Unexpected Opportunities



When I first signed up for a music class in middle school, I chose choir. I have no idea what caused me to pick that, and as soon as I walked into the class, I just had a feeling it wasn’t right. Two weeks later I was signed up for band and was carrying a clarinet case through the halls – band geek from the beginning. As I moved around to different schools, I always stayed in band. It was my constant as I tried to make new friends and fit in to my new school. Coming up to high school, my mom made me do marching band. She told me to just try it for one year, and if I hated it, I could quit. So I spent my August mornings the month before my first day of high school waking up at 7 in the morning to go to band camp. I wasn’t the happiest the first few days, but eventually, I came to love working hard and perfecting the shows. I have always loved performing, and this was a new kind of performing that I came to love so quickly and easily. Band also gave me so many opportunities, most of them unexpected.

College Leadership

Everyone tells you to get involved when you get to college, and don’t miss out on all the opportunities that are so accessible to you. I didn’t do that. I joined the band. In joining the band, I learned so much about my leadership style and my ability to work in a team of 150 people. At the end of my freshman year, I was an active member of my band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi. By my sophomore year, I was section leader of the alto saxaphone section, and one of only a few sophomore leaders at the time. It was exciting and something that I had never expected upon entering college. It led me to so many opportunities which were unexpected.

Fraternity Leadership

The fraternity offered me a lot of opportunities. I’ve had the chance to make some of the best friends I will ever have, and I’ve had the opportunity to participate in some really cool service projects for my school of music. With that, I have come to realize that I am a part of a very special group in the bands. With my best friends by my side, I have grown more confident, more professional and more accountable. I have learned to take my abilities and apply them to a real situation. This was never more real than this past month. The picture at the top of this post is a moment that I will always see as one of my proudest – the moment I was sworn in as a district officer. I was kind of numb to it when it happened – I was so surprised. It’s a weird feeling knowing this is something I’ve wanted for two years, and it was finally happening. As exciting as it was, it took a lot of work to get to this point.

When I realized this was what I wanted, I knew I couldn’t just walk into the situation. It was going to take some work. I became actively involved in my chapter, and wasn’t just a member in active standing. I took my membership standing to heart, and made myself be active. I became an officer at the chapter level. I worked hard at that, and did what was required of my position, as well as what was required of an active member. This all helped me gain leadership experience and qualities to help me succeed.

My favorite part of this position was my ability to use my PR/communications background to help me succeed. I used my ability to communicate and write effectively to announce my interest in the position. My public speaking skills helped during my interview. My storytelling skills helped me validate my ability to make the district publication, one of my responsibilities. One of my favorite moments about this was realizing my two worlds could collide.

I have always struggled with balancing band and PR. It’s usually one or the other, and I never felt that I could have both. I knew at one point I would have to give up one, and I know it will be band, seeing as my career will be in PR. I didn’t want that to end sooner than I had to graduate.

After being elected, it is exciting to see that my worlds can collide and I can put both of my passions into one position. The honor of being selected to serve the district is great; but it is even greater to know that I can still go on to my senior year, and have the honor of being a brother, and a member of the bands at Kent State, and follow my passions in Public Relations.


Beyond Kent’s Campus – College Band Connections

One of my favorite things about being in band is that your bond with the average band geek goes far beyond your campus’ border. For me, it’s been of my favorite parts of being in a college marching band. It’s one of the only organizations I’ve been a part of, that I feel I can go to someone from any school involved in the same thing and feel an instant connection. Band geeks just understand each other, it seems. It’s also a great conversation starter. I could probably talk for hours about why I love using Rico Reserve reeds for concert band, but could never use them in a jazz concert. Or how if I could just find time to get my cork replaced, playing would be so much easier. And down to the petty and girly annoyance of never being able to comfortably wear a necklace without your saxophone neck strap getting in the way. If you’ve never touched an instrument in your life, it’s almost like I’m speaking a new language; but band geeks would understand, and undoubtedly talk for hours with me about it.

