Sign of the Times
Sign of the Times
Husky Stadium
Husky Stadium
The Duck Pond
The Duck Pond
Stanford Tree
Stanford Tree
The Play
The Play
On the Top of Tightwad Hill
On the Top of Tightwad Hill
Pep Rally
Pep Rally
The Author of "The Play"
The Author of "The Play"
Going West: The Bell of the Band

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The Bell of the Band

Just like every university loves their football team, they love their band. Whether it's a haphazard-more-fun-than-a barrel-of-monkeys kind of band like Stanford or the regimented and focused ensemble of Notre Dame, schools love their bands. Marching bands are integral to the pageantry of college football. Let's look deeper, though. The most indispensable element of the band, is the tuba.

Ask any band director worth their salt and they'll tell you, "Tubas are the heart of the band." They're the bass and the base of the entire organization. Despite the necessity of the tuba, they're often overlooked in any setting other than the marching band. They're hardly ever used in modern music. I mean, when is the last time you saw Kanye break down into a tuba solo in a live set? When they are used they sit in the back of the formation at concerts or operas or whatever other classical music show hardly anyone goes to.

Maybe that's why the tuba has risen to such a prominent place in the collegiate marching band. It's the only place where they get the spotlight. At Stanford, the tuba's take advantage of the size of the instrument. They paint murals, practically, onto the bell. It's a personal thing. The art ranges from hazard signs to Strongbad to vaguely inappropriate subculture references. At Wisconsin, the few hours before game day is practically a traveling show for the tuba section. They wander around the neighborhood surrounding Camp Randall and play for houses full of Badger fans. Here at Cal, the tubas have choreographed an elaborate dance/skip/kick line during their Friday pep rally. I've never seen so much musical instrument move so fast. Let's not forget the ultimate of college marching band imagery; the dotting of the "I" at Ohio State. I'm sure you know, but that dot is a tuba.

If you're headed to a pep rally, watch the tubas. Checkin' out the halftime show? Watch the tubas. Band rehearsal to film a video for CSTV? Watch the tubas. That's my advice.

It's a fact, you have to have some personality to be a tuba. It seems that wherever you go in the country, the tubas are the jokesters. Whether the instrument picks the player or vice versa, I'm not sure. Maybe it's a symbiotic relationship. The personality of the player melds with the rambunctiousness of the tuba. Maybe it's even more magical. Perhaps once you slip on a tuba, you're never the same.