Freshman Survival Guide : Mellophone edition
Outlined below is a guide to being a freshman in the UW Band. Our step, along with our
style, is as intense as any college marching band you will ever encounter. As such, the
upperclass have prepared a document that will help you through your first year; from
registration week to the last fifth quarter. You are well advised to READ THIS!
Transition Summer Before Tryouts
The UW Band requires a level of physicality unlike many other roll-stepping
bands. Our step is a high impact, mechanical step that will be very tiring to your
cardiovascular system as well as your muscular system; you will use muscles you
didn‟t know you had. To prepare for this during your transition summer, you can
do a few things:
o Running / Jogging. After building up the stamina to run a few miles, try
holding your breath while you jog (16 steps of holding breath, 4 steps of
breathing.) This will emulate the feeling of playing into your horn while
you are exerting yourself.
o Jumping Rope. This is a high impact activity similar to what you will
experience in the UW Band.
o Find music for On Wis and memorize it.
o If you know of someone in the band, have them show you our step during
one of your off days and practice it before you come.
Upperclass Reg Week / Drum Major Tryouts
The upperclass hold their registration week the week before freshmen begin
practice. Drum Major tryouts and rehearsal for the first game occurs during this
week. You are well advised to come to one of these rehearsals or to the DM
tryouts so you know what to expect as a member in the UW Band. Listening to
the whistles and seeing it before you try it for yourself can separate you from the
other incoming freshmen. The upperclass schedule can be found on the band
Freshman Reg Week
Welcome freshman to Registration Week. This is your first encounter with the
UW marching band as a potential member. The first week will undoubtedly be
the most demanding and difficult week during your time with the UW Band. The
upperclass have been there and even though they may yell at you, THEY ARE
HERE TO HELP YOU! Find the leaders of the section and ASK THEM
QUESTIONS! We cannot help you if we don‟t know there is a problem!
Hopefully all of you have moved in early to the dorms. This is crucial because
coming to all of the rehearsals is very important. If you miss any it will
drastically reduce your chance of making the field; not to say that it is impossible.
If you know you will miss a rehearsal, let an upperclassman or Mike know about
it. Again, the schedule for rehearsals along with a wide range of other
information can be found at the band website; badgerband.com.
Be sure you are eating well during this week and during the season in general.
Fruits are good for vitamins and minerals and are „light weight‟ foods. Bananas
are especially good because they prevent cramping. Carbs are your friend too,
Atkins Diet = Bad. Protein after practice to rebuild muscle can be found in fish
and chicken. Many small meals are better than a few big ones. Save dairy for the
end of the day if you can.
BRING WATER! Take what you think you will need and then double or triple
Many members find it worthwhile to invest in a massive amount of Gatorade.
Gatorade is useful in replenishing some energy, when water may just not be
enough. Pick your favorite flavor. Make a friend, go to the store, and buy different
flavors and share!
Drink water before practice begins. Your performance suffers if you are
dehydrated. If you feel thirsty, you are dehydrated. Be „Sloshy‟ before you
come. Usually 12-20oz before hand and up to a half gallon or even more during
practice. Hydrate afterwards as well.
You will not need to bring your own mellophone to rehearsal for the first week.
However, if you do have access to one, BRING IT! The upperclassmen will let
you use their horns for the duration, but it would be most beneficial to all if you
could bring one.
Wear an athletic outfit to the first rehearsal. You don‟t want to be that one
freshman who wore jeans to the first practice. We will probably nickname you
Wrangler and you will never live it down.
Wear Non-cleated athletic shoes. The Adidas‟ Sambas are a popular choice.
Your shoes will get destroyed, so if you don‟t get sambas wear something that can
be ruined without any teardrops.
If you burn easily, or even if you don‟t, bring waterproof sunblock. If you get
sunburned the first day of Reg Week, the rest of the week will be unbearable.
