Marching Mizzou brings spirit, companionship to MU football

The tight-knit environment of Marching Mizzou drives their performance with the long hours making every cheering fan worth it.

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Marching Mizzou, MU’s largest campus organization, provides the musical score to the MU football games. As the central focus of the halftime show, the band works tirelessly to bring smiles to the stands.

Marching Mizzou’s performances are led by the combined efforts of Dr. Amy M. Knopps and her drum majors. As Associate Director of Bands and Director of Athletic Bands, she is the brains behind the music selection for each game. Past games have included themes, such as Grease, Justin Timberlake and DC vs. Marvel.

Knopps has a personal connection to the university’s marching bands. She received her bachelor’s in music education from MU and was a four-year member of Marching Mizzou, graduating from piccolo member to section leader and finally to drum major her last two years. To be at the helm of Marching Mizzou is not a position she takes lightly.

“I try to showcase that to the students every day because it's a joy and it's my one of my favorite things about my job,” Knopps said. “I hope the students see the love that I have for this organization. This is the 133rd year of Marching Mizzou and we're continually moving into this next era of our history with that. It is a big deal to have that opportunity so tied to our tradition and the history of the university.”

MU’s drum majors are out on the front podium conducting and leading the band through warm-ups and performances. There are four drum majors, including senior Jake Hiley. Moving from the field to the podium was a big adjustment for Hiley, but he gets energy from the crowd with his conducting.

“My first time [as drum major], I was scared beyond belief,” Hiley said. “You're up there in front of about 260 people in the band, including the Golden Girls. It's just nerve-racking [being] in front of them, making sure tempos are right, that you're clear and you're audible. Then you're also in front of like 70,000 fans and it's a little nerve-racking your first time, but after that first game, everything is just so smooth. You just kind of get into the rhythm and then I actually just love being up there now in front of everybody. I just get a weird sense of energy off of that.”

With such a large group of students performing, some of the musicians experienced culture shock in transitioning from their high school’s band to Marching Mizzou. One such student is Briana Gafford, tenor saxophone player, whose high school band was about half the size of Marching Mizzou.

“It's kind of a culture shock of just coming from like a small band and then being in a huge band,” Gafford said. “There are people from just so many different places that come here and I come from a small town. I'm not used to so many different kinds of people.”

Other students cited the camaraderie found in Marching Mizzou helped with the transition. Drumline member Colin Miller finds his love for Marching Mizzou within his drumline family.

“We're all really close,” Miller said. “At first, it was kind of like a fraternity. But once you really get to know people, everyone looks out for each other. It’s like a family.”

This year’s homecoming game performance has many of the band members excited. The theme is game show music, featuring the tunes of “The Price is Right,” “Family Feud” and “Jeopardy.” Gafford loves game shows, believing the audience will get a kick out of hearing new twists to nostalgic tunes.

“I think it's a really neat idea that [Knopps] is doing game show music,” Gafford said. “I think it's going to be so fun and people are going to like it. [The games] are always really busy because alumni come back and families come and see their kids that are here and all the things that Greek life does bring a lot of people in. So it's awesome to be at that game and have it be so full.”

Beyond all the games and fun music, the tight-knit environment of Marching Mizzou is what truly lies at the heart of the organization. As described by Hiley, when it comes down to it, Marching Mizzou is just “some band nerds out there having fun.”

“I've met such a variety of people who've come from different backgrounds with different views and opinions,” Hiley said. “And we all come together because we just love our school and we want to show support in any way we can. I've just made all these friendships and bonds with people I never would have thought I would have met in general. It's just a huge family, honestly. You just get to go back to every rehearsal and everybody knows each other. It's a fun time. It's just the way it is.”

The unseen family of Marching Mizzou can be missed in the eyes of the audience, but the performances can be viewed in a new light when taking into account the work they do behind the scenes and the relationship they have with one another. Marching Mizzou members said they believe the attachment between them and their dedication to the craft is clear and the positive effect on their performance is evident with every step they take.

Look out for part two of the Marching Mizzou series

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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