Husker Game Day Experience: The Pride of All Nebraska, The Cornhusker Marching Band!

Game day is finally here! College marching bands are one of the great traditions of college football game day, so I thought I'd give some props to one of the best bands in the land - the Pride of All Nebraska - The Cornhusker Marching Band! 

I knew several people who were in the band during my student days, before the existence of the tunnel walk. I used t get into the student section (before the mass of bodies showed up) in time to watch the band run onto the field. They'd march into the end zones in lines, and once they hit the goal line, they'd sprint full speed into their positions. It was pretty cool, people loved it. I didn't realize how difficult it was until one of my friends pointed out that the whole thing was timed so that the moment they got to their positions, they lifted their instruments and began to play. 

Do you have any idea how hard it is to sprint 50 yards in a band uniform, lift a trombone and immediately start playing? 

I suppose there's some who believe that modern-day electronics and big stadium sound systems have taken away from the prominence of a college marching band, but for all this new-fangled stuff there' s still nothing that gets the Husker football spirit going than "Hail Varsity". 

I contacted Anthony M. Falcone, the Associate Director of Bands at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to ask him for more information about the Marching Red. That interview after the jump. 

What does the Associate Director of Bands actually do? 

My duties include directing the Cornhusker Marching Band, conducting the Symphonic Band, teaching instrumental arranging, and assisting with the administration of all university bands. I also work in the Percussion Studio, teaching lessons, and conducting the Percussion Ensemble.

How many people try out yearly, and how many actually make the band? 

• The number who audition varies from year to year. We have an enrollment cap of 290, and that's where we've been for the last several years.

You've mentioned to me that there are a lot of things people don't know about the band that you feel they should. Can you expound on that? 

  • Most band members (about 75%) are not music majors
  • There are over 70 different majors represented in the band
  • The vast majority of the students receive no scholarship for their participation
  • Marching Band is a class and students receive one credit hour for their participation
  • The band only rehearses during regular class time and on game days. There are no 'extra' rehearsals
  • • The CMB performs a different halftime show for each home game along with the 12 minute pregame show
  • Band members must be full time students at UNL and maintain a minimum GPA
  • • Over 70% of the band carries a GPA over 3.0 and two years ago there were 17 students with a 4.0

Has the recent economic downturn affected the band this season? 

• It hasn't really affected the turnout, which was robust. Our budget (like everyone's) is a tad bit tighter, but that happens from time to time.

What's the best way to support the band? 

• There's a place on the season ticket to give to the band, you can support us through our Alumni Association, or just cheer and tell the students you appreciate their hard work.

Is there any way for Husker fans can experience the band online? 

Information on the band can be found in the following locations: 

Ever since I've been attending home games, the pregame routine has been pretty much the same.  Has the current routine essentially become a tradition that we don't want to change or modify?  Maybe some new formations, such as a script Huskers in the tradition of script Ohio? 

We kind of feel we have our own traditions built into the pregame show. Most of the songs were written specifically for the university (one by John Philip Sousa himself) and I think our merging and expanding Ns are pretty cool (though they may not get as much 'press' as the script Ohio). It hasn't changed much because it doesn't really need to.

For every voice that wants it to change, I would suspect there are many more who would squawk if it did. The last director who made big changes to it didn't stick around very long, and it was changed back after he left.

How do you determine the makeup of the band in terms of instruments?  In a football stadium, the impact of flutes and piccolos is minute at best.  Texas A&M can bring a partial band and make more noise at times than the Husker marching band at full strength. 

Our instrumentation is pretty standard for a collegiate marching band. We actually don't use flutes at all, but rather all piccolos precisely because they are heard better. When we travel with a smaller contingent, the instrumentation skews more towards brass so we can project better.

The only time in my twelve years here that A&M brought a band was in 1999, and that was their full band, which is a couple hundred bigger than we are. Also, much of that perception depends on where you're sitting. Bands are very directional, and if you're sitting across from them they're much louder than if your sitting to one side (in which case you may barely be able to hear them at all).

Especially at halftime, the show seems to performed for the west stadium.  Is this to make halftime marches easier, or is there a bias towards the fans in the west stadium and the skyboxes? 

Actually, we perform an equal number of halftime shows to each side. Last season we had 8 home games, and we performed four to the East and four to the West (in fact, the very first show last year faced East.) This year we have seven, and there'll be three East, three West and one that's omni-directional.

How can you improve the choreography of the band and HuskerVision?  At the end of the Tunnel Walk, the band starts playing "Hail Varsity" as the team runs out onto the field while Sirius is still blaring over the speakers.  Likewise, after a touchdown, a packaged promotion sometimes starts playing while the band is still playing, killing the buzz

That's something we constantly work on. Once the team runs through, we have to play Hail Varsity and skiddadle off the field in order to clear it by the required time. If we waited for the end of the 'Tunnel Walk' music, we wouldn't make it. After TDs we play our touchdown version of 'No Place' which is actually kind of long. Athletic marketing has to get all their promotions in, and sometimes they need to start one early. This has improved quite a bit over the last couple years as we have had great relations and communication with them. In a presentation as complicated as a Husker game though, sometimes things are going to happen. 

Here's today's schedule for the Cornhusker Marching Band, so get out and support one of Nebraska's greatest traditions. 

The Cornhusker Marching Band's schedule for Saturday, September 5th, Nebraska vs. Florida Atlantic
12:30 PM Outdoor rehearsal in stadium (open to the public)
1:15 PM Alumni Band joins rehearsal in stadium
4:30 PM Percussion warm-up in Sculpture Garden
5:00 PM Pregame concert outside Kimball Recital Hall (open to the public)
5:15 PM Depart for the stadium
6:00 PM Kick-off

Support the Band! 

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