That ability to easily make a connection and stick with it is one of the reasons I’ve found myself so involved with college bands. I wanted to base this post around what I’ve done OUTSIDE of Kent’s campus, and show some pictures of the connections that I’ve made in the past three years. I’ve had some really cool opportunities because I was involved in the bands. Some involve marching band trips, and others involve fraternal activities throughout the district. Each connection I’ve made is special, and best of all, was simple to make because of our involvement in the bands.

These pictures are just a glimpse into some of the adventures that I’ve had.

   Image    Image

Image  Image

Image  ImageImageImage ImageImage

Image   Image

Image     Image


Image  Image

Image      Image

ImageImageImage   Image

Taking a Stand Against Hazing

College organizations in general have many incidents of hazing. It just happens that some of the common groups are marching bands and fraternities, two organizations I am a part of. I can comfortably say that I have never felt hazed, and always felt respected in my organizations. But that doesn’t go for everyone across the country.

I have been fortunate enough to be welcomed into two fantastic groups at Kent State: the Marching Golden Flashes, and Kappa Kappa Psi-Beta Psi. Being in the band is fun, and when I’m at rehearsal, I feel respected and accepted. The same goes for my fraternity. I feel as though my comments and actions are respected, and I can be myself and still be accepted. It’s one of the most comfortable environments I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

Like I said, not everyone feels this way, and not everyone has been treated this way. Hazing comes in a few different forms. There is psychological hazing, physical hazing, active-to-active hazing, active-to-pledge hazing, and alumni-active hazing, just to name a few. The definition of hazing, as stated by dictionary.com is to harass with unnecessary or disagreeable tasks. Hazing is a bit more than that though. It encompasses a wide range of activities, and actions. A good list and explanation of hazing is found on Babson College’s website. It gives a great list of things to consider when asking if what you’re doing is hazing. Some of the activities they say are hazing include, but are not limited to, being asked to do special tasks for active members, or older members, being required to show up to late-night sessions causing sleep deprivation, branding or beating, paddling, required carrying of certain items, and being dropped off at an unknown location and being asked to find their way back to campus. All of these are considered hazing, but this is still not the whole story.

Right now, I want you to google “marching band hazing” and just see what comes up.

There are a few articles here and there mentioning just the hazing and the bands in general…but multiple posts also mention the word death. It’s sad that some people have to wait until there’s a death for them to realize what hazing is and how it hurts people. One of the more known cases of hazing to cause death was that which happened at Florida A&M University. A 26-year-old student was beaten to death after the Florida Classic football game in a hazing ritual called “crossing bus C” in which the student would walk down the middle aisle of the bus and be beaten with instruments. Hazing was a long ingrained and practiced tradition at the school. After this “tradition” of crossing bus C, the 26-year-old collapsed and died due to hemmorhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma. There are now 15 band students being charged with manslaughter or felony hazing. Hazing hurts, and hazing can kill.

Now, I understand this is an extreme case. Not all forms of hazing can cause death, or even physical harm. Like I said, it comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s obviously a danger to all students in college, in any organization. Being involved in the bands and having been educated in our hazing policy, I have a few tips on ways to prevent hazing.

