Taking It to the First ‘Hail’

Get up close and personal with UM's Marching Band

At 10:25 a.m., Elbel Field was mostly empty except for a few Labor Day picnickers and some guys playing on the beach volleyball court. But exactly at 10:30, a stream of students carrying every manner of instrument started streaming out of Revelli Hall, crossing Hoover Street and meandering up the sidewalk toward Elbel.

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The band's trombone section works on their formation during a Labor Day rehearsal at Elbel Field.

Almost every Monday through Friday during football season, you can catch this parade of the UM Marching Band and watch its rehearsal – an odd, entertaining mix of rigor and laxity. (Today was an unusual holiday schedule – their regular outdoor rehearsals run from 4:45-6:15 p.m.)

The rigor is reflected in a sort of kind drill sergeant banter from the band’s director – “Fall in!” and “Check that left foot every time!” – and, of course, the (mostly) precise movements and formations.

The laxity comes from, well, these are students, right? In T-shirts and shorts, for the most part, wearing white cotton gloves in various degrees of soiled. And they’re sweaty – soon into rehearsal, some of the boys shed their shirts.

The band director, wearing a mic headset and peering down from a tower overlooking the blacktop, keeps everyone on task. “This week we’re gonna work on maintaining pulse, maintaining that intensity of time, really keeping it pumping,” he says. “Ok, let’s take it up to the first Hail.”

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Several students wore these T-shirts for the marching band's Bible study group.

And they’re off.

Today, a couple dozen spectators watch from metal bleachers next to the practice area, which is marked off in yardlines to mimic the actual field of play. The music is loud and right in your face – too much for some of the smaller children.

For everyone else, it’s hard to beat the spectacle – and it’s free.

If you can’t make it to a game or rehearsal but still want your UM Marching Band fix, their CD – “The Blue Album” – is sold online for $20. You’ll get The Victors and Let’s Go Blue, obviously, as well as a range of two dozen other songs, from Hey Jude and Stairway to Heaven to a video game medley and Candide – can’t accuse these guys of not being eclectic.