UCLA marching band flutist finds camaraderie through supporting role
The game was tied and the victor would be determined by one field goal. The UCLA Bruin Marching Band watched from the sideline after traveling more than eight hours to Arizona State University and playing through the entire excruciating game.
Lauren Payne, a freshman flute player at the time, waited with bated breath as the ball soared over the goal post toward her face. The referee signaled the goal, making UCLA the winner. She and the other band members broke into a celebratory rendition of the UCLA Fight Song, with the flutes and other woodwinds rounding out the sound of the brass section.
Payne, a fourth-year political science student, has continued her involvement in marching band since that thrilling ASU game and is currently the flute section leader.
Payne said she had leadership roles in her high school marching band and that her interest in setting a good example for others continued into college. She became involved in the band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, and after serving as rank leader her third year she auditioned to be section leader for her fourth year.
The flute section is 27 strong and includes 8 piccolos, the instrument Payne plays. She said the approximately 80 woodwind players are quieter in volume than the brass section which has about 100 players.
Recognizing that the flutes’ sound plays a supporting role allows for a more creative drill to set the flutes apart, she said. Drill is the set of coordinates that describe the places on the field that each member must march to and from during a field show. The woodwinds form more intricate patterns than the brass, such as arcs and spirals.
“Gordon (Henderson), our director, is aware that we’re not the loudest, so instead of putting us at the front to try and make us heard, he makes our drill harder,” Payne said.
The intensity of the marching band practice schedule can prove difficult to manage for some band members. Allison Nguyen, a third-year cognitive science student and fellow flute player, said that Payne keeps her section energized by emphasizing a strong sense of community among the flute members.
This sense of community carries over into the band’s relationship with the football team, Payne said. She said last year at the bowl game, former Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley approached the band members after the game to let them know how much he valued their presence.
“Everyone was hysterical because it’s like, oh my god, Brett Hundley notices us,” Payne said. “I do think people appreciate us and we get a lot of love.”
Although she is sometimes stressed by the combination of managing classes and an intense practice schedule, Payne said she needs band in her life. The band’s sense of camaraderie keeps her coming back.
“Despite not necessarily being heard, the reason band is worth it is because you become really good friends,” Payne said. “It’s like one giant family.”
Compiled by Erin Nyren, A&E contributor.
Drum line leader looks forward to enjoying last rivalry game
Eleven-year-old Scott Ewy went to a UC Berkeley football game to watch his father play saxophone with the Cal marching band in an alumni band game.
Ewy said he was inspired to join marching band as he watched his father in awe. Now, the fourth-year physiological science student leads the quads section in the UCLA marching band drum line, coming full circle and following in his father’s footsteps.
“It was just something I saw that seemed interesting and fun because you get to use your hands and hit stuff,” Ewy said.
As the leader for the quads section of the drum line, Ewy said his job is to help everyone learn their music and practice their exercises as well as make sure his section is performing well and appropriately handling its duties.
As the drum line is responsible for tempo, Ewy said, the section has been practicing a lot with the metronome to make sure it is consistent with the tempos of the songs it’s playing.
“It can be hard, especially when we’re at a football game where there’s a lot of energy – we have a tendency to rush,” Ewy said. “It comes down to being able to communicate with each other and adapt.”
The one thing Ewy never stops doing is smiling, said Western Kramer, a fourth-year biology student and drum captain. However, there was one performance for the 2012 football game against USC in which they had to play in the rain – Kramer said that was the one instance he saw Ewy not smiling.
“It was just funny that the second it started pouring, (Ewy) turned around and was just like ‘Oh no’ – (that serious, genuine face of terror) was just so different for him,” Kramer said. “It was a really funny change of character.”
Ewy likes performing at away games because there is more energy. He said the crowd’s heckling and booing makes him feel more hyped and proud. In particular, one of his favorite parts of playing at football games is marching into the stadium and making a lot of noise.
After four years and about 25 games, the upcoming USC game will be the last football game Ewy will share with the other members of the marching band and drum line.
“Over the past four years, I have learned a lot about how important it is to be able to work well together in a group and to be able to communicate,” Ewy said. “And it’s fun at the same time, so I’ve also learned that you can still have fun while being serious.”
Ewy said one of the best parts of performing at football games is knowing that he is contributing to the energy and music of the game.
“It’s a cool feeling to be a part of the environment of the football game, especially when it’s against USC,” Ewy said. “There’s so much energy and competition, and I’m excited to see how much we can serve the crowd.”