Preventing Hazing in the Bands

  1. Know your school’s hazing policy. Most universities have one, and if they don’t, they should. If they don’t have one, talk to an administrator about creating one. It’s important to have consistency with rules, especially hazing. If your school is working on creating one, look at other school’s hazing policies to get an idea of what activities or actions are considered hazing. It’s a lot more than you think, and always important to make sure your new members feel welcome and respected. Kent State University defines hazing as any action or situation intentionally created, whether on or off university premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule. They strictly prohibit students from involving themselves in such activities and will not hesitate to suspend those involved.
  2. Evaluate your activities and constantly critique your traditions. Keeping a hazing activity around for the sake of tradition is not reason enough. If it is tradition, it can still be hazing. You don’t welcome members into your organization to ridicule them, embarrass them and  make them participate in ridiculous activities. When we welcome people into the band, it’s because they are now a part of our band family. We don’t want to ridicule them and make them feel disrespected. With the fraternity, we welcome people into it hoping to one day see them representing our group, wearing our letters. It would be a shame to see them wearing our letters and hurting one of our own because it’s “tradition.” We should avoid the same thing, and not allow hazing traditions to continue.
  3. Just say no. If you ever feel hazed, don’t go through with it. You should never under any circumstances feel obligated to participate in an activity if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if you are the only one speaking up, say something. Go to your band director and tell them you are uncomfortable. They should, under no circumstances, be supporting the hazing or hazing traditions. They want you to feel comfortable in the bands and continue your growth as a musician. They should be someone you can talk to about problems in the band, and a good person to go to when you are uncomfortable with what is happening.
  4. Empathy can go a long way when evaluating possible hazing activities. Think about it from someone else’s perspective. If someone was once robbed in a dark alley, they probably won’t be very comfortable getting dropped off in one and told to find their way back to campus. You may be totally fine with the idea, but not everyone is the same.
  5. Just because they agree to it doesn’t mean it’s not hazing. When going through an activity with a group, they may all be willing to do it. It may even sound fun and exciting to them! But it could also qualify as hazing.  STOP! This is still counts. As soon as you go through with it, you will be held accountable for your actions.

Sometimes, hazing seems like tradition and we get so caught up with doing exactly what we did the year before so the hazing continues. How can we, as an organization, get better if we never change? How do we improve if we don’t strive for the highest in all that we do? Well…we take a step back and look at ourselves. We look at our activities, and we let people know if we are uncomfortable. Going into a group, you should have fun! There is no reason to feel bad about yourself because you are being hazed. Tradition and not getting caught are not excuses. Know your university’s policy. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up and talk to someone. If you’re in a fraternity, find out if there is a way for you to report hazing within your organization. Most of all, if you feel like you are being hazed and abused, talk to someone and don’t let it continue. Let the circle of hazing stop with you.

Sharing the Bands on Social Media

As a Public Relations major and journalism enthusiast, reading my tweets and scrolling through facebook is a daily occurrence for me. Being a college band geek, a lot of what caught my eye this past fall was Ohio State’s Marching Band performing something where they played some really cool music and made a really cool shape. That seemed to be their thing this past year. When these videos were posted, it was only a few days before it seemed all of my friends on Facebook had seen and were sharing this video.

COURTESY: OSUBuckeyeTV Youtube Channel

Here, Michael Jackson shows up, and the crowd goes wild. The band does one smooth moonwalk together, and the music sounds great! So, what is it that makes us share these videos? I’m in the marching band, so I’m interested in these, but what about everyone else?

Why do we share these?

Well – first off – the videos have well known music played by a well known group. Ohio State’s Band isn’t called The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL) for no reason. Aside from them being songs we all know and love, the video went viral for other reasons as well.

Lewis PR posted on their blog ways videos go viral. They used the video, “Girl Effect,” and “Kony” to make examples of viral videos. These videos are more emotional and have a great call to action. They both affected a lot of people, and Kony even attempted to make a revolution where people covered their town with Kony’s name and face. We all know it eventually died off, but it was a pretty strong campaign, and history’s most viral video.

Marching Band doesn’t tug on the heart strings quite as much as something like “Kony” or “Girl Effect,” but some of these shows do have feel-good music that makes people want to share them, and want their friends to experience them as well.

In Lewis PR‘s blog post, they gave three reasons videos go viral.

  1. Deep Connections
  2. Creative Disruption
  3. Community Influencers

So how does Ohio State get a marching band show to go viral, and where does it fall under this reasoning?

1. Deep Connections

‘Merica loves football, and football loves ‘Merica. It’s a love/love relationship.

