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.
During rehearsal the band director, Dr. Bartner, speaks from the podium. Whenever he says a word or phrase that has some sort of association with an individual, they take a lap (in which the individual runs around the entire band). The association could be with a band name (see Band Names entry), a personality trait, a physical characteristic or some other association. For example, AJ’s band name is “air bud” and whenever Bartner says “lick” (as in a phrase of music) AJ takes a lap (as if it were a dog’s lick). Angie played water polo in high school, so anytime Barnter mentions our water polo team she takes a lap. My informants described this ritual as a way to publicly take pride in ones individuality. Laps are taken by the band in its entirety, therefore this tradition unifies the band.
Laps are also taken when mistakes are made. The mistakes might be playing something wrong in the music or not executing a drill correctly. These kinds of laps are a way of publicly taking responsibility for your performance during rehearsal. Public activities like these make band members less self conscious in performance. Angie pointed out, there is plenty of reason to be nervous when the band enters the Coliseum holding 90,000 people. But activities like these decrease the tension.
Like many other traditions in the TMB (see Cadence entry), I believe that laps are a productive distraction. By taking laps throughout rehearsal based on silly or fun associations, focus is taken away from any redundancy or potential annoyance during rehearsal. Searching for associations amidst Bartner’s words is also a way to ensure band members are in fact paying attention to instructions. By running laps for mistakes, all band members are held accountable for their performance, ultimately making a better band.