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Varsity Blue

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The Stadium Atmosphere: The Band

I'd really enjoy feedback on this series, so please comment. Also, please note that I didn't do so much of the "extended editing" on this piece, so be gentle about those types of issues.

As someone who is not an insider to the ways of the band, but rather a student and fan of the Michigan football team, the band has been failing in its responsibilities to enhance the gameday atmosphere inside Michigan Stadium. There are various ways in which the band’s presence could be improved.

The first improvement is the placement of the band. While the band exists to enhance the experience for all fans, the students are the primary participants in the cheers and songs that are played by the band. In Michigan Stadium, the band is placed in the stand within the student section, so that the sound moves away from the students. This makes it difficult for all students to hear certain songs by the band, and nearly impossible for the poor freshmen in row 98, who can hear almost nothing the band plays.

The students’ participation in cheers led by the band is hindered not only by their inability to hear what the band is playing, but by an utter lack of these cheers in general. On any given Saturday, the band typically plays 3-4 songs with participation by students: “Temptation” (3rd down stop, with the claw and the “You Suck” chant – which I despise), “Hawaiian War Chant” (I think, it’s the one they play on most first downs, with the hands in the air and the “Let’s Go Blue” at the end), “Let’s Go Blue” (random, with clapping and yelling “Let’s Go Blue” at the end), and “The Victors” (With the singing, and the clapping, and the fist pumping, etc.). If there are any others I’m forgetting, let me know, but this is still sparse, sparse stuff.

Encouraging the God Damn 3rd Down Key Play Thingy. The GD3DKPT is the bane of my existence. It not only gives people (mostly students) an excuse to not make loud noise on opponents’ 3rd downs, but even encourages them not to. The band endorses the GD3DKPT by remaining silent, and wiggling their hands in the air, without even having keys to make noise. This renders them literally silent, at a time when every soul in the stadium should be making as much noise as possible.

Refusal to play the alma mater at the end of games. A very important tradition in college football is the playing of the school’s alma mater at the conclusion of the contest, win or lose. Some of the most powerful moments have come during this time. Matt Leinart, confetti flowing around him, conducts the Sprit of Troy in “All Hail” after the Trojans clinch the National Championship over Oklahoma in January 2005. Jim Tressel and his fellow coaches and players stopping in front of the Block O to sing “Carmen Ohio,” before (while) the students in Columbus stormed the field after defeating Michigan in 2006. Under Jamie Nix, the Michigan Marching Band has refused to participate in this tradition. My freshman year, I e-mailed Professor Nix, asking him why the band did not engage in this time-honored tradition. His (remarkably rude) response was that he would do things the way he wanted, and if fans wanted to hear the alma mater, they could wait until the end of the postgame show. I can only hope that the new director has the respect for college football tradition (and concerned fans) that Mr. Nix so clearly lacked.

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“The Stadium Atmosphere: The Band”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I've been to the Big House once - '99 vs. Notre Dame. My section was depressingly quiet. I stood nearly the entire game and wasn't concerned with who's view I was blocking. Want a comfy seat with a great view? Stay home. Maybe then they'd actually open their mouths and yell at the TV. Anything anyone can do to increase the noise, interaction and enthusiasm in that stadium is welcome.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Band half time performances have a lot of room to improve. Over the past decade they have probably only had a handful of memorable performances. In addition they played Led Zeppelin hits at 3 half time shows last year (Vanderbilt, at OSU, and the Rose Bowl)-get some creativity.

    3:30 games are obviously better atmospheres than noon games. We should only play once or twice at noon. Also need to host a night game in Septemeber every 3-4 years. We don't have to be like LSU or other SEC schools and play every game under the lights but once in a while would be nice. Since 2000 the best moments at the Big House have been under the lights for 3:30 games later in the year-PSU in 2002 and 2005, MSU in '04. I have seen Michigan on the road at night at Wisconsin, Illinois, and PSU--the difference in unbelievable.

  3. Anonymous Jeremy Says:

    Anon: Not wanting to play under the lights is Bill Martin's idea. There could be nothing greater than a night game at Michigan Stadium.

    Full response @ linked website, Tim.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I have often wondered why the alma-mater is not played after games. Perhaps the hockey or b-ball pep bands start the tradition and carry it over to football.

    The halftime show against whichever directional Michigan school we played in '05 was my all-time favorite.

  5. Blogger Misha Says:

    according to my friend in the mmb, the music for this year is pretty lame, including a vegas show and a bobby darin show. boerma has a decent amount of work to do.

  6. Blogger Jeremy Says:

    Anon:
    Every other athletic pep band DOES play the alma mater at the immediate conclusion of the games. They sing it if we win, and play it if we lose.