IFWT-RG3-Merica     Photo Credit: In Flex We Trust

With football comes marching bands, especially in Ohio. Ohio has a very strong passion for football and is generally supportive of its bands. Ohio State especially has a huge following for their bands. The school loves the songs, and the atmosphere the band creates at the games. So why not share it? A lot of the people sharing the video at first were fans of Ohio State, or people who attended the university. Their pride in their school and pride in their band caused them to click that share button. It’s a way for them to help share their love for the school and experiences of being  a student with all of their friends on Facebook. That deep connection helped to start the sharing of this marching band video.

2. Creative Disruption

If you haven’t watched the video, and are just browsing through the blog, you should go check it out. Mr. Jonathan Waters, Ohio State Marching Band Director, does a wonderful job writing shows for these students. The various formations that they are able to make are just awesome, and if you’ve marched before, I’m sure your jaw dropped a little bit imagining your band trying to make these shapes. Mine did. What’s so great about TBDBITL is that they make it look so easy. The creativity is what makes them stand out, and share-able!

3. Community Influencers

Here, the community influencers are the people sharing the content. Those sharing the content see it as valuable enough to show to other people. Other influencers can come from media talking about the band. This story from Channel 5 News-WEWS in Cleveland shows another show the band did a couple weeks after the Michael Jackson Tribute. It was a video game show that featured an OSU ship sinking a UofM ship – definitely a crowd pleaser at this game. These community influencers bringing attention to the videos are a driving force behind the viral videos.

Back to PR…

Not every video you post will go viral, and very little of your content will be able to reach one million views or shares. But the ones that do have the ability to make an impact. For marching bands, I’m sure they didn’t mean to have their videos go viral. I know from experience that performing a show once, for all the time and effort you put into it, isn’t nearly enough. Being able to share their hard work and experience with people for years after makes the hard work a bit more worth it. Going viral and getting more people to associate positive thoughts with TBDBITL’s brand is just a plus. Ohio has a lot of respect for their bands, but sharing a simple YouTube video and sharing their hard work and efforts with people around the world has made them even more well-known and now, we can watch their shows any time of the year. Hopefully next year brings them just as many cool shows and share-able viral videos!

And just in case you haven’t gotten enough of the marching band videos (I know I haven’t…) here’s one of my favorite shows they did – their Hollywood Show.



Kappa Kappa Psi Hymn

This song is my fraternity’s hymn. It means a lot to the active brothers, and means a lot to candidates who learn it and get to experience it for the first time. It’s something that hasn’t influenced me a ton in band, but it is very special to me so I wanted to share it. Plus, it’s always fun to sing with everyone 🙂

Kappa Kappa Psi – Not Just About the Service

First Impression

In my last post, I talked about my marching band family. The entire band is like a weird little family that just always has something to talk about, and usually gets along. For my experience in the bands, my close-knit family was a little smaller and a bit different than the band family as a whole.

This family just fell into my lap, and I never knew how big of a deal they would end up being to me. I came to band camp my freshman year and saw people wearing all these weird greek letters. Thinking to all the movies I’ve seen about college, I assumed it was just another fraternity and sorority that all these people happened to belong to outside of band. Turns out, they happened to belong to the organizations because of band, and I was about to find out why.

The brothers and sisters, or my peers in the Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma lettered shirts, were a loud bunch, but fun to be around. They were always setting up chairs, making sure we knew where we were going on campus, and made sure we all had a friend to eat lunch with. Even being an eighteen year old, now living on my own, in college, I was still afraid of eating lunch alone. It seems silly, but knowing they were always inviting people to their table gives you that familial feeling, and one that really brings the band together.

All band camp long, we were doing activities like campus-wide scavenger hunts, game nights, campus tours and just hanging out. After rehearsing all day, I was always looking forward to whatever they had planned for that evening. Going home to sit in my room alone was almost as bad as eating lunch alone every day; and both the brothers and sisters made sure that I never had to do that.