Compiled by Ruhee Patel, A&E contributor.
Trombone section leader shares enthusiasm, knowledge with fellow players
Justin Hang set foot onto the pristinely trimmed grass of the Rose Bowl for the first time in September of his first year. As the overwhelming cheers of the crowd drowned out all other sounds, Hang took in the resounding chants with chills as he eight-clapped with 80,000 UCLA fans.
“I didn’t really think that the crowd would cheer with us … when I heard (the cheers) echo across, I just (thought) ‘Wow, this is so cool,’” said Hang, a third-year international development studies student.
Ever since that first pregame performance, Hang has loved hyping up fans with the Fight Song and celebrating victories with the “Alma Mater.” He now spends his time as the trombone section leader making sure his fellow musicians have experiences just as amazing as his first time out on the field, helping them see the excitement and thrill of performing.
As section leader, Hang said his job is to make sure that the 26 members of the trombone section are consistently practicing their music, developing their skills and growing as musicians. He will often work with the players in small groups in order to give them more personalized advice on technique and skill, such as perfecting their slides and handling the instrument correctly.
In addition to teaching and guiding his section, Hang and the other section leaders are held accountable for keeping the trombone players engaged and focused during rehearsal.
“Sometimes (the repetition of) practice can get kind of monotonous, and it can definitely be hard to get people enthusiastic or motivated,” Hang said. “Not every day is perfect.”
Jeremy Rotman, a third-year computer science student and fellow trombone player, said Hang’s ambition and dedication show in his ability to bring out excitement in those around him with his passion and energy. Hang’s positive attitude lets others know he cares about his fellow trombone players.
“He’s probably one of the best dancers in the section,” Rotman said. “He’s one of the few that will still be jumping and running through the set even late in the practices.”
Despite the challenges of his role as section leader, Hang said the end result makes six hours of weekly rehearsal worthwhile. He is able to see his peers excel and watch their enthusiasm grow as he plays and dances along with them on the football field, wielding the large brass instrument.
“When things come together you get really happy because all of the effort you put in paid off,” Hang said. “Whenever (they do), it’s nice to know that we were responsible for making that happen.”
Compiled by Sasha Cheechov, A&E contributor.
Baton twirler aims to inspire enthusiasm for sport
In anticipation of the UCLA-USC football matchup Thanksgiving weekend, Daily Bruin A&E features members of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. Today’s installment profiles Michelle Glymph, an alumna and ex-Golden Girl, or featured baton twirler.
Cheers rang through the air as the crowd of tailgating spectators waved the UCLA Bruin Marching Band through the grassy area near the Rose Bowl. Baton twirler and Golden Girl Michelle Glymph leaped at the front of the band lineup, her silvery batons flashing high above the marching band.
As the band broke into a rendition of a show tune, a mother carrying her small child approached Michelle to ask for a photograph. She said in that moment, as the child gazed awestruck at the glittering gold costume, she was proud to act as a role model.
“(That) little girl who ran up to me to take a picture with me might be a Golden Girl one day,” Michelle Glymph said. “(The enthusiasm) just builds up.”
During her four years at UCLA, Glymph, who graduated in 2015, performed with the marching band as one of two baton twirlers. While she does not perform at games anymore, her halftime show routines were the result of a decade and a half of competitive baton twirling and hours spent practicing tricks in the gym after school.
Michelle Glymph hails from a family of baton twirlers – her two sisters twirl, and her mother, Patty, competed in baton twirling for 15 years and performed in the color guard during her undergraduate years at USC.
Patty Glymph, who taught baton twirling classes to students aged 3 to 15 years old, said her young daughter would eagerly participate in drills and routines.
“(Michelle) was 3 years old, and she always wanted to stand in the front,” Patty Glymph said. “She was very self-driven, even at a young age.”
An early dream, Michelle Glymph said, was to twirl and perform for a large university. To improve her skills, she attended lessons during her elementary school days, a time when she said some classmates teased her for twirling batons in her spare time.
She eventually competed at national championships from when she was 6 years old until her second year in college and won a silver medal at the world championship when she was in seventh grade.
Glymph said UCLA Athletics does not recruit baton twirlers, so those interested in auditioning must apply via the traditional University of California application, where they are first accepted through holistic evaluation.
Glymph said no twirler had been admitted for the past nine years before her. Many elite performers, Glymph said, do not focus on school or maintaining their grades because their time is taken up by baton twirling.