    You're referring to the Monty Python show against EMU, which was a classic.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    The music this year is, unfortunately, EXTREMELY lame. Get ready for the student section to immediately turn around and sit down for all but 2 of the shows. We're playing a Vegas show, but without Viva Las Vegas. We're playing a Bobby Darin show. We're playing a Cirque de Soleil show. We're playing a "Modern Broadway" show. And don't forget the annual throwaway that is the glorious Homecoming fiasco. The only bright spots are a Beach Boys show (which has the possibility of being pretty lame, we'll see what the songs are), and a "Detroit Rock City" show.

    Not surprised you got a rude response from Nix, try emailing Prof. Boerma to see what he thinks.

    By the way, the after-first-down piece is called "Cheer 1," Nix 'wrote it on a plane' (MMB kids are already singing along, inside joke). Definitely not Hawaiian War Chant.

    As for the placement of the band, it sure as hell beats having to sit on the field and not be able to see the game for the 2 biggest home games every year, as the athletic department would sell our seats. Everybody I've spoken to has had good things to say about us moving over there. It also doesn't piss off the old alumni who sat behind us on other side, as we stand the entire game and it forces a wave of people to stand up every play.
    I think the general student body greatly misunderstands the things the band CAN and the things the band CANNOT do, has slightly unreasonable expectations, but at the same time, don't think that those of us in the band 100% agree with what's happening, either.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    This is one of the single dumbest blog topics I've seen. Everyone is a critic of the band. When I was in the band in the early 1990's, the MMB and Gary Lewis personally was raked over the coals week after week in the Michigan Daily. There was a section called "Band Corner" on the editorial page where the Daily writers criticized everything the band did. What I have to say is, until you've seen every other Big Ten and college band, you will realize how good Michigan has it. The MMB is the best damn band in the land, and in the conference, hands down. I will take the MMB over the lame, poor marching, poor sounding USC Trojan Marching Band anyday.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I'm very interested to know why you tend to think that the band is silent on 3rd downs. Yes, we wriggle the fingers. But silent? Please. I lose my voice by the end of the 3rd quarter, just like everybody else. And I know I'm not the only one.

    Singing the alma mater after games is not a time-honored tradition at every school. In fact, Ohio State didn't do it until Sweatervest showed up. If you really want to sing the Yellow and Blue, and it's not like 99% of the student body even knows the words, stay along with the other 30,000 people for our postgame show and sing to your heart's delight.

    Talk about ignorant... I'm not one of those hypersensitive band kids that gets all tied up in knots when someone doesn't like our shows, when we get booed, all of that. I would just appreciate if you would take the time to get your facts straight instead of blatantly just making stuff up.

  10. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I for one am a huge fan of the M band! At my most recent Michigan Stadium experience (Wisconsin '06), I sat next to the percussion section which was awesome. The "Thriller" dance sequence was a little cliche, but well executed and fun to watch. Is the band funded separately from the athletic department? If you want to see more integration of the band happenings with football happenings, the A. Dept. needs to pony up the cash (they maybe already). Additionally, if the A. Dept. is already providing significant amounts of funds to the band, there needs to be some sort of accountability for the "Stadium Atmosphere" piece. Bottom line, we don't often play at night, the games get cold sometimes in week 5 (especially at night) and our university (praise god) is not the tail of an athletic department dog and not the other way around. Stadium atmosphere given those three items is going to lag behind for practical and economic reasons.

  11. Blogger Paul Says:

    Why does it matter that not every school sings the alma mater after every game?

    Jeremy said that all the other pep bands sing/play the alma mater after games. Why can't the MMB?

    Sorry if after pouring my heart and soul into a game, being fairly dehydrated and hung over I don't want to stay for a postgame show (which I never have really heard described is it a halftime redux? or more like pregame? I'm curios).

    And the whole 99% of the student body not knowing the words can be fixed very easily. We're all taught The Victors during Orientation. They also teach The Claw, the Wave and the GD3DKPT during Orientation. Considering it's three days when it should legitimately be 1, I feel they squeeze the words to a fairly simple song into orientation.

    Finally, I don't mean to sound like an ass, but the crowd isn't there for the band, the band is there for the crowd. The crowd should not cater to the Band's traditions or history. The supplier has to provide the consumer with what it wants and the consumer wants cheers (and developing cheers for cadences is huge. I'm sure Tim on VBlue on Varsity Blue and the football writers in the Daily would be more than happy to disseminate cheer info.

  12. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    My only band wish would be for them band to mix up the in-game cheers a bit more. By the fourth quarter, the
    'Lets Go Blue' cheer after every other play or singing 'The Victors' for each score, timeout, opponent's score, tv timeout after punt, etc. gets a little lame. Esp. when there's an opposing band and they are playing all sorts of stuff. My friends always ask if the band only knows two songs.