Fraternal History

All I really knew about them at first was that they existed and made me feel welcomed. Turns out, there are hundreds of chapters of both organizations all over the country. Kappa Kappa Psi had a much richer history than I had anticipated. Their purpose is the same at each school – to serve the bands and the school of music at their respective universities. Each chapter is unique and special, and to me, the Beta Psi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi will always have a special meaning to my time at Kent State.

Our school was not the first one to come up with the idea of a band fraternity to serve the school of music. That actually happened at Oklahoma A&M, now known as Oklahoma State University, in their bands department. It was made up of ten founding fathers, and their sponsor, Dr. Bohumil Makovsky, in 1919. Dr. Makovsky was nicknamed “Boh”, was a 33rd degree mason, smoked a saxophone shaped pipe, and wore an uncrushed velvet bow-tie. These ten students, along with Boh, set out and successfully created the Alpha chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.

Beta Psi’s History

This is where the national fraternity’s story starts. My chapter, the Beta Psi chapter, has a much later start in college band programs. February 25, 1951 was our installment date. Since that day, we have grown to 25+ strong and become a daily helping hand in the School of Music. We have gone from accepting only males, to opening up to accepting females as well, and by 1993 we had our first female president, Rose Murray. In 1967, 1977 and 1987, we hosted the North Central District North Block convention. We won the Governor’s Cup in 1999. The Governor’s Cup is essentially the award for the best chapter in the North Central District, so Beta Psi considered it a huge honor to receive, as all other chapters in the district would. In 2013, we won the Kenneth M. Corbett Most Improved Chapter Award at the National Convention. We have recently taken many steps to improve ourselves, and give our candidates a brighter chapter to step into every year.

Continuing my Journey

After learning all the history of the fraternity while going through the process of becoming an active member, I realized there was a lot more about the fraternity that couldn’t be taught on a piece of paper. We learned to work together as a team while serving the bands. We learned to live our life led by music as our most influential type of art. It is always with us, and will continue to be a part of our lives.  Becoming close by serving the bands and supporting something we all love gives us a stronger bond, in my opinion.We also learned that our brothers may not be related to us by blood, but they will always be our family for as long as we live. I love my brothers, and the support system they give me is unlike anything I’ve ever had, and will ever have. That is the reason I cherish it now, and will continue to cherish it throughout my time here at Kent. I’ll remember the day I didn’t have to eat lunch alone, and know that for the rest of my time here, I’ll always be welcome at someone’s table.

My Band Family

When it comes to my college life, one of the most important parts of it is my friends – my “family away from home,” as I often like to call them. Subsequently, those individuals are mainly found in the band. In the summer, I typically spend around 100 hours over a week and a half at marching band camp. After spending that much time around a select group of people, we’ve learned to love each other, fight with each other, but most importantly, we’ve learned to rely on each other. This has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far during my time in the bands. While I am my own person, playing my own instrument and taking my own steps in my own pattern, I am only one piece of the performance. In the Kent State Marching Golden Flashes, I am about 1/150 of the performance. I can do everything perfectly, but if I don’t rely on my peers to do the same, the show could fall apart. Here’s why.

(NOTE: All meme pictures came from smosh.com)

band-memes-standondot  First: when marching in a show, you have something called dots. The director will mark your dot in a computer program that overlays the dots onto a football field. Your dot is YOUR DOT. As a member of the marching band, you usually defend that dot like you defend your honor. This has accounted for incredibly accurate memes such as this one. During a show, you rely on everyone around you to know their dots. You learn to trust the trombones to not hit you in the head with your slides and hope the drummers don’t toss a stick your way. You can try to trust the trumpets to play quieter when they pass you, but don’t waste your time on that one.

band-memes-nexttime  Next: the attention position is somewhat of a contest in most bands. I’ve known band directors to request their band stand at attention for a few minutes, or they hold contests to see who can do it the longest. That could turn into a 10 minute contest, easily. Attention is simply holding your instrument at a set position (this varies from band to band) while holding your head high and feet together. It is somewhat militaristic in its style, but very hard to hold for long periods of time. Very often, you stand at attention before a break, whether it be for lunch or for water. When you move, you’ve broken it. Long story short, you don’t move while standing at attention. The less you move, the quicker we can all get to a water break, and that’s really what we look forward to after a run-through of a show.