When she arrived at UCLA, she lacked a coach or a mentor figure because of the nine-year absence of a baton twirler. She had to improvise her tricks and create her own routines to add a glittering visual interpretation of the formations the band created behind her.
“It’s easier to make up your own routines because I’m not going to remember. I’m not going to turn on my memory,” Glymph said. “I’m just going to go do whatever my heart and spirit desires.”
The crowd responds enthusiastically to her large and full movements, which are well suited for the open air of the football stadium, said Beverly Johnson, one of Glymph’s competitive coaches.
About a decade after she began coaching Glymph, Johnson attended a UCLA football game and saw her perform elaborate routines she had improvised herself. Johnson said her charisma is evident even from the back of the stands.
“To see (Glymph) one time on the football field, I felt like she had enough experience to do this on her own,” Johnson said. “It (was) very satisfying.”
Patty Glymph frequently tailgates at UCLA football games with her husband and also cheers her daughter on from the stands. She said her family jokes about the rivalry between her and her daughter’s alma maters, especially as the UCLA-USC football game draws nearer.
Two of Michelle Glymph’s past competitive coaches are affiliated with USC, Patty Glymph said, resulting in the expectation that Michelle Glymph would attend USC.
When her daughter chose UCLA, however, Patty Glymph traded in her cardinal spirit wear for blue and gold.
Michelle Glymph said the support from her parents, coaches, the band and the athletic teams have generated respect for twirling, a sport which she said is not as well-known as dance or gymnastics.
Her goal is to act as an advocate for baton twirling and as an example of confidence for spectators, including children who run up to her after games for autographs and photos.
“Everything (I do) is really about building up the sport, and I take pride in it,” Glymph said. “Now that I’m old enough to not be made fun of for it, I very much love that I did it.”
Alto saxophonist relishes harmony in tight-knit section
In anticipation of the UCLA-USC football matchup Thanksgiving weekend, Daily Bruin A&E features members of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. Today’s installment profiles Noah Ashman, a second-year mechanical engineering student and alto saxophone section leader.
The UCLA Bruin Marching Band erupted into the tune of “The Mighty Bruins” as the scoreboard flashed the final score: UCLA 38, USC 20. Noah Ashman, a first-year at the time, cheered with the other alto saxophone players before engaging in playful banter with a friend in the Trojan marching band.
“It was a great game and I got to rub it into him afterwards that our band was better,” Ashman said.
This Saturday, the Bruins face the Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and Ashman, now a second-year mechanical engineering student, will be one of the 250 marching band members representing UCLA.
As the alto saxophone section leader, Ashman said his duties include directing 19 altos, keeping harmony with the other woodwinds and energizing the crowd. However, he said his main focus remains on enjoying the game’s hyped atmosphere with a group of peers he calls his family.
The alto saxophones are part of the band’s brass and woodwinds section. They are tasked with performing the countermelodies – secondary subordinate melodies that accompany the primary melodies played by the trumpets and trombones.
Though the altos may not be the largest section, their sense of community is strengthened through hours of practice, performance and traveling. Ashman said the bonds are formed during their first weeks at band camp.
“I had just moved in and suddenly I was spending 12-hour days with these people,” Ashman said. “We unite under our common love for music and performance.”
With so much of his time consumed by band, Ashman said one would assume academic hardship to be inevitable. However, he said he experiences greater success in his classes during band season than during his time off.
Ashman said his demanding schedule has helped him develop a balance between academics and band and continue to be an example for his section.
“When I have that kind of routine it really keeps me on track in my classes,” Ashman said. “It’s a weird paradox. It sounds like it would be such a struggle to balance, but it’s the best way to keep me focused.”
Joy McCreary, a second-year political science and international development studies student and alto saxophone performer, said she depends on Ashman’s witty character and authority to lead her during the performances. As for the UCLA-USC game, McCreary said she enjoys the rivalry, but said the crowds can be somewhat terrifying.
“We basically walk around with big target signs above our heads,” McCreary said. “The Coliseum is a little bit scary.”
While McCreary is not looking forward to the intense heckling from Trojan fans, she said the band’s philosophy remains of utmost importance. Band members, she said, are expected to be supportive and energetic, no matter what the crowds chant or the scoreboard dictates.
“You get excited for games in general, but when it’s the USC game, everyone’s that much more into it,” Ashman said.
