I've been in band for a total of 11 years. Half of my life has been dedicated to making music with a long, metal stick with holes in it (known as a flute), and through all the ups and downs, I've grown and matured.
The past four years have taken me through my favorite band experience by far: being a part of the University of Kansas Marching Jayhawks. Marching at the collegiate level is no joke, but the experiences I've had through this organization are completely irreplaceable.
I like to think I and my mini metal stick (a piccolo) have learned a thing or two over the past four seasons. As I approach my final game of the season, and possibly ever, I'd like to share these nuggets for future Marching Jayhawks or for anyone who'd like to know just what exactly I've been doing every Saturday in the fall.
1. Thou shalt always possess a love/hate relationship with fhakis
Fake khakis, or "fhakis" as they're affectionately called, are part of our summer uniform. Essentially, they are khaki-colored athletic shorts and are worn with blue KU polos and our marching shoes.
Because they're worn when Game Day calls for obnoxiously high temperatures, they're a wonderful alternative than the layers upon layers of polyester that are our normal uniforms. However, they make us look like 270 dads marching to the barbecue, so a Marching Jayhawk has to ask if it's really worth it in the long run.
2. Thou shalt never walk on the Jayhawk on Game Day
Marching Jayhawks kick off every Game Day with a morning rehearsal in Memorial Stadium, which features our wonderful mascot in the middle of the field. It's said that it's bad luck to walk on it during rehearsal, so one must avoid it at all costs (marching across it is fine, for obvious reasons).
Trust me, we need all the good luck we can get. Don't walk on it.
3. Thou shalt always remove thy hat during Home on the RangeGiphy
Following every home football game, we all take a seat, remove our hats, and play a slow rendition of "Home on the Range," Kansas's state song. No matter what happens during the game itself, the song serves to unite our family and remind everyone that we still respect our roots.
With such serious subject matter afoot, it's completely natural for a couple calls of "Hats off!" before we actually start playing. Don't forget to take your hat off, or an upperclassmen might just "accidentally" scalp you.
4. Thou shalt always stretch in cadenceGiphy
Look, we can physically fight later about whether or not marching band is a sport (because it is, hands down, I will throw hands). However, marching involves lots of body movement, especially during band camp and Game Days.
Because of this, we usually start the day with a group-stretch session. Like everything else in band, though, we stretch in time.
It's a bit hard to explain in writing, but just know that the correct response to "relax" is always "NEVER!"
5. Thou shalt never "woo"
It's simple physics, really. We do the "Rock Chalk Chant" twice. You don't "woo" during the break.
You just don't.
6. Thou shalt always get nasty
Jessica Janasz Photography
"Get nasty" is in reference to a particular 4th-down drum cadence, but this commandment covers all movements in band.
As a Marching Jayhawk, you move. A lot. You get down, you get jiggy with it, and you boogie almost constantly. There are specified movements for drum breaks, we have whole songs that have coordinated moves, and our shows almost always have a dance break somewhere.
If you aren't moving, you look weird. So, just let loose and get nasty.
7. Thou shalt take Dr. Smith's sayings to thine heart
Dr. Matthew Smith. Our head director and fearless co-leader (along with Ms. Toulouse, of course) is in charge of making sure we look like an actual marching band as opposed to a bunch of hoodlums with expensive instruments.
It's difficult to relate to 270 college students who are coming from numerous majors and backgrounds, but Dr. Smith finds a way to do so. One primary way he does this is enlightening us with colloquialisms he makes up almost assuredly on the spot.
Some of these include "I love you, but I don't trust you" and "If you aren't moving, no one wants to date you!" There are many more notable ones, but they, unfortunately, need much more backstory than I'm able to provide.
8. Thou shalt brave each and every Game Day plunge with grace
Marching at KU is particularly treacherous on Game Days. Between marching down the hill and run-down at the beginning of pregame, there are many mountains that a Marching Jayhawk must descend carefully and strategically.
The most important lesson to note here is that if a Marching Jayhawk falls down, they must get back up as soon as possible or roll out of the way, lest they get trampled.
9. Thou shalt always double-check thy cape
The capes we have with our uniform are double-sided. As snazzy as this is, it can lead to some confusion to which cape to wear when. It's important for a Marching Jayhawk to double-check that the cape they have on is the correct one.
Let me put it this way: you do not want to be the only person with a white cape in a sea of red ones. You'll stand out in a not-so-pleasant way.
10. Thou shalt always clean thy Dinks
Okay, I might be a little biased being on said uniform staff, but clean Dinkles mean a put-together, utterly stunning uniform, which means the uniform staff are all happy campers.
Just clean your Dinks.
11. Thou shalt always know when and where hog-calling isGiphy
This is a tradition that is most definitely a secret but not really a secret at the same time. So, I'll just say that if you know, you know.
12. Thou shalt always treasure thy cord
Jessica Janasz Photography
Cords are a prized possession of any Marching Jayhawk. Received when one has memorized all ten of our fight songs, the cords represent both that achievement and the overwhelming awesomeness of being a Marching Jayhawk. The different colors correspond to the different years one is a part of the program (white is one, red is two, silver is three, gold is four).
Cords are worn with obvious pride on the right shoulder of the uniform and then displayed typically on rearview mirrors after the season is done. One of my favorite activities is spotting fellow band members across the U.S. purely based on their hanging cords in their cars.
13. Thou shalt always call for "Chase"Giphy
There comes a point at every Game Day that the whole band unanimously decides that it's time to play "Chase," a song that features the trumpet and loud yelling from the rest of the band.
When this time comes, we become persistent in asking the drum major to call it. Then, we get downright annoying. We've even taught Big Jay and Baby Jay the sign for it.
Look for it next time you're at a game. If you see all of us doing what looks like a one-finger clap with our thumb and pointer finger, then you'll know the Marching Jayhawks have reached that point.
14. Thou shalt never look at the video boardGiphy
The video board is that big screen at the end of Memorial Stadium where it shows clips of the game, and, more relevantly, clips of our shows. For civilians, it can be a useful tool to see details one wouldn't see in one's normal seat.
For Marching Jayhawks, however, looking at the screen can be quite confusing, as there's a slight playback delay. In reality, if a Marching Jayhawk is looking up there for clues to what's going on, they're already so far behind that the rest of the band has already lapped them (either metaphorically or literally).
15. Though shalt never forget that it is always a great day to be a Jayhawk
Shouted with love at the end of everything we do, it is indeed always a great day to be a Jayhawk.
While there are millions of other parts of this program I haven't done justice to, I hope I've shed some light on the amazing things I've been able to do with the Marching Jayhawks these past four years.
I've made memories I will always treasure, and I will continue to hang my cords proudly on my car mirror wherever I go to remind me of the people and the program that has given me so much.
Good luck, future Marching Jayhawks, and remember to always keep calm and choose Chik-fil-a.