wear ties to the game.
IB: Oh, that was really neat. I think thats a great tradition. Everybody should do that. Everybody should do that.
DS: Well all wear ties to the game, and dresses.
IB: Well look sharp. Well look dapper. Itll be a nice experience. I dont know, the drunk fansmaybe thatsI dont know, not the place to talk about it.
DS: It works. Its part of it.
IB: In the band, seeing the way other fans of other schools appreciate their band and are all about it, and then have our fans who really sometimes couldnt care less. And thats unfortunate, cause we really work our butts off to please them. We design our shows, thinking about, what would a college group want to hear? Were going to do some band stuff, some traditional like Latin show thing. But what would college kids want to hear? What would they enjoy? And we work so that they can have a fun time at the game, and associate all these sounds and these songs, and have excitement with the football. It goes hand in hand with building a better program. But sometimes they could care less, and thats unfortunate.
DS: Do you think it has something to do with the fact that our football program is so young, and the band program is so young?
IB: That, and for a while we werent winning. We werent
DS: To put it mildly.
IB: Yeah, we werent in the top twenty-five. Were in the top ten, top three. And now weve got this whole following and people are making weird t-shirts with Jim Leavitts hair. And its great.
DS: I have the
IB: I saw that. I looked down and saw the U right there, thats very nice. But hopefullyit shouldnt be that peoples support for a team or the band organization is dependent on the success of the team. It should be Go Bulls no matter what. But, thats the way it is. Hopefully, it willjust time will go by and tradition will set in and people will see the band and songs will become permanent. Theyll recognize it. A lot of times our stands book changes. Over the course of the past three years there have been songs that have been cycled out of it. And even though weve been told, Oh, youll come back twenty years from now and theyll still be playing this song, and then next year the song is out of the book. But theres some songs that stay, which is really nice.
DS: Like that Spanish sounding one.
IB: Oh, The Bull, that
DS: Yes, The Bull.
IB: Thats the equivalent of the Gator, or the Seminoles (hums the FSU War Chant) thing, which I love that. I love conducting it, just because I imagine its like Chinese water torture for the opposing team, just hearing it (hums The Bull) over and over again. And whenever it comes fourth quarter, our director just says into the loudspeakers that we have over the band, All right, you know were playing any timeany time theres a break in the game, thats what were playing. And everybody at first gets pumped up about it, and then, Oh, my gosh, my face is going to fall off playing this.
DS: (laughs) But its cool.
IB: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
DS: Its cool. And to watch the rest of the stadium doing theirits the equivalent of other peoples thunder sticks.
IB: Thunder sticks, and the Gator chomp, and the Nole chop, anything.
DS: Yeah, its cool. Speaking of traditions, does the band itself, inside the bandtell me about their traditions.
IB: Oh, yeah, I was hoping youd get to this. There are really small things that no one on the outside really knows about; its more for the enjoyment of the members in the band. As far asstarting back at band camp, the first day the leadershipits usually the exec board greets everybody, and most of the time the exec boards involved in one of the three musical organizations or fraternities here on campus, which is Phi Mu Alpha, which Im a member of, Sigma Alpha Iota, and Kappa Kappa Psi. So, were wearing our jerseys, supporting that. For a lot of the freshmen coming in, its their first time. Thats a real college experience for them. Besides being on a college campus, theyre seeing, Oh, my gosh, fraternities, Greek letters. Whats all that about?
Then, after registration, then they have a meeting where the leadership performs for them and shows that hey, we play, too, and gets everybody pumped up. Then later that night, theres a section dinner that each section leader has to take their section leader out to dinnerthe section leader has to take their section out to dinner. Not buying it, but going out to where everybodyI went to Applebees with the clarinet section my first year. Thats where I met a lot of my friends that I stilleven though theyre not in the band now, I talk to them all the time, theyre really close. And so, a lot of really neat things happen within that, as far as bonds forming and friendships and other traditions being started.
During band camp we have spirit days, which Im sure bands everywhere dodress up funny, whichits funny to note that the tubas, alwaystubas and color guard really always have to go completely all out, to the point of being ridiculous with what theyre doing, or else theyre just not doing their job right. The tubasI forget what day it was, but I think it was a dress upyour section decides what youre going to dress up as, and you come in and you better all be wearing the same thing. They did, Were going to switch genders. So, all the guys are coming in in skirts and little tube tops, and the girls are coming in with baggy shorts and baseball caps tilted to the side and baggy shirts. But then the guys coming in in thongs and banana hammocks
DS: Oh, my.
IB: Yeah, but thats the tuba section. I guess thats maybe a tradition, if you want to call it that. The tuba section has to be ridiculous at all times. What else is there? At the end of band camp we do a talent show. Drum majors judge that, and we just arbitrarily assign points. But its usually whichever presentation we like the best. Everyone loves the talent show. Thats a big deal for us during band camp. If youre not practicing for your talent show thing, then you shouldnt be in the band.
DS: Tell me about your favorite number in the talent show.
