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A spirit that is not afraid

Marching band makes a field show

On to victory, strike up the band.

While field shows by Auburn University Marching Band may seem effortless when performed, a large amount of preparation is involved for the season.

"The band has a preseason camp that starts 10 days before the start of classes in August," said Corey Spurlin, marching band director. "During the camp, we practice from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and then we have team-building activities after practice. Once classes begin, we practice Tuesday through Friday from 3:30 to 4:50, and we have a two-hour rehearsal on Saturday mornings before the game."

Spurlin ultimately chooses music for the show, although a number of factors contribute to what selections are made final.

"I make the final decision about the music that is performed, but I take suggestions from the students in the band and from fans," Spurlin said. "Our staff listens to a variety of music throughout the year, but especially in February and March to select halftime show music for the upcoming season. We try to perform music that will be recognizable to our audience, and usually our selections fit within a certain theme."

Nick Householder, junior in aerospace engineering, said music is sometimes relevant to current events.

Householder said the band performed a Michael Jackson-themed show last year in acknowledgement of Jackson's death.

"Really, I think they try to find things, musically, that will be cool and sound cool," Householder said.

The potential for choreography is another factor that contributes to the selection of music.

"We also try to select music that offers visual opportunities as well, since marching band is a medium that combines music and the visual representation of music," Spurlin said.

Locations and formations on the field must be learned by band members and the flag team in order to execute choreography known as a drill.

"Our location on the field, the shapes they make, that's our drill," Householder said.

Spurlin said drills must be learned one formation at a time. Practices are conducted without instruments until band members are comfortable enough to add music.

"The students are given charts and are assigned a particular letter (representing their instrument) and a number within their section," Spurlin said. "They look at the location on the football field for their particular letter and number, and they go find that spot on the field. To find their spot, they use the yard lines, hash marks and an extra vertical grid that we add to our practice field."

Spurlin said five or six shows may be used in one season.

"We try not to play the same show more than two or three times in a row," said Isaac Lim, junior in computer science. "So far, we've had three different shows. We started with a Frank Sinatra-themed show, then for our student section show, we played a Van Halen-themed show, and recently, we showcased Lady Gaga for the Honor Band show."

Householder said the band typically learns one big show during the preseason camp, and then adds various smaller shows throughout the fall that may only be used one time each.

"A lot of times, we'll learn those basically in a week," he said.

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According to Householder, past themes have included Irish music, Latin music, movie music and sing-alongs.

"I think the greatest response I've seen was during a halftime show, when we've done a sing-along show," Householder said. "During that show, the whole student section was singing during 'Livin' on a Prayer.'"

Spurlin said the band appreciates the opportunity to be a part of the game day celebration.

"We appreciate the support of the Auburn family and love being a part of the great game day traditions on our campus," Spurlin said. "We receive so many positive e-mails and comments each week about our shows, which means so much to us considering the amount of time and resources that go into each production."

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