“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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Whenever any school other than USC is mentioned, the band screams back “Sucks!”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.