August 20, 2012

Most LSU fans will tell you that the familiar taps of the drumline as the Golden Band from Tiger Land takes the field send chills down their backs. As fans stand alongside 93,000 of their closest friends, Tiger Band members treat them to a pregame show that fosters a sense of camaraderie that rival teams fear.

For petroleum engineering junior and third-year Tiger Band member from Gonzales, La., Michael Lacombe, being part of one of the top ten bands in the country, according to the Huffington Post, is an experience unparalleled at any other school.

While Saturdays are fun for engineering majors in Tiger Band, weekdays are serious business. Balancing school and Tiger Band is a lot of work, said Michael Sanders, a civil engineering junior and a third-year saxophone player from Dallas, Texas. Doing both requires sacrifice.

“But it’s worth it,” Sanders said. “I love doing both [engineering and band] so much.”

That’s not Sanders' only responsibility. He is one of the two saxophone section leaders, and he maintains a 3.7 GPA, averaging 16 credit hours each fall semester. He was recently inducted into the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and is a member of Bengal Brass—the pep band for volleyball, basketball and gymnastics, which begins in September.

“If I’m not working hard, I’m not doing anything,” Sanders said. “I like to be challenged, and being in both engineering and band is challenging.”

Tiger Band begins one to two weeks before school, depending on what section of the band students are auditioning for, or whether they’re new or returning members, allowing students to meet and get to know each other early.

When the semester officially begins, rehearsals start immediately. The work week for band members includes a fast-paced rehearsal for an hour and a half Tuesday through Friday. Having a different halftime show for almost every game often requires members to learn an entire eight-minute show in just four days, adding extra pressure to an already strenuous rehearsal. On game days, the band arrives to campus hours before the game to have a final rehearsal in the Indoor Football Facility.

Being a member of the Tiger Band drumline requires even more of a time commitment. Drumline members hold a two-hour rehearsal on Monday nights and practice before the full band rehearsal on game days, in addition to regular band rehearsals.

This fall, Lacombe plans to work his campus job, balance a 16-hour course load and play the cymbals in the band.

“You really have to balance your time and stay on top of schoolwork,” Lacombe said. “You have to find the motivation to come home after practice and do your homework.”

Lacombe uses skills such as practice and repetition that he’s learned in band and applies them to studying and being successful in the College of Engineering.

“Tiger Band gives me something to look forward to in the fall,” Lacombe said. “I pick up more hours in the spring, so I can have my fun in the fall.”

Like drumline members, the Golden Girls put in several more hours than most band members, with extra rehearsals and events. Ragen Turner, an industrial engineering junior from Franklinton, La., is beginning her second year as a Golden Girl and is proud to represent her school through her membership in Tiger Band.

“I know as a member of the Golden Girls and Tiger Band, I have a reputation to uphold and that makes me more motivated to be a better person in all aspects of my life, not just for the public eye, but for my teachers and peers,” Turner said.

Between practices, keeping up appearances, pep rallies, games, studying, homework, classes and work, Turner is challenged on a daily basis. Whether it’s giving up those extra two hours of sleep or having to skip lunch with friends to have a few more hours to work on a project, something is always being sacrificed.

Like Turner, Jay Rewerts, a chemical engineering senior from Lake Charles, La., and a fourth-year trombone player, finds the time to make it all work, balancing a 15-credit hour work load, band and a campus job.

“College without band would probably be boring,” Rewerts said.

Band allows Rewerts to connect with people and make friends. He studies with other chemical engineering majors who are in band and his classes. Balancing work and Tiger Band also teaches him responsibility – being held accountable to be in a certain place at a certain time to do the job he’s been assigned to do.

Rewerts said the biggest challenge is finding time to do it all. Even though members aren’t required to go to a certain number of away games, he enjoys going. It adds to the camaraderie of the band experience, he said.

Away trips also require members to miss classes and tests, as the trip almost always consumes Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Rewerts has to collaborate with professors to make up work, and he studies on the bus to make the most of his time. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without Tiger Band and chemical engineering,” Rewerts said. “It’s a fantastic experience.” 

Any time Jane Olson, a mechanical engineering junior and a two-year trumpet player in Tiger Band from Houston, Texas, tells someone she’s in band, she gets a positive reaction and a “that’s so cool,” she said. Whenever she tells them she’s also an engineering major, she gets a look of shock and concern, she said with a chuckle.

“People always wish me luck, because engineering requires a lot of time,” she said. “At any school in the country, engineering is one of the hardest and most time-consuming majors.”

Add that to band, her campus job, maintaining a 3.0 GPA and her membership in Kappa Kappa Psi, the music fraternity that services Tiger Band and other concert bands in the School of Music, Olson stays busy. Kappa Kappa Psi members do things such as lug enough water into the stadium on game days at 6 a.m. for 325 band members to last an entire football game, set up stages for concert band performances and host ice cream socials and their annual Midnite Madness Halloween fun night for Tiger Band members to get to know each other, she said.

“As an incoming freshman, it’s nice knowing so many people before you start classes,” Olson said in regards to transitioning into college.

Juggling everything, Olson has learned discipline – opening her planner at the start of every week and making sure she knows exactly what she needs to do. She said practicing her music and studying come first, and when that’s done, she can maybe go see a movie later.

Olson’s best advice to incoming engineering bandsmen, “Keep sight of what’s important and what you want in life, especially if you’re in band. Just embrace it.”

The next time the 93,000 fans in Tiger Stadium silence for pregame and chills run down your back, you may look at the students on the field donning the infamous Tiger Band uniforms just a little differently.

For more information about Tiger Band, visit http://www.bands.lsu.edu/index.php.

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Article written by Elise Bernard, communications intern. For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.            



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