By Cole Komma
Ames247 Staff Writer
As students get back into the flow of classes, the sounds of drums and horns can be heard echoing across campus. That music comes from the Iowa State University Cyclone Football “Varsity” Marching Band, and the group is back in full swing to prepare for the upcoming football season.
Striving for Perfection
In sixth grade, Brett Ebert would play an instrument that would become one of the main driving forces in his life.
This instrument was a snare drum, and it would forever alter his way of thinking. After falling in love with the drum from the start, Ebert never looked back. Now, Ebert, senior in mechanical engineering, is the tenor drum section leader for the Iowa State University Cyclone Football Varsity Marching Band.
“I marched in high school, but it was nothing like this,” Ebert said. “Everything is grander here, the forms, the pieces, the field.”
Ebert’s job as section leader is simple: to aid the other section members in areas such as technique, style and performance etiquette. But to make the cut for the job, potential leaders must first be tested in several areas.
“Our selection process for our section leaders, or guides as we refer to them, is a combination of application, interview and teaching ability,” said Steven Smyth, main conductor of the marching band.
Ebert noted that the potential for new section leaders becomes evident as the year goes on, based on the musicians that show good signs of leadership.
“Everyone begins to know everyone,” Ebert said,” so the choice more or less becomes obvious toward the end of the year.”
After college, Ebert plans to begin teaching private lessons and and elementary school music classes.
“It was because of those classes that inspired me to play drums, and I want to continue that legacy,” Ebert said.
But for the time being, Ebert will be busy making the ISU marching band as “close to perfection” as possible.
“The main focus of the section leader is to strive for perfection,” Ebert said.
A Day in the Life of the ISUCFVMB
8 a.m.: Arrive and stretch, prepare for the day’s activities
9 a.m.: Discuss pieces to practice and review pieces practiced earlier that week
10 a.m.: Play “The Bells of Iowa State” in four part harmony for a warm up
11 a.m.: Practice in sections
Noon: Break for lunch
12:30 p.m.: Practice in sections
4:3o p.m.: Break for dinner
6 to 9 p.m.: Practice in sections
Before the school year begins, the students involed in ISU Marching Band undergo a harsh training schedule.
“Basically we start at 8 a.m., play for four hours, get a half hour break for lunch, play for four more hours, then get an hour and a half for dinner, then four more hours of playing, then we go to bed.” Ebert explained. That equates to roughly 12 hours of playing for over two weeks.
Steven Smyth, main conductor of the band, explained the purpose behind this training schedule.
“Freshmen, or new recruits, are required to participate in a basic marching camp over the summer that lets them learn the basics of marching,” Smyth said “They then audition in the fall for a spot in the Varsity Marching band.”
This year, only 382 of the 450 students that auditioned made the cut for this year’s marching band.
“We hope that the students that didn’t make it in this year will stay involved in the other six enselmbles in the music department and try out again their sophomore year,” Smyth said.
Who is Steven Smyth?
Director Steven Smyth followed the same path Brett Ebert took in college.
“Dr. Smyth was also tenor section leader in college and learned a lot of the skills that I’m learning now that have really helped him in his career,” Ebert said.
Though he is still relatively new to the band, Smyth has been a part of the Iowa State marching band experience for years.
“I am very honored to have been a member of this band back in what seems likes the dark ages, the 90s. I have taught music at all levels and all size schools,” Smyth said. “The marching band at Iowa State has a very unique family feel. Because of this sense of family, we have one of the highest retention rates in the country.”
The Varsity Marching band attracts fans of all ages and Smyth recalls a parade he attended as a child.
“ I remember the band chanting ‘Oh we hate the Hawks’ to a really cool beat played by the drumline, and turned and told my mother that I would play the drums in the band someday. Now I run it…pretty cool,” Smyth said.
Who is in the band?
Want to be in Marching Band?
Email Steven Smyth at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.