IB: This year, the topwe awarded first place to the tubas for their very odd skit of someone having a drug-induced hallucination about tuba players doing ballet with their cases, which the gigantic tuba cases on wheels, and theres twenty-one of them. And they actually worked out a ballet routine. It wasntI wouldnt call it ballet; it was more a dance routine that was mimicking ballet. But it was absolutely hilarious, from our point of view. Other people argued with us, but it was really funny.
The drum line, normally for the past few years theres been a guy in the band named Leon, who has perfect pitch and can play piano really well. So, he would play rap songs on the piano. And even though they have five notes in them, theyd play it and its recognizable and the drum line sings it. But since hes gone, they had to think of something else to do. And so, they talked about what it is to be a first-time member in the drum line, what its like. So they did imitations of all the staff members. And they got a standingI dont want to say ovation, but they were recognized for their outstanding portrayal of Dr. Robinson by Dr. Robinson, which was very hilarious. They also imitated their drum instructor, Rich Riano: by doing that, they had the drum instructor come up to the freshmen in the group, curse them out, and then he detonated a water balloon in his pants, so that no one could see it. And so youd just see his pants turn completely whitenot white, his pants turned wet. Sorry. And you get the picture with that.
DS: I get the picture.
IB: That was reallyand so they really strive to go all out, and just be crazy and have fun, because that gets everybody pumped to take on a season. Youve made these friends, youve had these experiences, and now we got to work hard. So, at least we had our funwere still having funbut it gets that out of the way.
Other traditions: during practice Im trying to start this one that the drum majors take off their shoes on the podium. I dont know why that works, or why thats evenits starting to get off the ground. So far I have to remind the other two to do it, but I am religious about it. I always take them off. Before games, the sections get together. They tune, and then they kind ofto pump each other up, they each have a little chant. Maybe it might not be a chant. Some sections might not do it. I know the clarinets do it, because I started their chant, thank you. They say Get some.
IB: Well, we dont need to go into that. The tubas have a really long chant; like I said, they have to bethey have to go all out for everything. It takes ten minutes for them to finish. Then we have a chord progression that we play called The Rival, which is our invitation to blow the same wayIm apparently hungry. Stomachs growling. That gets everyone pumped up. Everyone loves hearing Rival because its our chance to play as loud as we can. And the drum majors, we act as ifif youve seen the movie The Matrix, where he bends back and its slow motion, we do that every time they drop another chord. We act like were getting blown back, and we move in slow motion the whole time. And then after that, we do a road concert. Thats, I guess, a tradition. We play our show for the people who are outside the stadium.
IB: And then, on the way back fromactually, while were marching to the road concert and away from the road concert, the mellophones have this dance that they do where theyits a whole bunch of hand movements, and then put the mellophone between their legs and pretend like theyre riding the bull. Theyre spanking the air behind them. Drum majors do this thing, we shake our fists. Its a fun thing to do. And wevelike you said, weve done that because we saw other drum majors before us do that. We play The Krypton fourth quarter, thats a tradition. And then, after the game, we play the Alma Mater, fight song, The Mission, and then whatever else people want to hear, if they want to hear it. Those are just some of things that I can think of off the top of my head when I was making little notes about it.
DS: Oh, thats cool.
IB: So, theres a lotI bet theres a lot of smaller things that maybe our individual sections mightI guess its not tradition if it changes every year. But its something meaningful at the time for them, that gets them appreciating what they do in the marching band.
DS: I think thats cool. Tell me about going to bowl games.
IB: What about it?
DS: Well, good experience, bad experience?
IB: Great experience. Except the first bowl game we went to. We stayed till New Years. The option was to go into the city of CharlotteI think thats where it was, the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
DS: It was. I was there.
IB: Okay. Go to the city of Charlotte, and have a New Year in Charlotte. Except, were all under twenty-one, so theres nothing to do, nothing to do at all. But being out and about, going shopping during the day, playing at a little pep rally, thats kind of fun. Just being on a trip and hanging out with your friends during Christmas break is a fun experience. Some people like to be with their family. But its a couple of days out of the year.
DS: You can do both.
IB: Yeah. Youve got time. Usually everyone really gets pumped about it, really enjoys it. Once we know were going to a bowl game, well vote on what show of this year that weve done to take. So, hopefully this year theyll choose the Queen show, cause that was my show. The past two years that weve done it, its voted on, usually through email, and then its decided and then we rehearse that. Maybe alumni might be able to come back and participate, which is really fun. You get to see a lot of the older guys.
DS: I know they did that at the Meineke.
IB: Yeah. And they didI think they did that for the last game. I dont remember. I, at the time, was just stressed out. Were at a bowl game! Have to be on top of our game. If we werent on TV beforeits not like we werent on TV before, but now were on TV again and Ive got to be on top of my game! And the drum majors rotate for that. We normallywhoevers center drum major has their show thats being premiered, or just played that day, is center drum major in the stands, on the road concert, for everything else. But at the bowl game we switched off drum majors, who got to be drum major.
DS: Oh, thats cool.
