The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 9: The Cymbal Reserves According to Hal

As university students are swallowed up by impending finals and writer’s block, one marching band freshman wastes his time by compiling exhaustive profiles of all seven cymbal reserves…*

  1. Hugh Beckham Aport (freshman).  The first Hugh on the cymbal line when everyone’s last name is an alphabetical order, though he goes by his middle name, Beckham.  Undeclared, but says he wants to study either chemical or mechanical engineering depending on how much the pre-rec courses destroy his will to live.  Claims to love chameleons, but he mixed up a picture of a chameleon with that of an iguana, so we have our doubts.
  2. Marcin Budzinski (sophomore).  Computer Science (CS) major.  Lives in Detroit and speaks fluent Polish.  Only joined band this year after not opting to do it online last year because “My computer is where I code and play games, not cymbals.”  Bit of a snarky boi who doesn’t like chicken nuggets.
  3. Amos Frankiewicz (freshman).  Prospective CS major.  Currently getting a C in EECS 183 (which he always complains about).  That’s about it.
  4. Franklin Franklin (freshman).  Not really sure what this dude wants to study, but I do know he’s obsessed with these stuffed octopi that can be reversed between a happy and a sad/angry face.  He currently has upwards of 10 of them and frequently brings them to practice during the regular season.  For some reason, he talks about himself in the third person with a dramatic voice.  Rumor has it his middle name is also Franklin.
  5. Hugh Addison “Hal” Lubanski (freshman).  Prospective CS major (again).  Is without a doubt, the coolest, most impassioned, and most dedicated football fan in the cymbal section and possibly the MMB, the only exception being the Fearless Leader of the band.  Proponent of the most requested dining hall tater tots.
  6. Millicent Polaco (sophomore).  Another CS major.  Likes to dye her hair and listen to depressing punk music (but not Mr. Brightside).  Usually irritated by the awesomeness of people in the section like Hal.  Hates stuffed octopi for some ungodly reason.  Probably practices witchcraft in her spare time.
  7. Maren Thomas (freshman).  Undeclared freshman in College of Engineering.  Hopes to study aerospace.  Is one of those people who likes physics and does calculus for fun.

The author of this compendium did not do anything stupid in compiling this list.**


*This is 100,000% fictional.

**Not entirely true.  He wrote this list when he should have been studying.***

***As did I.

Happy studying!  May you get As on all your final exams and projects!

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 8: 42-27

In light of our resounding victory against That Team Down South, your local band geek would be remiss not to write about The Game from the perspective of the Michigan Marching Band.

I’m just going to preface this with a simple yet eloquent statement:  WE CRUSHED THEM, BABY!!!!!!  YEEHAAAAAAWWWW!!!!!!  ONLY ONE FOOTBALL TEAM IS GOING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP, AND IT’S NOT THAT TEAM DOWN SOUTH!  (As you can see, I’m still basking in the glory that comes from defeating Public Enemy #1.)

5:00 am.  Yes, really–we arose at 5 am in the shadow of the waning night to get fired up for the day we had all been waiting for.  Bundled up in multiple layers with our garment bags in tow,

I forgot where I obtained this from, but I am 99.99999% confident the image is public domain.

we traversed the distance from our dwellings to the sanctified building known as Revelli Hall.  For all the hype that coiled through the frigid atmosphere, the uncertainty of what lay ahead–namely, the expectation that we were going to lose–crouched in the backs of our minds for the most part.

We all wanted to win, of course.  But being a Michigan fan, as we all know, means preparing for the worst during The Game.  Were we going to be subjected to abysmal ref calls?  Succumb to a walloping by That Team Down South (TTDS) for the ninth game in a row?  Or were we finally going to show TTDS who was boss?


Pregame.  In all my time as a marching band member (so basically just this season), I have never heard the fans be so loud.  This was easily the rowdiest the student section has ever been.  And when the band took the field doing entries?  Utter chaos.

It was cheering for the most part, though there were spurts of intense booing that were audible with and without foam earplugs.

Truly, it was magical.


The First Half.  Cold.  Cold.  Cooooooooooooooold.  Where I’m from, temperatures do not dip this low for such extended periods during which we must be outside.  Compared to the eager snow and vengeful wind, the sweater weather that dominated October was a tropical paradise.  Lukewarm handwarmers, semi-numb fingertips, and–hang on a second–


The rest of the first half unfolded as a true nail-biter (or glove-biter, if you were fortunate enough to have gloves).  The holy band beanies were indeed a saving grace against the winter weather (it’s still fall, right?  RIGHT!?!?!?!?!?!?)…until the time came for the halftime performance.


Source: @umichband via Twitter

Halftime.  Arguably the most crucial part of The Game other than the victory, the halftime performance provided heat where the weather did not.  The dusting of snow revealed the tracks of marchers as we went through our drill, our breaths almost as visible as the bull’s ferocious puff at the end of the first song.

By the very end, my fingers were numb and I was in physical pain, but retrospectively it was awesome.  And playing El Toro Caliente evidently worked, because the weather was less miserable during the third quarter.


