The Trojan Marching Band (TMB), otherwise known as The Spirit of Troy and The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe, is the marching band at the University of Southern California. The band plays for the university’s sports teams, especially involved in football games, promoting school spirit and acting as a source of entertainment. The TMB has a culture of its own, teeming with tradition. Being in the band myself, I gathered four of my friends to discuss these traditions. Mishan is a junior, Angie is a sophomore and AJ and Travis are freshman, all in the clarinet section.
When freshman enter into the band, each is given a band name by the older members. My informants likened the tradition to pledge names of fraternities and sororities. The tradition is an initiation ritual, showing that the freshman is being accepted into the wider group of the TMB. All sections give their freshman band names, unifying the TMB as a whole.
The names are given a few weeks into the marching season so older members have an opportunity to analyze the freshmen personalities and give them a fitting name. I asked my informants their names and why they think they received them.
Mishan’s band name is “punxsutawney phil.” Mishan is generally a quiet person, so as a freshman, whenever he said something the older members saw it as if he was “coming out of his hole.” Mishan is Sri lankan, and says that another association he makes with his name is that he’s brown.
Travis’ band name is “squakward tentacles.” Although he is not sure exactly there this name came from, he guessed it was because he was awkward. At this point in the interview, Mishan and Angie reminded him that he was an awkward dancer and that he flailed his limbs like tentacles. Travis added that he liked the television show Spongebob Squarepants, so his name has an association with Squidward, the clarinet playing, tentacle- possessing character of the show.
Angie’s band name is “once upon a time… in ecuador.” Angie explained that the summer before her freshman year she went on a trip to Ecuador. When she returned, her excitement about her trip mixed with her natural tendency to tell stories meant that she talked about Ecuador a lot. She recalls being teased a lot for her zealousness, and her band name was an extension of this.
AJ’s band name is “air bud.” His reasoning was “I guess I’m like a dog… kind of.”; a response which Travis deemed as exactly what a dog would have said.
There are various traditions associated with band names, including Laps (see entry) and Name Jokes. This tradition is performed when someone asks “Who are you?” The individual responds with their band name. Then they are asked “Why?” To be deemed an acceptable answer, the response must be offensive, sexual or really funny. I asked my informants to tell a name joke based on their name, but none of them were able to.
The fact that none of my informants were willing to think of a name joke during our interview is evident of the unique culture and atmosphere surrounding the TMB and that there is a specific time and place for the performance of this folklore