'The Buzz' Blog
All the buzz about the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching and Basketball Bands.
SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 — EVANSTON, ILL. — "My first memory in high school band in 1968 is when we all loaded into busses to come to Northwestern's High School Band Day," says Dr. Dave Fodor (GMu98). "It was Northwestern versus Wisconsin, and Mr. Paynter was the NU band director."
Fodor, who has directed the Evanston Township High School band program for 22 years, brought 102 of his marching band students to last Saturday's High School Band Day at Ryan Field, hosted by the Northwestern Univesrity "Wildcat" Marching Band.
"I understand the importance of the role the band plays," he says of why his band participates in the annual event, which saw over 1,000 high school students crowding between the end zones at half time.
"We mirror each other. We share time together. We share the town," he says. "My students get to see the collegiate experience."
Fodor knows a little something about the collegiate experience, too. While he studied music education at the now-Bienen School of Music to earn his Ph.D., Fodor was the drumline instructor for the Wildcat Marching Band.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2012 — EVANSTON, ILL. — Shlepping instrument cases and all of the clothes, books, and other necessities of college life, nearly 200 students are arriving at Regenstein Hall on the Evanston campus for the first day of pre-season camp for the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band. Veteran drum major Michael San Gabino (Mu13) is among the "returners" who are greeting them and helping distribute their purple and black uniforms and rehearsal schedules.
"Every season is different," he says.
One of those differences is Will Ritter (WCAS14), the junior psychology major who is joining San Gabino with his own white and silver drum major's uniform.
"I'm looking forward to building great relationships with all of the people involved in NUMB," says Ritter, "as well as being in a position that has a big impact on such an amazing organization."
Three years ago, Ritter was like many members of the Wildcat Band, brimming with passion for the band and the university. However, he was also looking for ways to contribute more.
"At the beginning of sophomore year, it clicked for me that drum major was the perfect outlet," Ritter says, "So I decided to go for it."
Both Ritter and San Gabino, along with other candidates, interviewed and auditioned for the office. The auditions included conducting the band during the preparations for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
For Ritter, "The most challenging part of the process was the fact that I had no experience as a drum major in high school," he says. "I had no idea how to use a mace and had no formal conducting training."
AUGUST 19, 2012 — EVANSTON, ILL. — Daniel J. Farris' goal "is to balance the signature moves and traditions that have been a part of the [Northwestern University] Wildcat Marching Band field shows since the group's inception way back in 1926 with the innovations in the marching arts and entertainment," reports Eliahu Sussman in the August issue of School Band and Orchestra magazine.
As tweeted last month, the trade magazine visited the Evanston campus to photograph Farris, drum major Michael San Gambino (Mu13), and other members of the Wildcat Band for the cover story, which spans 11 pages.
"We've set in place a proven system and a hierarchy of student leadership," says Farris in the article, describing his "secret for making it all work" in the 13 years he has directed the athletic bands.
"A special part of being at Northwestern is being surrounded by such talented and bright students," he says.
It's a sentiment shared by Dr. Mallory Thompson, the university's director of bands.
"I'm all in favor of the students putting their stamp on the organization and watching evolve," she says. Thompson is herself an alumna of the ensemble, and just the fourth director of bands at Northwestern.
- By Northwestern Bands
As the Northwestern football and band schedules have been firming up, it is clear that this season has a lot in store for members of the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band.
"I don't think NUMB has ever reported to campus this far in advance," says Farris. The scores of student musicians, who represent nearly every major and residence hall at the university, are set to arrive on Sept. 2—more than three weeks before fall quarter classes actually begin.
They will have just six days to prepare for the Northwestern football home opener against Vanderbilt University at Ryan Field. With no time to spare, first year students will learn the Wildcat band's traditional "fast entry" sequence. The sustained heart-thumping, leg-pumping routine—all while hollering the Wildcat Growl at the top of one's lungs—has been the time honored method of taking the field for decades. It would just as easily fit into the football team's warm ups.
Even after the buzzer sounds to end the contest between the Wildcats and the Commodores, the band will not have much time to rest. They will have an extra week of band camp this season to ready themselves for the next home game on the very next Saturday. And the next Saturday. And the next.
"It's been a while since we have had four home games in a row," says Farris. The band customarily learns, rehearses, and memorizes all new drill and music for each home game. A "great challenge" indeed.
May 18, 2012 — EVANSTON, ILL. — Hundreds of athletes and volunteers, including members of the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band, will descend upon the Evanston Township High School gym on Saturday. The band will add a little purple—and perhaps Olympic gold—pride to the festivities. (Devoted fans know that before the university color was made simply purple, Northwestern officially used purple and gold.)
"For this event, we bring 200 Special Olpymics [athletes] between the ages of two and seven along with their families out for a day of fun motor skill activities, lunch, and carnival games," says Nicole Hendrix, executive co-chair of the Northwestern University Benefit to Special Olympics.
About two dozen members of the Wildcat Band will be on hand for the opening ceremonies, and will perform the national anthem and other music to kick off the Young Athletes All-Stars Day event.