11 a.m. kick off? 2:30 p.m. kick off? 6 p.m. kick off on a Friday? It doesn't matter what time the game starts because if you're in a college marching band, your game day experience starts a good six or seven hours before the actual game begins. Being a part of the Marching Illini has made my college experience truly amazing. We put in hard work and countless hours every week as we progress towards perfecting a new halftime show for each home game, and there is nothing more rewarding than performing the finished show during an Illini Football game that weekend.

Here is a look into the typical game day experience for a member of the Marching Illini Color Guard... the best section in the land!

Friday night prior to game day and Saturday, game day! (Based on an 11 a.m. kick-off)

4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: Practice


March out down a busy street of campus starting at the Armory and ending at the practice field! For normal practice days, we just meet at our field and begin rehearsal, but the day before games, we all march out in our parade block together.

10:30 p.m.-11 p.m.: Friday Night Hype!

Marching Illini Instagram

Attend "Friday Night Hype"--a performance by the Illini Drumline at the beloved Alma Statue to get hyped up for the game the next day.

4 a.m.: Wake up! 


Guard makeup time! Breakfast! Layer up--temps can be in the low 20s at this time of the day during the colder parts of the season.

7 a.m.-8:30 a.m.: Game Day Rehearsal

Amanda Brennan

Run and fix minor parts of the halftime show, pregame, and 3-in-1.

9 a.m.: Grange Grove Performance

Amanda Brennan

The first performance of the day at Grange Grove! Perform favorite Illini tunes on the steps leading into the stadium as the football team walks in for the game.

9:15 a.m.: Lunch


Eat lunch. That's right. Lunch. At 9:15 in the morning! Good ol' Jimmy Johns. Can you believe we've been at this for 5 hours already?

10 a.m.: March Out!

Uniform inspection, more time to warm up our instruments and equipment as we prepare to MARCH OUT! Personally, "march out" is my favorite part of the day as we parade around campus chanting about our beloved Illini with family, friends, and fans watching on sidewalks as we make our way to the stadium! Check it out here

10:20 a.m.: Pregame!

Marching Illini Instagram

Once we are at the stadium, our main performances begin! We start with our 10-minute pregame show, complete with the Star Spangled Banner, the visiting team's fight song, and conclude with various Illinois fight songs.

11 a.m.: Kickoff!

Marching Illini Instagram

Finally! Kick off! The game starts! Throughout the game, the band plays "stands tunes" in our seats in front of the Block I student section to keep the crowd pumped and to continue cheering on our team!

12:30-ish: Halftime Show!

Amanda Brennan

For every home game, we perform a new show consisting of three movements! This means when we have multiple home games back-to-back weekends, we have about four days to learn new drill, guard routines, and music. This past season we performed songs from Star Wars, E.T., Incredibles, Beauty and the Beast, and more!

2 p.m.: Game finishes

Amanda Brennan

Hopefully, at this point, we are playing fight songs once again for an Illini win, but win or lose, we cheer them on and stay until the end of every game.

2:30 p.m.: March Out again!

Yup, another parade around campus on our way to a post-game performance at the Education Building! Not done yet!

2:50-ish: Post Game Concert

Marching Illini Instagram

Play a few songs from the day, the Alma Mater, make announcements, and finally, our director dismisses us! Gameday complete... nearly 12 hours later.

Being a member of the Marching Illini is fantastic and a large time commitment, but I couldn't imagine college any other way! If you're in high school looking at continuing to march in college, I would definitely recommend it!