A Day In The Life Of The UW Marching Band


By Tim Peterson | October 11, 2019

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  • After a music and physical warm-up, the UW-Madison Marching Band rehearses the drill sets for their halftime show. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

After a music and physical warm-up, the UW-Madison Marching Band rehearses the drill sets for their halftime show. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

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On a cloudy, balmy weekday afternoon, the University of Wisconsin-Madison marching band was preparing for something a quarter of them had never done before: perform at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Badgers’ first home game was days away. The band’s first new director in half a century — Dr. Corey Pompey — commanded the podium and a glitchy loudspeaker.

Dr. Corey Pompey commands the podium as the first new marching band director at UW-Madison in half a century. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

Dr. Corey Pompey commands the podium as the first new marching band director at UW-Madison in half a century. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

WPR producer Tim Peterson caught up with a pair of the band’s veterans and asked them about a few aspects of being part of the ensemble. He talked with Drum Major Justine Spore, a senior from Shorewood, Wisconsin who’s majoring in journalism. Peterson also spoke with Assistant Drum Major and Trombone Player Grant Petik, a junior from Fond du Lac who’s majoring in civil engineering.

So You Want to Be a Badger?

Justine Spore: I’ve always been a huge sports fan. I liked the idea of going to all the sporting events for free and also getting to continue to play trumpet after high school.

Grant Petik: I’ve always had a passion for music, and loved marching band and jazz band in high school. I was in musicals. I knew I wanted to continue pursuing music in college, even though my degree isn’t in music. The band here in Madison is unlike any other — such a unique step, such a unique atmosphere and attitude. It’s just something I really wanted to be a part of and now I am three years later.

Three hundred UW-Madison undergrads fill the field marching and playing as they rehearse the band’s halftime show. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

Three hundred UW-Madison undergrads fill the field marching and playing as they rehearse the band’s halftime show. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

Stop at the Top: UW’s Signature Marching Step

JS: Actually, they say sometimes having no previous marching experience is beneficial when you come to Wisconsin. Because our marching step is so different from anything you might’ve learned in high school. It’s different than any other band in the world.

I think it’s much more exciting, energetic, engaging… insert positive adjective that starts with “e” here. I really like it, I think it’s worth it, I think it’s just the best.

GP: It’s very difficult to do our step and play at the same time. It’s very athletic, the step is very jarring. I think we’ve been working this year to smooth out some of the playing while still maintaining the energy and the athleticism in the step.

We’ve been primarily focusing on doing that through breathing — making sure we get big full breaths. So I think this year, moving forward, hopefully our sound will be a little more powerful.

After a music and physical warm-up, the UW-Madison Marching Band rehearses the drill sets for their halftime show. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

After a music and physical warm-up, the UW-Madison Marching Band rehearses the drill sets for their halftime show. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

Songs to Thee Wisconsin

JS: I’m really looking forward to the music we’re playing. I think we’ve got a lot of really engaging stuff. Everyone is super excited about the new songs we’re playing. We’ve got some really interesting drill too. So you’ll be able to see it on game days, and we’ll put the music to the marching, and do some really interesting things on the field.

GP: [Former director Mike Leckrone’s] music he selected in previous years was, maybe, a little less recognizable to some of the people in the student section. And I think some of the new music that we’re getting is moving into the 21st century.

I think Dr. Pompey’s philosophy on music is a lot more intensive than Mike’s. Mike often focused on some of the marching aspects of the band more primarily. This year, we’re really trying to incorporate a better sound from our band.

Wind players warm up their lips by buzzing on mouthpieces only. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

Wind players warm up their lips by buzzing on mouthpieces only. (Tim Peterson/WPR)

Just the Spirit of Wisconsin

JS: Everybody is always excited. Every Saturday. And I think that’s something that’s really unique about our band. It doesn’t take much for me to get everybody excited on game day. It’s just the way we are.

GP: What makes me the most excited is the energy, enthusiasm and passion that every other person has here. You wouldn’t be able to do this step, and be part of this band, if it wasn’t something that you really wanted to do. The fact that everyone here is as dedicated to that as I am, it’s just inspiring. I think it’s just the spirit of Wisconsin.

These interviews were edited for brevity and clarity.

Tim Peterson

Tim Peterson is a producer for “Central Time” on Wisconsin Public Radio. He previously worked for NPR in Washington, D.C., and stays busy exploring Wisconsin’s fine parks, beers and cheeses, with a reporter’s tenacity.
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New UW-Madison Marching Band Director Corey Pompey

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