The audition for part placement is very informal. Don‟t rehearse a class A solo
for it. You will probably play a chromatic scale as high as you can go and then
sight read something of moderate difficulty. It takes ~3 Minutes. Every part is
Memorize On Wisconsin! We estimate that you end up playing On Wis a couple
of thousand times per year. If for nothing else, MEMORIZE THE LYRICS. You
will be told to sing your favorite song, and that should not include anything from
the Backstreet Boys.
We march 22.5” Steps unless you are between hashes it is 24”. There is a 4
step interval between you and everyone around you making them 90 or 96
Inches away. There are eight steps to every five yards. It is said that we
march “Eight to Five”.
Listen to instructions! If we say march 32 steps and come back 32 and you march
34 we will see it. If Mike is looking for anything in the first few rehearsals it is
FOCUS! You are all going to look terrible in the first few days; it‟s the people
who can focus and listen to instructions that will unquestionably dominate over
However, if you are going to make a mistake, MAKE IT BIG! Go into every
move or note with confidence. Commit to it before you make it. Better to make
the wrong move with 100% intensity than to make the right one with none. Your
mentality should be “I‟m going to nail this turn coming up” not “I hope this turn
isn‟t wrong, maybe I should wait and see what he does.”
At the end of reg week Mike will put out a „block‟ that contains names. The
block is separated horizontally into Ranks and vertically into Files. A rank is a
group of 10-12 people you will march with throughout the season. People in your
rank will all play the mellophone. There are 28 ranks in the band (1-25 and A, B
and C). Each rank will march 8 people on the field at a time. There are 8 Files
corresponding to each spot. Rank leaders will carry the 1 file. For example if
your number is 221, you are the rank leader (File 1) of rank 22. There are 5
possibilities when examining the first block:
o Full Spot – Your last name will appear in a box in the block with a number
by it all by your lonesome. This means that you will fill that spot during
the pregame and halftime shows. A sliver of freshmen make this spot,
even in the trumpet section. Less than one each year, on average. You
will be issued a full uniform and an instrument.
o Half Spot – Your last name will appear in a box in the block with a
number by it along with another persons name. The box will be separated
horizontally. The persons name on top will march pregame. The persons
name on the bottom will march halftime. You will be issued a full
uniform and an instrument. Many freshmen will fall in this category.
o Alternate – Your last name will appear in a box in the block that does not
have a number in it, but will be horizontally in line with one of the 11
trumpet ranks. You have made the band but do not have a spot on the
field. You will be issued a uniform and an instrument. If someone falls
and breaks a leg, you are in. Many freshmen will fall in this category.
o Sweatered Alternate – Your last name will appear at the bottom of the
block in a box that does not have a number in it. You will wear a red band
sweater and black pants to the games. You will not initially be put into a
rank, but a rank leader is likely to adopt you. You will play along with us
but will not see the field. You will not be issued a full uniform and
depending on availability, may or may not be issued an instrument. Some
of you will fall in this category.
o Cut – You didn‟t make the band. Your name will not appear in the block.
You are welcome to try out again next year, and will have an advantage
over the others who are trying out. If you would like to know what you
need to improve upon for next year, see Mike.
Your First Gameday Week
If you are going to miss practice, you personally need to let your rank leader
know. If your excuse isn‟t good enough to personally tell your rank leader, it‟s
not good enough to miss practice.
Even if you are on the sidelines for pregame and/or halftime you must still be
marching and trying to learn the moves. You never know when mike will decide
to throw you in. Also, if someone from your rank is not there for a rehearsal you
should take initiative and ask to march for them!
Organize your flip folder with pregame music on one side and halftime music on
the other. You‟ll need atleast 10 pages. It would be wise to get 15.
Pick up a grease pencil from the bookstore in their art department near the back.
They are $.75. Get a few. Find a lanyard or shoestring and tie the pencil to it.
You will use this to mark the moves on your flip-folder during practice.
