Marching on to victory: Behind the scenes of the BYU Marching Band

The BYU Marching Band performs at the BYU football game vs. Northern Illinois in 2018. Many people are aware of the BYU Marching Band’s pre-game and halftime shows, but few understand the time and planning that goes into them. (BYU Photo)

Many people see the BYU Marching Band’s pre-game and halftime shows, but few see the time and planning that goes into them.

Fred McInnis has been the marching band director at BYU since 2007 and takes the lead on developing their performances.

“We actually start generating ideas about November or December of the previous season. We start writing down what would be a good show, what would be a good theme,” McInnis said.

Many times, he said, they look at what music is trending at the time. This year for some halftime performances, they performed popular songs from TikTok as well as songs and formations from the new movie “Top Gun: Maverick.”

However, deciding on music is not as easy as it seems, in fact, McInnis said it is one of the most challenging parts of his job.

“We’re here at BYU and we have standards and not a lot of the music these days matches our standards. So trying to find music that fits with the standards and principles we believe in … and trying to find something that is popular, sometimes it becomes really really difficult to do,” McInnis said.

The music brainstorming continues until the end of January, which is when they begin to refine their list. By the end of May, they have a good idea of what they want to do for the upcoming season. They then get the music and outsource the arrangements.

Once that is done, they start writing the drills and formations for these performances, which McInnis said typically takes them until the end of July. Students show up at the end of August to learn these drills and formations.

The timeline of the process for the BYU Marching Band involves creating music, formations and drills for each season. The process is around 10 months from start to finish. (Made in Canva by Anna Hair)

“One of the first things we do when we come to band camp the week before school starts is the first night (Monday night), we will start learning pre-game, which has about 60 formations in it, and we have it learned by Wednesday,” McInnis said.

McInnis said these marching band members do not have the luxury of time and often have to learn things extremely quickly. A regular show has 20-60 formations, which they have to learn in anywhere from one week to three weeks depending on the urgency.

One of the reasons why the marching band is able to move at such a fast pace is because they students come with all their music memorized.

Assistant teaching professor Matt Coleman works with the marching band’s drumline. “We actually begin in early summer with numerous memorization checks before we play a single note together. They are expected to have all of the drumline feature music and warmups memorized before the fall season begins,” Coleman said.

One of the most challenging aspects of the job, Coleman said, is helping students execute everything correctly and in a way that everyone is happy with when it comes time to perform. Executing these technical formations can sometimes be quite a challenge.

Despite this, Coleman said his favorite part of the job is the community that forms within the marching band.

“They are super positive, dedicated and foster a culture that thrives on supporting each other with love. They succeed and fail together and are on board with being a cohesive unit,” he said.

One of the members of this community is Parker Snyder, a sophomore at BYU in the drumline. “My favorite thing is the hype after an awesome show. One of the shows we did this season was a bunch of songs and formations from ‘Top Gun’ and it was really fun,” Snyder said.

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