The SIU football team wasn’t the only group on campus that made its 2012 home debut Saturday.
The Marching Salukis, who have been practicing four times a week for the past month, braved the rain Saturday night to perform at Saluki Stadium as the football team faced Southeast Missouri State.
Director George Brozak said the band is an important part of the atmosphere at games. He said it brings a lot of school loyalty and spirit to the games.
“I think the kids in the band are the biggest supporters of the team,” he said. “They are the ones that cheer as loud as anybody at the game. They have a lot of spirit for the school.”
The performance team is made up of about 100 students including the instrumentalists, dancers and color guard. The group began its season with band camp a week before the semester started and has been practicing ever since, Brozak said.
The band began to prepare for the game at 10 a.m. Saturday and, after a break for lunch, returned at 4 p.m. to finish around 9 p.m.
William Zapp, a freshman from St. Louis studying music, said while the band’s practices can be long and exhausting, he enjoys it. Saturday was his first game as a Marching Saluki, and he said he’s excited for the season.
“My favorite part is the peppiness and the fun,” he said. “I’m pretty excited for the season to get started.”
Brozak said the students receive one credit-hour for their participation in the band. With weeks where participation can go over 10 hours, Brozak said the students aren’t in the band solely for the credit.
“The people like playing and entertaining the crowds,” he said. “That’s their biggest reward.”
Brozak said the band is composed of primarily non-music majors. Music majors don’t have to be in the band unless they are music education majors who are required to do marching band for one year.
“We welcome everybody,” Brozak said. “Eighty percent of our students are not music majors. They are just people who want to keep playing. They played in high school and they play an instrument or twirl a flag.”
Brozak said the hardest part each year is learning the band’s drill, which is all of the formations they do on the field visually. He said the members are required to memorize the music, too, which also takes time.
In an age where stadiums include JumboTrons and sound systems, Brozak said he chooses songs that students will recognize off the radio so the band will stay relevant.
“This year we have two Maroon 5 songs — ‘Payphone’ and ‘Moves like Jagger,’” Brozak said. “We also have a Pitbull song. We try to do stuff that will connect with students.”
Jacob Gorecki, a freshman from Carbondale studying music education, said his favorite part is pleasing the crowd and knowing he’s done a good job.
“The best part is blasting high notes and the energy,” he said. “I’m pretty excited.”