The CU Independent’s Austin Willeke is a member of the University of Colorado’s marching band. There are few people better situated to observe #TheRise. Willeke was part of a detachment of band members that traveled to Palo Alto, California for the recent game between the Buffaloes and the Cardinal. The following is his experience from the game.
College marching bands, particularly CU’s Golden Buffalo Marching Band (GBMB), have a separate and unique place in the crowd at a football game. When the team drives for a first down, we launch fast, loud and quick into “Glory Colorado” while the fans lend their support. When they score, we play on to add to the excitement, blasting the school fight song after the extra point attempt.
A tenant of the GBMB is heartbeat, meaning the band is the heartbeat of the stadium, and of the CU community itself. This means the band is committed to whatever is happening on the field, even when that is difficult, such as when a football team loses every single home game.
The Buffaloes have had rough seasons for the past couple of years. Many home games have been almost unbearable to watch, from blowouts to close-game heartbreaks. In these events, most fans may begin to leave with justification, because the game isn’t giving them much to stay for. But the band will never leave, and the band will always play on.
We occupy a space that is entirely unique, as we are attached to and a part of all that goes on in the stadium, win or lose. It is a fun and fascinating anomaly to be a part of. It certainly makes the hard losses even harder, as more investment into each game from each band member is almost a requirement in ensuring the band lives up to its full potential.
But that level of additional investment above the average game attendee can be it’s own reward, especially when the Buffs bring home a big win. It can be a near euphoric feeling of excitement to be a part of, in regards not only to the game, but in the organization itself. Nowhere was this more evident than at the CU versus Stanford game on the road this year.
As an older member of the GBMB, I got to travel with a small pep band to support CU in their away game against Stanford. Before moving into the stadium, excitement for the Buffs had already begun as the band played for a surprisingly large Colorado pep rally on the Stanford campus. With the team finally on its rise this year, more Buffs fans have come out of the woodwork to support their team, even in a game nearly 1300 miles away.
The band moved on into the stadium and moved into our appropriate section as the bells on the brass instruments were checked for booze (the Stanford band may have established that precedent). To my and many others surprise, the Buffs had six whole sections to themselves. Fans had come out — fans who roared loudly as the team entered the field and we struck up the Fight Sequence songs to build the excitement.
Throughout a very defensive and intense game, the band played often, and loudly. When the Buffs’ defense got Stanford in a third down situation, we ripped out the third down tune, “Thrabbit,” to bombard the stadium with noise and to bring our fans to their feet. On a successful stop, we play a fanfare version of the “Rawhide” theme to salute our defense for a job well done and play a satisfying tune for the fans.
It always helps the college band experience to have the fans invested, and at this game, they brought a lot to the table. In a Stanford Stadium that only seemed half full, six rows were full of CU fans and more and more seemed to be joining their ranks every minute.
It is in these moments when the band feels at the heartbeat of the excitement. CU was struggling to score in a game with a great deal of frustration at the kicker position, and an offense that just couldn’t make a connection in the red zone.
In all these moments of frustration, the GBMB was playing with great gusto and energy that seemingly buzzed through the CU fans. We would lead cheers that all Colorado fans would join into, leaving an echo in the empty Stanford seats.
The ending of the game brought on the fervent excitement I hope for as a band member. Roasting in the hot Californian sun, smelling like sweat and the copper of my trombone, I witnessed the Buffs bring home a victory and the team run right over to the band to celebrate.
The ending of games in this fashion always stick in my mind as a reason to be in the band. Running over after the game, the team joins in the fight song alongside us with great vigor and passion, and Coach Mac even stopped a post-game interview to come celebrate. Pretty freakin’ neat.
The band then headed out to the field to jam with the Stanford band, symbolizing our solidarity as band members and recognition of the experience that comes in band outside of the sports.
Being apart of the GBMB is being at the heartbeat of a community. An experience full of bonding, excitement and just plain fun come together to bring new meaning to the presence of a simple football game. Save for the awkward experience of trying to take off your uniform in a crowded stadium bathroom, for me, there is nowhere I would rather be than with the GBMB on game day.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Austin Willeke at firstname.lastname@example.org.