The Second Half:  Where it All Went Down.  With each touchdown, each stands cheer, the tenuous hope we’d clung to throughout the first half gradually solidified.  Was this really happening?  Were we finally going to dominate TTDS?

I didn’t let my excitement carry me away until the fourth quarter.  When the score was 28-20, I knew The Game could easily be tied with a TD and a two-point conversion, which has been a sore sport for the Wolverines this season (read:  we’ve missed it every time, and the other teams seemingly snuck past our defense to score.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Sparty).

Then, in the fourth quarter, it happened:  the cymbal rank leader called Cheer 8.

The drumline calls a series of cheers throughout the game, each in a different context.  Drum cheers are similar to stand tunes other than the fact that only the drumline plays.  Cheer 8 is reserved for moments when we are definitively beating the other team and involves a dance that includes the whip, so its being called was a watershed.  All of a sudden, the possibility of victory felt real.

When Haskins scored the sixth touchdown, we knew.  The final minutes were those of surreal anticipation and chaotic thrills as the seconds ticked toward zero–

And then the football team rushed the field.


Source: @umichband via Twitter.

Triumph.  Elation.  Screaming brazenly as our lord and savior Carl Grapentine announced the final score to thousands of victorious Michigan fans.  A fervent rendition of “The Victors” exploding from our instruments as fans began to storm the field.  I sensed going into the season that the field would be stormed if we won The Game, but it was a mere fantasy, a wishful hope the dream of smashing TTDS would finally come true.

As my overjoyed hollering joined the ecstatic roars of thousands, the cold evaporated into a storm of maize and blue.


Aftermath.  …for about ten minutes.  Then, we had to wait for quite literally thousands of fans to clear the field.  (Also, it was snowing again.)  The field, when we did finally set foot onto it, was littered with detritus:  primarily maize pom-poms, although I did spot a shot-sized bottle of Fireball whiskey.

The MMB celebrates wins by wearing our shakos backwards from the conclusion of our postgame performance to the moment we enter Revelli after cadencing there.  Flipping around my shako as I had done for all the home games this season felt differently than before.  It felt magical, incredible, fantastic.  It also felt unstable because my chinstrap was not adjusted accordingly, and I was too dang cold to bother adjusting it.  Perched as it was atop my beanie (with help from my hand holding it in place), my backwards shako bore the victory as I marched along the pavement with a giddy smile stretched across my face.

Although the regular season is over, the band/football season and this blog are far from finished!  Tune in next week for more band-related hubbub.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 7: The Army

  1. An undisclosed photo of a soldier from the Army (source unknown).

    From the tumultuous tides that churn and swirl in a slurry we hailed / Prowling growlers and missiles of ice / That slosh in the slush of hushed currents / In frenetic eternity.

  2. Readily we traversed / The pulsating subsurface and tenuous night / The venous channels and crumpled paths / Under silent symphonies and sonorous skies / Until we found you.
  3. A subtle force, we convened / Upon the bristled surface below the fickle water-sky / Across the ground that sops up shrill water / Or rejects it, eschews it into whiteness / Scattered across the tensile blades / erupting from matted black nuggets.
  4. North of the end of the shifting stew we mounted / Our tuneful armor / Our wooden round shells hollowed by erosive war / Our skins stretched so finely clumsy flesh would rend / The precious surface before which we stewed / Our moldable bodies balanced securely between our vessels and our weapons.
  5. Kindred warriors deluded by our stillness / Fused with our minds and our spiral limbs / Their blurred hands and cylinder knives / Rounded blades that sluice and pound / The sparse depths into oblivion / Elevated us with their hastily wrought words and / Thunderous melodies.
  6. Laconic, we allowed / You to swarm around us intrigued by our plush plumpness and stitched-on jubilee / To accumulate in trickles and honey droves toward our piano demeanor.
  7. In this soft stupor we encased you / Ensnared you in stuffed cages / Choked you gently into piles of fluff.
  8. Now we breathe into your accordion lungs / We snuggle within your marimba memories / We wrap our tendrils round your cymbal hearts / We feed you / We cultivate you / We drive you toward the day when the city folds in on itself and the clouded day becomes our night / We whet our spongy forms against the steel and the temptation and the war chant / We fashion your limbs into brass weapons / Your voices into roars / We disassemble you and rewire you and arrange your valves in sinister permutations / We polish you until we are not of you but are you / Until the day when the stadium submits and all of you, all of you, answer to us.  We are coming– for you.

Read More

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 6: Those Tater Tots Are Pretty Good, Tho

It turned out, after a tater tot and taco-laden discussion in one of the less crumb-coated tables of South Quad, that Hal adhered the most to college rivalry sentiments than did anyone else in his social circle.  Calling it a “social circle” included several caveats, of course, one of them being that Hal didn’t know half the people at the table beyond recognizing them as fellow band geeks, and another being that they were band geeks and therefore for the most part less adept at social interactions.


“I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.”  Kendra, a dirty blonde alto horn, wrinkled her nose.  “It’s so extra.”


“That’s what makes it great!”  Hal flung his arms outward melodramatically.  “It’s pure adrenaline!  Chaos!  Acrimony!”


