MCGILL: Herd Knocks -- Marching Thunder grinds through its version of camp
The Word on the Herd -- Aug. 20, 2016
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – They, like Marshall University’s football team, hold an August training camp on turf. They sweat and strain as the August sun torments them. And their place in college football is as secure as tailgates and mascots.
They are the marching band.
Marshall’s 210-member Marching Thunder has been experiencing a challenging camp of its own here on campus. The group reported Aug. 11 and endured four consecutive 12-hour days of rehearsal. They followed that up with seven hours of practice and a friends and family concert Tuesday. On Wednesday, they prepared for Thursday’s Thundering Herd Rally at Huntington’s Pullman Plaza, which served as the culmination of a jam-packed week of preparation.
It is a daunting stretch, especially when the temperatures stay consistently above 90 and the multi-purpose field at the Marshall Recreation Center beckons the heat.
“It’s pretty brutal because it’s a turf field,” said Adam Dalton, MU’s director of athletic bands. “It’s a really good turf field but it’s not the new stuff that’s come out and is a little cooler. It gets pretty warm.”
The band has been preparing for a calendar that includes fan events, parades, home football games and exhibitions, plus appearances like next week’s Paint the Capital Green in Charleston and next month’s Majorette and Band Festival, also in Charleston.
“We do a lot,” Dalton said. “People probably don’t realize how much we do, but it is a huge time commitment.”
The 12-hour rehearsal days were broken up into three segments: a visual block in the morning; sectionals (small groups) in the afternoon; and ensemble work (the band performing and working on formations together) in the evening when the sun starts to set and temperatures cool.
Dalton said football game days are particularly grueling for the band. They’ll rehearse, participate in the Thunder Walk, break into smaller groups and perform at various tailgate spots and then reconvene for a small pep rally before the pregame show.
The Marching Thunder feels like a valued part of the game day experience, Dalton said.
“We’ve had a great relationship with the athletic department,” Dalton said. “We’ve had a great relationship with Mike Hamrick, Aaron Goebbel and Scott Morehouse. We all work together.”
Band members are underrated athletes, Dalton said, and some schools even offer physical education credits for participation.
“It’s definitely a very athletic experience,” Dalton said. “Those drums can weigh upwards of 25-30 pounds. The tubas are 10-15 pounds. Putting that on your shoulder and then asking you to put on long sleeves and long pants and march around in the sun is definitely a physical experience.”
It is a worthwhile endeavor, he said. All of it is geared toward perfecting the pregame and halftime shows for football games.
“That’s why we are here,” Dalton said. “We’re the entertainment, we’re the spirit and we’re the sounds of the games. That’s what’s really cool. The band is able to connect with the fans and get them involved and get them excited so they stand and cheer and clap.”