Game days in The Swamp create many sights and sounds that make it a signature event. People from across the country travel down to Gainesville to pick out their perfect tailgate spot where they can grill and play corn hole. The campus comes alive on Saturdays as 90,000 fans pack Ben Hill Griffin stadium to watch Dan Mullen and the Gators take on the visiting team and leave with another win. All of these things culminate to make game day great, but it wouldn’t be the same without one thing: roughly 365 college students in matching uniforms providing the soundtrack to the two greatest hours of the weekend.
One of the biggest rewards of joining college marching band has been, of course, the football.
Like everyone else, I felt apprehensive going into the football season because of last year’s record. The energy in the stadium after our first big win, however, was incredible. Because of Gator Band I didn’t miss a single home game. I could feel how excited the fans got when they saw Coach Mullen and the team run out onto the field and watching it up close and personal was amazing. Coach Mullen even came to one of the first Gator Band rehearsals of the season, and after hearing him tell us how excited he was for us to cheer on the team, I knew this season would be special.
This season turned out special indeed, and it led me to two incredibly memorable away trips. My first away trip was to Starkville, Mississippi to watch the Gators play the Mississippi State —a tense game as Coach Mullen had left the Bulldogs the prior season. A little-known fact about away trips is that not only do we get to travel for free, but we get a small stipend to spend during these trips. I explored the town of Starkville with some of my newfound band friends and, of course, watched the Gators beat the Bulldogs in their own stadium.
The best trip of the year, however, was getting to travel to Atlanta, Georgia for the Peach Bowl.
A bowl trip is a trip unlike any other. We were given a free day in Atlanta the day before the big game. Everywhere we went someone right around the corner would be wearing the infamous orange and blue. Aside from the win, stepping onto a professional NFL stadium fulfilled a long-help dream of mine. I dreamed of marching in front of a big crowd for years, and I will remember the exhilaration of being on a field of that size forever.
Even more unforgettable, however, are the bonds I have made through Gator Band. Unless you’re a part of the organization, few people truly understand what it feels like to be in a college marching band. Each section has their own traditions and sayings—the piccolos have a catchphrase, for example—and it goes without saying that the friends you make here will last a lifetime.
Additionally, three Greek letter organizations have become available to Gator Band: Sigma Alpha Iota, Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma, the latter of which I am lucky enough to call myself a sister. These service-based organizations function to serve the band and make friends across the various sections. Becoming a sister turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for me to talk to people in band I normally would never have spoken to and create an unbreakable bond with them.
Of course, none of this comes without hard work.
Balancing 8 to 12 hours of rehearsal every week on top of taking 12 credit hours a semester presents many challenges. As with any organization, it becomes frustrating and nearly impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is a light, though-metaphorically and literally. The best memory I have of this band will always be the first fall game of the season. The band begins pregame by rushing onto the field out of a tiny tunnel while the drumline plays a beat until everyone stands on the field. The feeling of going from a small, crowded space to a huge field with 90,000 screaming fans will make you speechless. It’s a thrill that never goes away no many how many times you get to experience it.