Tuesday we will go through music and begin charting the show. Get there earlier
on Tuesdays to mark your moves. Charts are usually at the tower 30min before
practice. We watch film of the previous week‟s game after Tuesday‟s practice at
the McClain Center near the stadium. Wednesday we finish charting and run
through parts of pregame and halftime. Thursday and Friday we will polish both
shows with repetitions.
This isn‟t actually taught by any means even though it is of extreme importance;
but the rule, almost always, is guide to the center. It is the tubas‟ and drums‟
responsibility to set the interval. Remember, if you are in the right spot, but out
of line, YOU ARE WRONG!
Diagonals compensate for vertical and horizontal discrepancies. Use them as a
reference when guiding.
Dirt „grids‟ will usually be worn into a grass practice field after a few hours of
marching. Do not use these to guide, as often times they can be incorrect.
We practice early on gamedays, usually 7am. Most often, it takes place at our
practice field. If you don‟t show up to morning practice you lose two
performance spots (pregame / halftime). If you are late, you lose one
Depending on your status as a freshman, you will most likely be asked to carry a
„shitbag‟ for your rank. All you need to do is wear a backpack and carry random
things for people in the rank (Wallets, Hats, Etc.) We all did it so don‟t cry about
Carry your spats and hat with you to union south. You‟ll get spat tape and a
ploom there. Cut the fingers of your gloves so you are able to flip your pages and
hold your horn (optional: if you aren‟t marching a spot, you don‟t necessarily
need to). Usually the pinki and thumb of the right hand and the thumb and index
finger of the left hand. Don‟t forget your flip folder either.
If you are marching you will be nervous. Even the upperclass still get nervous.
Deal with it and focus.
Don‟t think about playing too much your first few games. Even some of the best
upperclass only play 80-90% of the notes. Remember, if you don‟t play a note,
no one in the crowd will know; if you miss a move, everyone will see it. Moves
first, notes second.
After pregame, get water for the upperclass. After halftime, we get apples and
coke. It‟s your job to make sure we are supplied. This is not hazing, it‟s just the
way that the band works.
Some ranks travel to various places around the stadium to play in the second half.
Ask your rank leader if you are interested.
After a win, we turn our hats around for fifth quarter to “look back” on the win.
Have standard music ready for the 5th quarter until you have it memorized. We
will play the opposing school song, Chicken Dance, Badger, Tequila, Varsity,
You‟ve said it all, Hey Baby, Space Badger and sometimes Time Warp and
Swingtown. Have these even if you think you have them memorized.
After the fifth quarter we play a bit in the lot outside of the stadium then walk
back on University Ave to the humanities building. The drum major will dismiss
Pack lightly, but make sure you have everything. Justin will have a checklist of
band items you will need. Make sure you have them. Also, if it says sweater and
black pants, make sure you have a white collard shirt as well.
You will have to get to the buses earlier to get seats for your rank. Ask the
rank leaders who sits where. Doughnuts and breakfast items are a plus too.
Be on time to everything. We don‟t want to have to show up at the dorms 5 min
before we leave to hear you snoring.
Bus rides are long, so if you have anything entertaining, we‟d love to hear it!
After the trip is over it is the freshmen‟s job to make sure the buses are clean.
Make it happen.
While in enemy territory, keep your mouth shut. Let your legs and horn do the
talking. After the crowd sees our pregame you won‟t hear much more heckling.
Bowl trips are exhausting. Make sure you save something in the tank for the
actual bowl game day performance.
A final note concerning shared responsibility; if you feel uncomfortable doing
something or something is endangering your health or well being, SAY
SOMETHING TO SOMEONE! If they don’t help you, FIND SOMEONE IN
BAND WHO WILL! If someone hears your cry and feels it should be brought to
the big man, it will be done. Upperclass are intimidating but rank leaders and the
drum major especially are not going to turn away your plea, no matter how big or
small the problem may be.
Band is hard, but comes with untold rewards that are too many to name.
Good luck and we hope to see you on the field!!!!