new look boosts USU marching band's image
September 8, 2006 | Thanks to the generosity of David and Amie Dunkley, the
Utah State University Marching Band will have a new
look as members take the field in the university's home
football opener. The process of getting to the final
uniform has been thorough, and there is a collective
sigh of relief as the band's members agree — it's
great to be able to wear new uniforms. It's been 17
years since members of the Aggie Marching Band have
been able to say that.
"The marching band has a storied
tradition in the history of college football,"
said USU's Athletics Director Randy Spetman. "The
pageantry and excitement created by the band helps draw
fans to the games and makes alumni proud of their university."
USU's Director of Bands Thomas P. Rohrer coordinated
the uniform project that included student input. A student
committee made up of members from band leadership and
the band service organizations — Kappa Kappa Psi
and Tau Beta Sigma — provided an initial design
for the new uniforms. The final version incorporated
original logos and symbols by designer Ben Barnes, a
USU graduate, that visually represent the band and the
university. Following fine tuning and consultation with
the Dunkleys, the uniforms were ordered.
"One hundred and fifty uniforms have been ordered,"
Rohrer said. "That way we can fit 100 people, given
size variances from year to year."
The uniform includes a coat, pants, hat and plume and
"stadium parkas" to wear over the uniform
in bad weather. The uniforms are being made by Fruhauf
Uniforms Inc. in Wichita, Kan.
The band uniforms at USU were last replaced in 1989.
Rohrer said the dark blue uniforms feature a classic
and timeless design that can be used into the foreseeable
future. The styling is traditional, with a tapered long
back to flatter the shape of every band person.
The typical lifespan of a band uniform is 10 years,
Rohrer said. However, USU went with a traditional design
that can be used beyond that time. Uniforms will be
replaced a few at a time every five years or so or as
the need arises.
"This eliminates the burden of a huge, one-time
purchase," Rohrer said. "Many of the well-known
bands in the country have used the same uniform design
for many years. We want to establish a standard look
and identity for our marching band, and the new uniforms
The USU Marching Band includes 85 to 110 members who
are admitted through auditions in the music department
as prospective music majors, or by contacting the band
office during the school year. Students receive summer
mailings and audition for the band during "Fundamentals
Week," the week before classes start on the USU
"We shamelessly believe that this week-long band
camp, hosted by upperclassmen from every discipline
on campus, is the best orientation new students can
get to college life at Utah State," Rohrer said.
Like most college marching bands, participating students
can get academic credit. It is part of the instrumental
music education curriculum at Utah State. Members also
receive a stipend for playing in the marching band,
but it doesn't come close to compensating students for
arriving a week early on campus and for at least six
Saturday performances, Rohrer said.
"We sincerely respect the service provided by our
students to the university," Rohrer said. "Our
compensation levels are not as high as those at comparable
The marching band performs at all home football games
in Logan and at selected in-state road games, Rohrer
said. The group can be seen in the homecoming parade
and at the end of the season in a popular indoor concert,
the annual "Sounds of the Stadium."
When Rohrer puts a half-time show together, he draws
upon his Midwestern background from "Big-Ten Country,"
he said. New shows are planned for all home games, although
some back-to-back weekends see a show repeated.
"We have a wide variety of themes in the shows,
not only for our audience but for the motivation of
our band students," Rohrer said. "The difficulty
is determined by the time allotted to learn the material
— simpler routines or music come on the short
Spetman said the enthusiasm of the marching band can
influence the outcome of a game.
"The band's energy can affect the home fans, making
it very difficult for a visiting team to get its rhythm,"
he said. "When the fans are excited, our teams
play harder and better and the result is history."
Because the USU Marching Band is not excessively large,
the group performs one sophisticated dance routine in
each show, Rohrer said.
"No one in the region — to my knowledge —
does this," he said. "We hope to develop this
aspect as an identity. We want to entertain through
the quality of the performance over the quantity of
To those unfamiliar with the program, it might be a
surprise to learn that less than half of the Aggie Marching
Band are music majors. The last time Rohrer conducted
a formal survey, 41 academic majors were represented
by band members. In collegiate marching bands, it is
the non-music major who provides the critical mass and
the emotional core of the athletic bands, he said.
Members of the band are especially loyal, Rohrer continued.
"Our students stay in the band because they enjoy
the activity, the music and the fellowship," he
said. "The term 'it's a band thing' is really true
and can only be understood by those who have experienced
Rohrer admits he does not like the term "band nerd"
because the dedicated students in the organization are
very far from "nerds."
"I have yet to see an accurate portrayal of bands
on television or in films," he said. "The
combination of physical demand, along with the intellect
and motor skill that comes from years of disciplined
practice, are to be respected, not mocked."
"We are extremely appreciative of our Aggie band
members," Spetman said. "They dedicate much
of their personal time to practice and preparation for
the game-day performance. Band members are true professionals
who represent this university with class. We are very
fortunate to have so many individuals who have dedicated
themselves to wearing Aggie blue and white."
Rohrer believes the new uniforms will contribute to
the future development and reputation of the band.
"Ultimately, we want to convey a specific identity
for the bands at Utah State, not only as the premier
institution in the tri-state region for training band
directors, but as a marching band that, despite being
smaller than some marching bands in the state, is the
most enthusiastic, unique and entertaining show-band
in the region," Rohrer concluded.
"When we take the field on Sept. 16 against the
University of Utah, it will be a great day for Utah
State," Spetman said. "Our football team and
our band will be displaying new uniforms, continuing
the proud Aggie tradition. Don't be left out, join the
excitement and be at Romney Stadium."