On the gridiron
New roles for the marching band
Archived article from Oct 19, 2001
By Douglas Frank
Shiny helmets and crisp white pants are part of the Rutgers University Marching Band's uniform this year, but no item of clothing is more valued by the musicians than a simple white practice T-shirt bearing the Scarlet inscription "...the 12th Man."
That honorific was bestowed on band members by none other than new head football coach Greg Schiano, whose attention to detail extends not only to the lineup, the coaches, and the Xs and Os on the blackboard, but also to the Scarlet Knights' support network.
The band has become part of that network, more so than in the past, says band director Tim Smith, who is in his first year of overseeing musical activities on fall Saturdays in Rutgers Stadium.
Schiano met with Smith for an hour before the season to discuss ways the band could become as much a part of the program as the mascot, says the band director. As a result of this unprecedented meeting, several new traditions were instituted, starting with the T-shirts.
For one thing, the band has been moved to the end zone section from the home team sideline. Now fans on both sides of the field can hear the band clearly. In addition, according to Smith, "Coach Schiano was very vocal about our playing and being a disruptive force against the other team, helping make our stadium a very difficult place to play in."
The band has also become a key participant in a new tradition at the Hale Center, the "Scarlet Walk," instituted by Schiano. Two hours before each game, the players touch the statue commemorating the first college football game before traversing a gauntlet of band members and fans.
Another new tradition, arising from the brainstorming session, is a pregame ceremony revolving around a new fanfare, "Knight Call," written especially to call out the Scarlet Knight, who enters the stadium and thrusts his sword into the turf. This signals the band to play "Colonel Rutgers" as the team rushes onto the field.
The marching band started as an 11-member ensemble in 1915 to play music for weekly drills for the Rutgers College Cadet Corps. Today the 150-member group, including color guard, plays at all home games, performing pregame, halftime and postgame presentations. The band traveled to Temple Oct. 13 for its one away game of the season. After football season, many marching band members continue to play with the Rutgers University Pep Band, which performs at soccer, lacrosse and basketball games.
A Rutgers graduate, Smith was assistant band director for three years until he was named director of athletic bands this past summer. A percussionist, he never played for a Rutgers band but was active in his high school band. He returned to Rutgers several years ago as a music graduate student and became a graduate assistant in the band.
He feels a special affinity with Schiano, since both are in the first year of their tenures. "It's tough getting new programs instituted. We're suffering through growth, and it's difficult asking people to be patient. But I'm looking forward to traveling to a bowl game before long," he says.