Saturday’s game will be his first time performing at the Coliseum, yet Ashman is level-headed despite the intimidating environment.
“It’s home being out there on the field,” Ashman said.
Compiled by Lena Schipper, A&E contributor.
UCLA drum major marches into his last USC rivalry matchup
In anticipation of the UCLA-USC football matchup Thanksgiving weekend, Daily Bruin A&E features members of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. Today’s installment profiles Adam Fletcher, a fifth-year electrical engineering student and drum major.
Trojan fans laughed as an intimidated Adam Fletcher and the rest of UCLA’s marching band carried their instruments out of USC’s Coliseum following a 50-0 loss for the Bruins in 2011.
Four years later, Fletcher is no longer intimidated by the Coliseum.
“It (was) a rough experience, but seeing it improve has been great,” said Fletcher, a fifth-year electrical engineering student and one of the band’s four drum majors.
Fletcher said he takes pride in that fans have high expectations and respect for the band he has conducted for over two years.
“We play so much music that we become a part of the spirit,” Fletcher said. “Whenever there’s no band, whenever the band’s gone, people notice.”
Fletcher said the Den can expect a strong performance from UCLA’s marching band for Saturday’s rivalry game at the Coliseum, free of gimmicks like war re-enactments or Halloween costumes.
The band’s most recent visit to the Coliseum was in 2013 when the Bruins defeated the Trojans. Fletcher said it was gratifying to provide the soundtrack for the large turnout of UCLA fans supporting their team through the rainy conditions.
But win or lose, the marching band is always faced with hostility when playing at the Coliseum.
Fletcher said in 2013, USC fans threw a beer bottle at the band. The marching band ignored the bottle and kept walking into the rally as if nothing had happened.
“It’s always interesting being in a very hostile environment where you’re not welcome,” Fletcher said. “There are so many more Trojan fans around. In such a good rivalry, such a big rivalry, being a member of the band – being there – is an experience in itself.”
The best way to respond to the hostility, Fletcher said, is to not respond at all. When band members are in uniform, they are representing UCLA.
In October, UCLA’s band combined with Cal’s band at the UCLA-UC Berkeley football game for an indirect response to USC fans’ jeers. The two bands put on a nontraditional show in which they performed a skit for the fans.
Parodies of the Trojan War are a four-year tradition for UCLA’s marching band, and this year, Cal’s band decided to get involved.
Clad in white togas and red and gold tunics, the bands collided to re-enact the Trojan War, complete with a life-size Trojan horse. Band members playing the part of the Trojans fell to the ground as the horse entered the gates, signaling the downfall of Troy.
The re-enactment marked the first combined show between UCLA and UC Berkeley’s marching bands. While neither band directly mentioned USC, Fletcher said it was amusing to put the show in the context of the UCLA-USC rivalry.
“It’s just fun to poke at the fact that (USC’s) mascot is on the losing side of a very historic war,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher’s conducting style enhances band spirit, said Mackenzie Dimler, a fourth-year music education student and tuba section leader.
Dimler said Fletcher is the hype-man.
“We sound better, we’re louder, we’re more excited to play because (Fletcher) is more exciting to watch when he conducts,” Dimler said.
Dimler said through his energetic leadership approach, Fletcher has taught him how to keep a musical ensemble energetic, something Dimler will take with him as he pursues a career in music education.
Because they are new to the job compared to Fletcher, other drum majors like Christian Youngers turn to Fletcher for guidance.
“He’s almost like the drum major section leader,” said Youngers, a fourth-year computer science student.
While it may seem Fletcher always has the answers, Youngers said Fletcher makes mistakes. He lets the rest of the band know of his mistakes by tapping his head, a motion the rest of the band has adopted for its own errors.
“It’s really funny because anytime anybody messes up, we always do the same thing,” Youngers said. “This is like the Adam, ‘Oh, I messed up. My bad.’”
Scores aside, Fletcher feels confident leading the band into what could be his last USC game as a band member.
“When comparing the USC marching band and the UCLA marching band, you’ll clearly see which one has more talent,” Fletcher said. “It’s fun to see both bands perform one after the other, and it’s cool to see how differently we operate. We’re two very different bands.”
When it comes to leading his bandmates, Fletcher said standing on the podium conducting the UCLA marching band, which he described as one of the most elite marching bands in the country, is an honor.
“To be able to lead that, to be able to stand in front and represent the band – represent the school – is an amazing experience,” Fletcher said.