“Eh….”  The lukewarm counter came from Millicent, a sophomore and fellow cymbal reserve with a lavender streak in her hair and a tendency to brood.  She was the one person at the table Hal somewhat knew.  “Pretty overkill, if you ask me.”


“Screaming at the refs isn’t really my idea of fun,” Kendra supplemented.


“We scream at the refs from anger, not because it’s fun.  The fun part is watching the other team lose!”


“I thought it was about watching our team win.”  Millicent’s voice was a deadpan.


“Well, that, too.”


Kendra mouthed something to Millicent that looked like the word boys.


“Well, as much as I love watching other teams fail spectacularly,” –this from a sophomore trumpet named Ryker– “I usually get more hyped when we win.”


Mildly incredulous that his tablemates did not exhibit an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, Hal turned to the fifth and final band geek munching away on tater tots, a freshman pic named Aaron.  He was a snarky lad prone to, according to his numerous anecdotes, butting heads with substitute teachers who mispronounced his name.  He’d often be reamed for messing up and then wind up outside the principal’s office twiddling his thumbs and wondering if the latest band video had caught him missing his dot.  Hal figured he was the type to revel in both the wins of the Wolverines and the losses of their sworn enemies, but he wasn’t so sure at this point.


“Oh, me?”  Aaron looked up from his tater tots.  “I kinda agree with Kendra and Ryker.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call screaming at refs fun, but I do love me a good football game.”


“I never said screaming at refs was fun.  I said the spirit of college football was fun.”  Hal defensively chowed down on his taco, then contemptibly popped a tater tot into his mouth while he was still chewing.  “Like the rivalry.  Not getting shorted by refs.”


“Didn’t they apologize–?”


Hal waved his hand dismissively.  “Not good enough.  You see, they done messed up, A–Aaron!”  He was interrupted as Aaron yeeted a tater tot at his head.


“Alright, that’s it.”  Millicent stood, surly, and scooped up her empty plate.  “I’m outta here.”


“What would you do that for, bro!?”  Hal gesticulated helplessly at the immaculate tater tot now marred by the filth of the cafeteria floor.  “Why would you waste a tater tot?  They’re not just tater tots–they’re most requested tater tots!”  Yet, as he spoke, he pumped the remainder of his taco into the air and launched it past Aaron’s shoulder.  “As per the menu!”


“Oh, it’s on,” Aaron returned, and seized his four remaining tater tots in his fist.


Author’s Note:  Band geeks do not yeet food at each other in actuality.  We’re more civilized than that.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 5: Beanie

O pom-pom graced atop the knitted dome

Secured by laces tipped with aglets clear;

Beneath thee soft-striped stitches tightly roam

In chevrons spanning from thee to the ear.

O stitches stretched into a snug caress

Around the fragile flesh and mind and hair

You trap soft heat and ward off cruel duress

That would arise were this pale pate left bare.

O flesh, that warmth may bless thy frigid heart

Nestled within thee, that the stitches may

Envelop fragile you from the game’s start

And shield you till night voids the might of day.

May ev’ry precious strand upon your head

Of the band beanie undermine cold’s dread.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 4: War Chant

The football players smashed into one another with the force of semi trucks, the sounds of their collisions drowned out by the pervasive screaming of fans.  Hal’s own throaty screech was lost in the chaos.  He wasn’t particularly loud, and his voice had gotten stuck at some point during puberty in the odd limbo between the voice of a boy and the sonorous, crisp boom of an adult male, subjecting him to frequent voice cracks.  His scream crackled now, and he could have been mistaken for fourteen or fifteen were he not a member of the marching band.


His right arm burned from the motion accompanying the excerpt from Temptation, commonly referred to as “Stands T” by the band.  Although he hardly felt it, the faint sensation was enough to distract him in the game.  He wasn’t much invested in it anyway, caring more about the stand tunes and watching halftime than anything else.


Why don’t we play a short version of W?


War Chant, the second half of the Michigan traditional duo that begins with Temptation, was just as musically robust and hype.  For the cymbals, it was a near-constant motion of pumping the arms up and down, interspersed with deep knee bends, 180-degree jumps (and one 270-degree jump), the infamous back bend, and, at the very end, a complex pattern of partner crashes that could literally kill you if you forgot to duck.  It was the perfect complement to the knee torture of Temptation, though W (or “Dubs,” as many people called it) contained knee torture, as well.


It is a universal truth that, when it comes to T + W, you can’t have one without the other…yet, in the stands, there was one without the other.  Hal had always been deeply saddened by this, as he loved both T and W, although they were grueling, especially when you were forced to do it inside the band hall with a mask on.


He always imagined a stands version of W drawing from the first part of the song, which involved a relatively complicated crash rhythm for the cymbals that alternated with eight-count drum features.  He’d never said anything about this to the band director or the drum instructor, seeing as he was a freshie reserve fresh out of a yearlong hiatus (though it might as well have been a punishment for something Hal didn’t do).


He swallowed as the play ended with the opposing team gaining three yards and prayed Stands W would become a real occurrence.