Future band director plans increased recruiting, funding
A new director of athletic bands was appointed to lead USC’s marching band last month, and with her appointment came a vision and a new structure for the Carolina Band.
When Rebecca Phillips took over as director of athletic bands, she promised to reenergize the criticized group and increase excitement inside Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Much of what it takes to create that excitement and that magic from an SEC band comes with holding ourselves as an organization to a high standard in our performance, our appearance and our behavior,” Phillips said.
USC also began a national search for an assistant director of athletic bands, a position the marching band has never had before.
Here’s a look at what Phillips hopes to accomplish with the “Mighty Sound of the Southeast.”
More Fun & More Shows
Phillips plans on bringing USC’s marching band up to the common SEC standard of a new halftime show for every home game.
“We’ve got to keep the entertainment going at all times,” Phillips said.
She plans on improving the gameday experience for the fans before they enter the stadium, which depends on the kind of music selected and the pace of the game.
“When a play ends, the band needs to start right away,” Phillips said. “There can’t be any dead time.”
Phillips pointed out a challenge in the music selection for games. She said the marching band is limited to music that has a melody or tune that most modern music on the radio doesn’t have. A lot of popular music on the radio is electronic, whereas the marching band is acoustic.
The band also has to play crowd-pleasing music for a diverse audience including current students who want to hear popular songs played on the radio and season ticket holders who want to hear music from the past.
“We want to please all the different groups that come to football game,” Phillips said.
Phillips believes her changes for the band will be noticeable at the first game, but she wasn’t ready to divulge all of her plans yet.
“Much of what’s new and innovative that the fans will see, I’m not actually ready to tell,” Phillips said. “We have to leave some surprises. There are going to be some really exciting and cool things that this band is going to be doing.”
Recruitment & Retention
By emphasizing recruiting and retaining current band members, Phillips hopes to expand the size and sound of USC’s marching band.
“We want to have the problem of having too many people,” Phillips said.
Robert Clark, a second-year Spanish student and trumpet player in the band, agreed recruiting is important.
“We can’t get louder without more people,” he said.
USC marching band students will help recruit by going and talking to graduating high school seniors in marching band. Phillips will also travel around South Carolina and neighboring states to speak to seniors and their parents at regional meetings.
In addition to high school seniors, current USC students are also being recruited. One of Phillips’s initiatives is to allow students who were formerly in their high school marching band to play at this year’s Spring Game.
Budget & Uniforms
Phillips said a larger budget has been requested for the marching band for next year, but she currently declined to say what the requested amount was.
She said the proposed budget will help the band meet its basic needs and help the band have a presence at every away game.
“The budget directly relates to the kind of experience and care that our students have in the marching band,” Phillips said.
She has requested the university provide the band with lighter-weight uniforms, saying that wearing the current heavy wool jackets in the heat is a health concern that needs to be taken into consideration. Phillips said the current marching band uniform is the same uniform that the Big Ten wears.
Stephen Burt, a fifth-year music student, has marched in USC’s marching band for all five years he has been at USC.
“Obviously the uniform can be pretty hot during the summer, and it can create complications in that respect, but I think most people in band are used to uniforms like that because that’s what we’ve worn since high school,” Burt said.
He added that it helps band members can take off their jackets when the weather gets really hot.
However, Phillips said that fans want the band to look good in the stands, and that means keeping the jackets on.