When it comes to upholding tradition, The LSU Tiger Band is second to none. Throughout its evolution, this 125+ year old band has upheld a standard of excellence and a passion for their fans. Taking root as an 11 member military cadet band begun by 2 students, the Golden Band from Tigerland has grown into a 325-musician powerhouse of Tiger and Louisiana pride. Their dedication to tradition, leadership, and community make them one of the most iconic aspects of college band and Louisiana culture!
From Victory Hill, to the Golden Girls, to pregame, to conduct in the stands, the LSU Tiger Band stands tall and proud by the traditions that have contributed to its fame. Perhaps the most iconic of these traditions is their march down Victory Hill. Drum Major Taylor Brownfield explains the significance of Victory Hill:
We take great pride in our march from the Band Hall to Tiger Stadium which is formally known as “The March Down Victory Hill”...The drumline plays a cadence sequence that has been a trademark of the section for multiple decades. We make our way down the main road of campus and at a certain point we turn the corner and head down the hill...we play the famous “LSU Pregame” for a sea of LSU fans, and most times you can’t even see where the crowd ends. Many people flood the area just to hear those four famous notes at the beginning of “LSU Pregame” and see the band trot to the PMAC [Pete Maravich Assembly Center]. That experience is so electric it’s hard to describe because the fans are so passionate about the band at LSU.
Mellophone section leader Morgan Easterday expresses that "it’s one of those experiences that is unreal as a performer." Those four notes get the crowd roaring on the street and in the stadium! Everyone we spoke to in the Tiger Band all had something to say about the hill, those four notes, and the surreal feeling they get as a performer to be a part of such a tradition and spectacle. Easterday, Brownfield, and Band Director Kelvin Jones all express that many times, fans will show up for the march down Victory Hill and not even go to the game...it is an avid part of the tailgate experience. They express that the band plays such a vital role in the spirit of the crowd on gameday, and so many fans come primarily to support the band!
So what’s the secret to gameday success? SHOW HYPE! A large part of band tradition is preshow section hype, and the Tiger Band is no exception to this! Hype for the Tigers takes place on top of Victory Hill right before the infamous march to the stadium. Here’s how some of the sections hype it out before step off:
The most exciting aspect of gameday is engaging with the fans. Especially at away trips, we love to start cheers with them and bond over our love for the Tigers!"
Mellophone Section Leader
Almost every member of Tiger Band will tell you that their first time marching Pregame in Tiger Stadium is not like anything they have ever experienced before.
Picollo Section Leader
[Pregame] is probably the most exciting part of the game for the band because it has sustained through the years which always gets the team and the fan base excited for a win in Death Valley.
LSU Drum Major
By breaking the monotony of drilling the same music and drill every week, we are able to keep morale high and energy alive throughout the entire season because there is always new material to be learned and achieve success in.
Piccolo Section Leader
When it comes to empowering young leaders, perhaps the most unique aspect of the Tiger Band is their show design process. Like many major college bands, the Tiger Band performs a new, original halftime show for each game. What's unique to LSU is that those halftime performances are student designed.
Dr. Jones explains that the student leaders make up the show design committee. He says they begin meeting weekly in February to brainstorm and hash out ideas for themes, music, etc. These ideas are then cut down to around 10. Some themes are combinations of multiple ideas with the feedback of the band staff.
The committee shares these ideas with the band members, who vote for their top picks, and the directors decide the final shows to be performed the following fall. Dr. Jones feels that the students know their fan base best because those fans are their peers. They know what will engage a crowd, and as a committee they strive to fill the show with music that will engage every generation of fans in the stadium.
In marching band, earning the role of "section leader" is coupled with exciting new challenges and responsibilities. Section leaders are demonstrators, role models, liaisons, and peers. They are the middle-man between the instructional staff's goals and the needs of their section. In college band, this responsibility can extend into a "junior tech" role as well, with leaders running sectionals and writing choreography.
For the Tiger Band, section leaders are also music techs. All Tiger Band section leaders receive instruction from the staff on how to run sectionals and clean/teach music...and the majority of the band is composed of non-music majors! According to color guard captain Alexandra Freeman, the guard captains write the choreography for each new halftime show as well.
"I try to be intentional with each person so they know I care about them."
LSU Drum Major
For Brownfield, the road to drum major was rigorous. Serving as a drum major for a large university marching band is a highly visible role that requires someone with accountability, leadership potential, and showmanship. The audition process begins in November and is announced sometime the next semester. His audition was a week long and consisted of conducting, teaching marching fundamentals, and sitting for an interview with the staff.
He had to demonstrate his knowledge of both forms of marching the Tiger Band performs, his mace technique and knowledge of the pregame routine, and his ability to conduct a handful of traditional and modern marching tunes. After each round, cuts were made. 2019 is Brownfield's first fall as the Tiger Band drum major, but he has also served as drum major for the Louisiana Stars and Phantom Regiment drum corps. His responsibilities as a Tiger Band drum major consist of leading rehearsals, running and submitting logistics for the staff, and showmanship on game day. But perhaps his favorite aspect of the role is his ability to interact with each member of the band. "I can be relational with everyone and get to know them, while making music," Brownfield says.
This kind of delegated leadership offers the students stock in their band and provides them with skills that will carry them well into their careers after college. Additionally, it shows that their staff not only cares about the voice of their members, but also trusts the bandsmen to take an active role in continuing the Tiger Band's standard of excellence and entertainment.
Community is what gets the Tiger Band roaring! The band has such a positive visibility in the marching community, but more importantly, in Louisiana. "Louisiana is such a musical culture, and the band is a huge part of that," Dr. Jones states. The band has performed in the Zulu parade, sharing the New Orleans culture, and performs at all home basketball and football games. Additionally, they participated in a joint performance with Northwestern State University where they played the state song together. The Golden Girls perform in many campus, community, and charity functions annually. Further, the march down Victory Hill attracts a large part of the community, with thousands of fans and residents lining the streets to hear those infamous four notes!
The best part is that the fans at LSU are filled with hospitality! Easterday, a Chicago native, states that her friends and family love tailgating and mingling with the locals: "LSU fans have a crazy sense of hospitality, and they will let you EAT!" So where can one go to get a true taste of Baton Rouge? Firmin suggests trying The Chimes for a taste of authentic Louisiana cuisine! If visiting LSU for the first time, it is also recommended to visit Mike the Tiger, LSU's live mascot. "He's super friendly and so much fun to watch (especially for the kids)," Firmin adds.
LSU is not unique in their rehearsal schedule. Many college bands rehearse multiple times a week in order to learn their new performances and achieve that standard of excellence. “Surprisingly,” Firmin says, “even with the large time commitment...many people...have a higher GPA in the fall semester...we connect and meet other people in our major that we probably would not have met if it was not for Tiger Band.” Brownfield and Dr. Jones echo similar sentiments, explaining that Tiger Band really is a family.
What sets this band apart from the rest is, as Easterday puts it, their “Never too hot. Never too early. We’re just gonna do it” attitude. The Tiger Band holds themselves to an incredibly high standard of excellence. They march everywhere, they remain in uniform, they rehearse hard. “In Louisiana, LSU is THE school; there’s a lot of pride in our visibility,” Easterday states, “and we have an image to uphold.”
It's not easy being a triple threat of band! To maintain tradition, foster lifelong leaders, and support the community is no small undertaking, but the Golden Band from Tigerland does it with more than 125 years of passion and a standard of excellence!
Danielle Lavrenz lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, Morton High School, Waukesha North High School, and Greendale High School. Lavrenz is a member of the DSI Marketing Team and currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she teaches at Greendale High School. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.