Q&A: Sun Devil Marching Band

 

The ASU Sun Devil Marching Band (ASUSDMB) add a crucial element to the atmosphere in Sun Devil Stadium on game day. From brass instruments to the drum line, these musicians spend hours practicing and preparing to help support their fellow athletes from the stands and on the field. Director of Athletic Bands James Hudson outlines a game day in the band. Interdisciplinary studies junior and tuba player Matt Bransfield provides a peek into life on the ASUSDMB, as political science alumnus Ashton Jackson remembers the days when he was on the line.

James Hudson

Q: How do you prepare for the Homecoming game?

Hudson: Just like any other game really. We rehearse Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4-6 p.m. Then on Game Day we rehearse from 9-11 a.m. The only difference really is that Saturday morning rehearsal when the alumni band joins us.

Q: How do you celebrate the Homecoming game if ASU wins? Is it any different from celebrating done at other games?

Hudson: Normally the band goes down on the field when we win and joins the team to play the fight song and alma mater. This past game however, since we went to overtime we stayed in the stands until we won the game. Then it was really hard for us to get to our team. By the time we got there they had already went to the locker room.

Q: What do you do after a game if ASU loses?

Hudson: Luckily that rarely happens in the Sun Devil Stadium anymore. However, when we do lose, we stay in our seats, play a couple of tunes, then dismiss from there.

Q: Are there certain traditions you guys do before the game?

Hudson: We always meet before Devil Walk to warm-up and prepare for our upcoming performances mentally.

Q: Have you had to deal with rival bands before?

Hudson: SC and of course U of A. I wouldn't exactly call it 'dealing with' but I feel it's our job to provide the home field advantage for our team and fans. So, when we do have a visiting band, I'll usually make sure we are playing a lot.

Q: How does everyone get pumped for the game?

Hudson: Being in Tillman Tunnel is all the hype we really need, I think. It is a real rush for the kids to enter the field from there.

Q: How do you keep from getting tired during the game?

Hudson: That's pretty hard to do really, especially [during homecoming]. That would've been a fun game to watch. Your mind is always rolling, thinking of what to play next and staying on the script plus reacting to what is going on in the game itself.

Q: How do you make sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing during the game, amidst the chaos?

Hudson: Actually we are pretty organized in the stands, I think. It might look chaotic but it's really not. We have hand signals for all the tunes we play so the kids know what is up next.

Q: Why is the band important to the homecoming experience?

Hudson: I think we are truly a cross section of ASU. We have many different majors and campuses represented in our band. Also, hard to have a parade without the band leading the way

Q: What's the silliest, weirdest or funniest thing that's happened to you before, during or after a big game?

Hudson: Being told by the head referee that we had to stop playing. He actually left the field and warned both bands [during] last year's holiday bowl game.

Q: Tell me something that people might not know about ASU's band.

Hudson: The students are truly some of the hardest working and dedicated young men and women I have ever been honored to work with.

Matt Bransfield

Q: How do you prepare for the Homecoming game?

Bransfield: The homecoming is very special for the band, as it allows for alumni to come back and play with us for the halftime show. So the morning of the game, we spend practicing the music with the returning alumni and sharing band stories.

Q: How do you celebrate the Homecoming game if ASU wins? Is it any different from the celebrating done at other games?

Bransfield: An ASU victory means that after the game we go down on the field and play the alma mater for the student section, while a defeat has us still playing the alma mater, but we do it from where we sit in the stands.

Q: Are there certain traditions you do before the game?

Bransfield: Before every game, the tuba section meets at the shed where our instruments are stored, then walk from there to the Wells Fargo Arena, stopping to play the fight song for tailgaters and blasting random notes at cars that honk at us.

Q: Have you had to deal with rival bands before?

Bransfield: We have few chances to interact with other bands, but we generally try to get to know them. We actually got to have dinner with some members of the Navy Band, after we played them at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl two years ago. There are typically two reactions when dealing with the University of Arizona Band. There are a decent number of people that went to high school together and are friends, but there are also those of us that are deep into the rivalry between the two schools.

Q: How do you keep from getting tired during the game?

Bransfield: Because of Devil Walk and our pre-game performance, we usually have to be at the stadium three hours before the game starts, and we are there until the very end. Combined with the two hours of practice we have the morning of the game, we can get pretty tired during the game, but our love for ASU football keeps us standing and cheering.

Q: What's the silliest, weirdest or funniest thing that's happened to you guys before, during or after a big game?

Bransfield: I would have to say that the funniest thing to happen was during our trip to San Diego last year for the Holiday Bowl. We accidentally loaded a case without a tuba in it, so the member it belonged to had to just stand around during our first performance. In the end, our band director bought a brand new tuba for us to use, although we were quite embarrassed when we told him what we had done.

Q: Tell me something that people might not know about ASU's band.

Bransfield: A fun little fact would be that all of the ASU tuba players have nicknames, and those names are printed on the hats we wear with our uniforms. (Mine is Iago)

Ashton Jackson

Q: How do you prepare for the Homecoming game?

Jackson: Preparing for Homecoming usually starts the Friday before the game at rehearsal. Alumni and past directors come to watch the current band rehearse and there is usually a short speech to mentally prepare the members for a long day ahead. This culminates with everyone at rehearsal singing the alma mater before leaving the field.

Q: Have you had to deal with rival bands before?

Jackson: If there is a visiting band in town there is usually a small group that meets and welcomes them to town. We are all mostly friendly with other bands in the PAC. If there are members of the Band Fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi or Band Sorority Tau Beta Sigma visiting, then there is definitely a meet-and-greet planned.

Q: What are certain traditions you do during the game?

Jackson: During the game we are working, so everyone does their best to keep the crowd engaged and to cheer on our team win or lose. I know we had special cheers and songs we played when the team was up or down when I was a current member, but those change up every few years. My favorite cheer that is band specific is the 'ASU Hop' drum cadence that dates back to ASU's Rose Bowl appearances.

Q: What's the best part about the homecoming game?

Jackson: My favorite part about Homecoming is the alumni participation. As a current member I felt the pride these folks felt towards the program and was inspired, and now as an alum, I see the potential in this new generation of college students and it is marvelous to see them succeed. ASUSDMB is a big family, and we are always striving to live up to the band motto 'Expect Great Things.'

Reach the reporter at gburnton@asu.edu or via Twitter @gretchenburnton.

Reach the multimedia reporter at dcsantac@asu.edu or @run_dsc.


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