Tag Archives: band camp

Trojan Marching Band: Band Camp Traditions

“Con”-text: Band Camp is a week or week and a half period before the start of classes where initiates to the Trojan Marching Band will learn the ropes of the TMB’s instruments, marching, and perhaps most importantly traditions. Informant CN, a member of the TMB and previous section leader, discusses many of the traditions that used throughout Band Camp and the ensuing football season.

Main Piece: The following is a list of traditions, for which the individual contexts will be provided below:

  1. Whenever the drill instructor or band director says “Conquest,” “Concept,” “Consequence,” or any other word beginning with “con,” members of the band will repeat back “Con~quest.” They extend and emphasize the “con” for dramatic effect or humor.
  2. Whenever the drill instructor or band director says “You” at the beginning of their sentence, the band will interrupt them by finishing with “S, C, Trojans!” sometimes throwing up the Fight On hand sign. 
  3. Whenever the drill instructor says “Check,” the drumline will make soft noises with their instruments. Snares, quads, and basses will swap their sticks over their drums and cymbals play a small zing. Notably, freshman cymbal players are not allowed to “check” with their cymbals.
  4. Whenever any school other than USC is mentioned, the band screams back “Sucks!”
  5. During Rivalry Week with UCLA, whenever the drill instructor or band director says “UCLA” or “Tusk”, the quad drummers begin playing Tusk, and oftentimes the band joins in and interrupts the speaker. 
  6. If any freshman asks a question, especially during band camp or if the question has been answered before, they will be told “Figure it out Freshman.”
  7. During Band Camp, Freshman are only allowed to refer to their upperclassmen by their band names, and in many sections they are required to learn all of the band names and parent given names of their section, as well as how they got those band names (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names).
  8. Whenever the drill instructor or band director says anything that accidentally references a band members’ name, they have to “take a lap”, meaning that they run around their section of the band or even the entire band. When this happens outside of practice, band members will walk around the chair they were sitting in or simply twirl their finger to represent taking a lap.
  9. At the end of Saturday’s game day practice, the band director gives a prediction of the score, accompanied by a drumroll from the drumline. 

CN says that some of these traditions continue throughout the year, but they’re really ingrained into the freshmen during band camp. For the origin, CN said that some of the call and response traditions started fairly recently. Nobody knows exactly who started it, but now everybody does it (the example was “con”quest). “It means nothing but you can find yourself doing it all the time. The traditions are just wired in at band camp.”

Thoughts: The beginning of a liminal period can sometimes be seen as a time for “weeding out” those in a group of initiates who might not be committed to the organization while at the same time impressing upon the initiates the procedures and traditions that will unify them. I believe that Band Camp is an example of this combination of tradition teaching and weeding out. Band Camp takes place in the hot LA heat, and it requires new members to constantly prove themselves to upperclassmen in an attempt to be accepted. The traditions that restrict Freshmen behaviors aren’t necessarily meant to humiliate them, but rather to adjust them to Band culture. As for the call and response traditions, those often serve to give the band members a reason to pay attention to every word the drill instructors say, so the tradition is likely allowed to continue even if some members may be making fun of their instructors by it.

Band Chain Link Necklace


S, a 22-year-old Caucasian female who was born and raised in Colorado. She went to a catholic school and played saxophone in the band. Her family practiced Catholicism regularly. She is now a senior in Computer Science at the University of Southern California.

Background info:

S spent her summers at band camp, where her and the others in band would spend the entire time getting closer to each other as friends. Her director would always make them do group bonding exercises so that the kids would interact with others they wouldn’t normally. S was in band for all four years of high-school.


Late at night, a lot of weird conversations happen. Because S is on a project with me, we were working together at around 2:00am when we started discussing traditions that stuck with us from our childhood or teenage years. The following is a one of the group bonding exercises her band director had the team do.

Main piece:

“One of the biggest lessons we had to learn in band was that we are only a single link in a chain. If one link breaks, the whole chain breaks… The director would always compare this to a violin concert. If one violinist is off key, the whole piece is off key… We had to learn to think as a single unit, walk as a single unit, and play as a single unit. Our director would give out a single chain link on a piece of string to each member of the band at the beginning of camp We had to wear it all day every day to remind us that we are only as strong as our weakest link. If any of the band members lost their chain link, our director would tell us that we would have bad luck that season… Of the four years, only one time someone lost it, and we did terribly that year.”


I like this tradition because it does embody the English phrase “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. Having to wear a physical link around them is a cool way to remind people to better themselves for the good of the team. Other traditions also involve wearing a physical reminder of something important. In Christianity, for example, people often wear a cross or crucifix, or even have a statue of Jesus on the cross in their home. Losing an item of importance is also a common way to get bad luck in a lot of superstitions. It was interesting to hear that the one time someone did lose their chain link, the team did poorly. The thought of something going wrong can lead to it actually going wrong if one gets into that mindset. My football coach would always tell us that if we believed the other team was better than us, then we would already be defeated because we allowed ourselves to get into that mindset.