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Tradition, enthusiasm and hard work define Hawkeye Marching Band

BY LAUREN COFFEY | SEPTEMBER 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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A sea of gold and khaki lines fall into a sway, a hush falling upon them. The familiar strains of the “University of Iowa Alma Mater” begin to rise from the 254 students, echoing across the concrete tunnel. These students are the self-proclaimed No. 1 Hawkeye fans, have the work ethic of a sports team, and consider the people standing next to them family members. They are the Hawkeye Marching Band.

Practice

The smell of sunscreen and sweat overtake the practice field behind Parklawn, used by the Marching Band four times a week. The Sun beats down as Kevin Kastens, the Marching Band director for the past 16 years, as he shouted directions: “Quicken up the pace; make sure there are no holes in formations.” The musicians continually look down on their marching charts and make marks in their sheet music attached to their lyres and flip folders — small music stands that hold their sheet music and can attach to their instruments as they march on the field.

“Regardless of what they’ve done, during the course of the day, no mater how they feel, we have to get focused on the rehearsal,” Kastens said. “It’s the same thing with any sport. They need to be focused on what they’re doing, sometimes I just need to bring them back to reality and [say] ‘Hey we’re rehearsing right now. We’ve got a job to do, and the show is tomorrow.’ ”

Game Day Practice

It’s 7:05 a.m., and the Sun is just beginning to rise as the Marching Band gets into position to begin its last rehearsal before the game.

Some people, such as UI freshman Nicole Loch, woke up at 5 a.m. to get to Kinnick field on time.

“I have to wake up at 5 a.m. because my ride is coming at 6 to take me to Kinnick,” Loch said. “5 a.m. on a Saturday is not ideal, but it’s worth it.”

Last minute adjustments are shouted out across the loud speakers — Kastens is now on an intercom used for announcements during football games.

As the band starts into “Don’t Stop Believin’,” by Journey, just part of one of six sets the band memorizes over the season, concentration sets in. The lines seamlessly stride one into the next, toes remain pointed, and knees are kept high during the entire length of marching.

Between water breaks and adjusting for small errors — such as a section being five steps too far over — jokes are thrown, and chatter is exchanged. Between the early morning practices and heat-filled games, friends are made along the way.

“With the band, everyone has their own section, their own group,” said the “Golden Girl” of marching band, baton twirler Whittney Seckar-Anderson. “[Drum Major Quentin Marquez] and I have each other, but the band is a big family. I feel like I’m a part of each section.”

In a few short hours, the Marching Band will be replaced with the Hawkeye football players storming the field, and the band plans to cheer along with the 70,000 other fans in the stadium.

The Tunnel

Around 9 a.m., the band heads off to breakfast and to perform a pep rally before the game for fans.

When they finish to cheers and applause from onlookers, they form a line and begin their high-step march into Kinnick Stadium.

The instruments start to sway back and forth in the air, accompanied by various songs and chants shouted by their handlers.

“It’s the best, because we get to play around and joke around with other people in band and get to show off,” UI senior Clint Downey said.

The band descends into the northwest tunnel, one that all Marching Band and football players have gone through. The concrete and dirt ground are just a backdrop for the enthusiasm reverberating off the band members. A band member knocks on the curved wall, and the rest of the group simultaneously starts a cheer that conjures up images of summer camp.

Tradition is something that is engrained with the Marching Band and is even extended into tunnel and onto the field.

“Your first run-on [marching onto the field for the pre-game show] is something you’ll always remember,” said band manager Jack Frank. “My [high-school] band director said he’s only cried twice in his life — the first time was his first run-on to Kinnick, and the second time was the last time.”

But just minutes before Marching Band members enter the field, Marquez walks up a flight of stairs onto a platform to face all the band members. Arms begin to embrace around the nearest person next to them, and a serious air fills the tunnel leaving everyone silent. With Marquez’s cue, the first few words of the “UI Alma Mater” are sung. Harmonies echo through the tunnel, providing hope for the second game of the season and display their hard work through their 10-minute halftime show.

These are the memories that seniors will remember when taking their final tunnel walk.

“You’ll see me crying at the last game,” Downey said. “There are all these traditions, and when I leave, I won’t be here to upload them anymore.” He paused, filled with nostalgia. “I’m getting all nostalgic. I’ll want to stay here, I won’t want to leave the field when I’m done.”


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