IB: Yeah. So, I mean, thats just a small little thing about the bowl game. But a lot of people really like thattheres actually been tailgating where people show up before the buses arrive, well before the buses arrive; Im talking about 2:00 in the morning out in the parking lot. Not gonnaIll just say that its a fun experience for everyone who attends, and reaffirms that, well, Im glad were in band. Not because the things we do outside of band; for some people, thats what its about. Were getting together, were getting pumped for this. Lets have a great time on this bowl game trip. And so, the past two times that weve done, its reallyweve been really charged, really excited. And it starts well before then. But you know, the day of, people are already awake, ready to go. On the bus, people dont sleepits going and talking, and its going crazy. We get to the hotel, everyones going crazy. Next day, everyonesit doesnt stop.
IB: Until the bus ride home when everyone falls asleep.
DS: Makes sense.
DS: So, how many away games do you get to go to? And is there a formula for how
IB: Whatever we have the budget for, I think is what it is. Mary Dooley could probably expand on that more. Whats closest, what we have the budget for. I know a lot of it might be out of our hands, because Athletics might take care of that, the funding. I know they tried to get the band to be sent to Rutgers, since its only New Jersey, which I think is still very far away. But we werent able to do that, obviously, so, we had a small little pep group in the Sun Dome at the watch party. Away games, there arent many teams in our conference that are close by.
DS: Ive noticed. Very few bring bands.
IB: So, UCF [University of Central Florida] well do. FAU we did. FIU [Florida International University], well, in my years here we havent done that. We went to Miami when we played [University of] Miami. It was really great that we got to go to Auburn. That was absolutely fantastic. Hopefully, well be able to continue now that, now that the Bulls are more successful, get more funding. Well, we can hope.
DS: Right. Well, let me ask, is there such a thing as a band alumni association?
IB: I dont know if theres an alumni association. I know that there arejust recently the assistant director started an alumni group. Well, theres a listserv that the director keeps of all the emails of people who used to be in it, phone numbers, so that way if there is ever an event that alumni could be involved in, theyre notified about it so that they can make the arrangements. And Dr. Robinsons usually pretty good about getting it out there, so that they know that they have this opportunity to take it up. And a lot of them do. I know some people who knew they werent going to be in the band last year, supposedly right after they got back from the bowl game went home to their computer and typed a letter to Dr. Robinson saying, Put me on the firstIm first on the list for being an alumni call-back to be in the band.
DS: So, is there that kind of atmosphere, like a mentorship?
IB: Sometimes. I think as far as guiding the younger members into the traditions of the Herd of Thunder, this is what we like to do. There is, but I guess thatsit can only be as successful as the people who are going to be hopefully carrying on these traditions. Successful, rather. If they want to carry on, great. Yeah, fantastic. But if they dont, thats unfortunate. And theres some people who are just in band cause they get money, they want to play, whatever, their friends doing it. But they might not necessarily care that when you walk by this tree, you do this. I dont know if thats a tradition. Hopefully theI know that a lot of the vets have tried to inspire the rookies to get into it, and to really get into the band and get into USF Bulls football, to keep traditions alive, cause its a part of history that you dont want to let go of it. Thats why were talking about it now. So, its up to them.
DS: Well, and you guys are making the history right now.
IB: Yeah. Were told that every practice. Youre the firstthis is the first band to go to this many away games, theyre this many miles away. Were making history, we get it. But its nice to know that the history is going to be carried on, which, again, is why were here.
DS: Yes, it is. Lets see. Tell me, is there anything Ive forgotten, as we wrap things up? Is there anything you think needs to be included that isnt?
IB: I dont know. I think that the best way to find out about the band, to really get to the heart of things, is not only interviewing people. I think listening to the sound of the band every year, cause it changes by instrumentation, and it gives you a little clue as to, you know, maybe who is in it. Cause sometimes you hear recordings, you go, I know its that person, and then, the memories come back about this person. You could just talk about them and how they affected the band, and all that kind of stuff. You talk about, Oh, thats the year so-and-so was in the band.
Its really people-driven, too, being in the band. A lot of it has to do with who was in it at the time, what changes did they make, how people say, Oh, man, you werent here when so-and-so was in the band, and man, that year was the best because this happened and this happened and this happened. Well, no, I like this year. Cause he isshe was here, and he was there, and they did this, and that was reallythat was the best part for me.
So, I dont know if a lot of it can be really captured in this small little segment. Hopefully, I dont think weve left a lot out. But things change every year, but theres a lot of stuff that stays the same, and its nice to have that tradition there. Hopefully, you can include some clips of music and other things that weve played.
IB: If it werent against some kind of rule, Id try to provide you with clips of what we sounded like at band camp versus what we sound like now. BecauseI mean, it was the first day of rehearsal, but oh, man, it was terrible. It was pretty bad, but everybody
DS: You know, whether its blown away by covering your head, or blown away by, Wow, its great!
IB: Yeah, yeah. Usually its that. Its a really intense emotional experience.
DS: Oh, thats great. Thats great to hear. Well, thank you so much for the interview.
IB: Oh, well, thank you.
DS: Again, this is Deborah Anderson Silvers interviewing Ian Black, the drum major for the Herd of Thunder Marching Band at the University of South Florida, on November 2, 2007. Closing off, I hope.
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