Marching right along

The Syracuse University Marching Band spends several days before the start of fall semester to train acclimate new members to life behind the end zone.

Sam Brickfield stood between two groups standing in the Carrier Dome weeks before the fall semester would start. One row of orange-shirted students, standing at attention, faced a line of students, some still wiping tears from their eyes. Seven minutes earlier, many of them said speedy goodbyes to family members they wouldn’t see for months.

“We have to do a lot of work, and we have to start from square one.”
- Band director Justin Mertz

Knocking four times on a blue, plastic block, known as a glock, Brickfield called the orange-clad leaders of the Syracuse University Marching Band to attention: “Band, atten-hut!” answered with a loud, succinct “Pride!” The word echoed.

Brickfield finally addressed the rookie after repeating the call several times.

“We carry ourselves with this pride at all times,” Brickfield said. "Their eyes are not moving. Their bodies are not moving.

“This is what we’re going to teach you.

The marching band starts training their new members early and diligently to instill a strong level of commitment and sense of pride the group emulates throughout the season.

Though the band starts the camp a week and a half before the semester starts, Justin Mertz said there’s never been as big of a time crunch, with the first home game landing on Sept. 1.

“In my seven years as director, and even when I was in the band, the game was always over the weekend,” said Mertz, director of the band and former member. “We have to do a lot of work, and we have to start from square one.

Band camp brings together all different groups. Mertz said the band represents nearly every major the school offers, and contains students from all grade levels. Rookies may have been drum major of their high school marching band. Some of them have never marched in their lives.

Leadership, veterans of the SUMB, come to school early to train and ready themselves for the rookies, comprising mostly freshmen. The vets move the new members into their college homes, attempting to make the acclimation process easier.

The first day of practice, rookies learned the basics: marching in place, making sure they lined up with their neighboring member, known as “dressing.” Throughout band camp, stepping backwards and at an angle were reviewed. Music had to be learned for the first public performance -- Home to the Dome.

A constant throughout the practice sessions was evident: Periodically, a drum major would blow a whistle or rap on the glock. The mass of veterans and rookies alike called out “Pride” in unison. The orange shirts leadership members donned bored the five-letter word throughout band camp.

“After a week, they start to get it,” Mertz said. “They’re not learning new things as much as remembering them. They really become a part of the band.

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