    There seems to be a number of cheers that are played for the band itself, and not necessarily to get the crowd involved and fired up. I always thought the hockey pep band did a good job of playing a variety of songs during the game, even if the selection remained the same game to game. But the hockey crowd never needed much help to really get involved in a game!

    Here's MZone's take on the key play from a few years back...
    http://michiganzone.blogspot.com/2005/10/put-damn-keys-away.html

  13. Blogger Corey Says:

    I'm trying really hard not to be one of those easily-offended types who were or are in the band, but some things here are far too easy to pick out:

    I think this has already been said, but it didn't seem to sink in... the band plays the "The Yellow and Blue" at the post-game concert. Feel free to stick around for the post-game show; They usually take one or two songs from half-time, play the full version of the victors, Temptation, Hawaiian War Chant and the Yellow and Blue.

    They've been up since an unheard of hour in the morning, cheering just as loudly as you, and don't have the luxury of being drunk or hung over during the game (it's been tried and proven to be a universally bad idea). The band wants to go out and party too.

    Yeah, the location in the stadium sucks, sound-wise. Hopefully the luxury boxes will live up to the hype in the sound department.

    Let's face it, there's only so much cool music out there that sounds good coming from a marching band. Plus, not everyone's going to like every show. The Monty Python show, for instance, was good for a one-time deal, but not everyone liked it and if you did that sort of thing too often it would lose its luster to those who did.

    Finally: I agree, the band does need to play more. Granted, I wasn't a trumpet who had chops to deal with towards the end of a game. I, too am sad that "Livin' on a Prayer" is not played more often. I've met Boerma and he seems like a really cool guy. Hopefully he and the band will be able to deliver a solid season.

    Note: The frequent games in the beginning of the season are going to wreak havoc on the band members more than usual... please show your appreciation of their work by continuing to acknowledge them during half-time.

  14. Blogger Blake Says:

    I think the main problem with the student section/band/etc. atmosphere is mainly because the Athletic Department and their Marketing Staff goes on autopilot for the entire football season.

    When it comes to trying to drum up excitement for non-revenue sports like Volleyball or Women's Basketball, they'll make the effort.

    Even for basketball, they'll work to support the Maize Rage and their ideas (like the Detroit News blog that Mgoblog linked to today), or set up meetings with the hockey student section to get their feedback on the atmosphere and how to make things better.

    But when it comes to football, the breadwinner for the entire athletic department, the sport that gets criticized so much for lack of atmosphere and sound that Bill Martin has made a point to add "increased noise" as a positive for luxury boxes, the athletic department sits idly by, afraid to take on the task of actually working to improve the gameday environment.

    Here is how it can be done:

    - Create a specialized "Maize Rage"-esque student group for football games. This group can meet regularly throughout the football season, come up with cheers, a gameday newsletter (like at basketball games), and interact with the other spirit groups: band, cheerleaders, etc. so each seperate group can feed off what the other is doing and no one steps on the other's toes. Give members of this football Maize Rage preferred seating in the student section where they will sit as a group and start cheers that will make their way up the section (with help from the gameday newsletter).

    - All other seats in the student section will be General Admission. If you're a die-hard, you'll cut your tailgating short to be there to get the choice seats for the big game (or even camp out the night before). This will also cut out the sorority girl-types who show up halfway through the first quarter and demand their seat in the 5th row who then proceed to talk on their cell phone the rest of the game, before leaving 5 minutes into the 4th quarter.

    - Maize t-shirts will be provided to every student. Adidas is paying us a lot of money; either they sponsor the student section, or just roll the $2 or $3 that it really costs to make a t-shirt into the season ticket fee.

    - The football team are students, too. They should come over and join the rest of the student body following every game to sing "The Victors", and the "Yellow and Blue". (This one falls on the football staff/Coach Carr to make happen, so if anyone has an inside to the coaches or someone of importance with the team, bring this up and make it happen).

    - As a Michigan band alum, I agree that I get a tad frustrated at times with the way things are done while in the stands. I thought one of the great things a few years ago was playing "Livin' on a Prayer" and the entire student section singing along. I thought it could turn into our version of Wisconsin's Jump Around (minus the jumping) where everyone knows it's coming at a certain point in the game and people really get into it.

    - Final thoughts: Keys are stupid, yelling and clapping would make 5x more noise, but so is the fact that too often the students don't SING the Victors like everyone does during pre-game, which has to be one of the most awe-inspiring moments you will see.

    Will any of this happpen? Maybe, maybe not. It is no doubt a massive undertaking, but one that if you had a tight group of die-hards who were all on the same page, and some instruction for the rest, it could really make the students a strong, loud, and unified group. Then, we can start working to soften up the rest of the fan base.