All the fighting, the hard work, dedication, time spent together…that’s what makes us a family. Another part of it is we don’t have time for other friends during marching band season, so we have to deal with each other. Truthfully, I would deal with everyone in the band all year round if I could. I have learned to rely on them, trust them, form friendships with them, and more importantly I have learned to make music with them. Our whole goal of being in a band is purely for entertainment. We are also what gets the crowd cheering when the team has hit a rough patch in the game. Doing all of this, though, we’ve formed unbreakable bonds with each other. These bonds are going to last throughout my college career, and into my adult life. Something about making music with a group of people gives you a friendship that is held together with more than just inside jokes and some great memories. It’s the opportunity to not only be a part of something bigger than yourself, but also be able to create a beautiful piece of art filled with passion, love and friendship.

History of the Bands

Marching Bands have been around as long as I can remember… Being twenty years old, I guess that doesn’t give me a lot of experiences to draw from, but it does show that I have been surrounded by marching bands for my entire life. The media tends to stereotype them all as “nerds.” Not everyone in the band is a nerd, and I personally consider myself pretty cool. I never realized the true history of the bands until I got to college. The alumni would come back and visit every homecoming; some elderly people even pulled out their old trombone to participate in the festivities! The pictures lining the hallway of the rehearsal rooms in the music school were taken far before my time. There was a long history behind MY band, and all the other ones in the country.

MY band is the Kent State University Marching Golden Flashes. It was started in 1919 as an all-male band. Soon after, the twin bands were introduced in 1940 after the band had proper uniforms for the women. By 1959, everyone was wearing the same uniform. In 1981 the Drum and Bugle Corps. Style was introduced to the band, and still used in performances today. Due to several budget cuts in the School of Music, the Marching Golden Flashes became a sitting band and played only in the stands at home football games. By 1993, the band was put back on the field, thanks to petitioning of active and alumni members of the band. Eighty years after the band started, KSU Bands celebrated, along with the largest marching band in our history! In 2013, the band made history, along with the football team by going to the GoDaddy.com bowl game in Mobile Alabama. Starting this year, we have two wonderful directors leading us to an even richer history that we will all be proud to leave behind one day.

A short video of what the Kent Bands look like NOW can be found here.

That’s where my band came from, but what about some of the oldest bands in the country? One band calls itself the “All-American Band,” and holds true to its name. It has been around since it was originally formed as a drum corps. back in 1886. That’s a 128 year old band! The band was originally made up of five people and attached to the military training at the university. If you haven’t guessed by now, that band is the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band. This band overflows with tradition and love for music. In the early years of the band, there was no director. There were a lot of changes happening until 1902 when the band had grown to fifty members, and finally in 1904 things became more consistent with the band as Paul Spotts Emrick attended the school as a freshman. Coming from a long line of musicians, he was easily elected president which made him director of the band. He continued in that position until 1954 when he retired. A lot of the band’s tradition still stands and is used in performances today. One of my personal favorites is the bass drum they have. It is the largest bass drum in the world, and they use it regularly in performances. I went to a band fraternity convention and my chapter had their picture taken with the drum.


If that gives you any idea of how big it is…about twice the size of my short 5′ 1″ person. Along with this huge drum of tradition, this band has had so many firsts. They carry all colors of the Big Ten schools, and were the first school to do that. They also were the first band to perform at the Indianapolis 500, which is a tradition that still goes on to this day. They also have an alumnus who has been on the moon – Neil Armstrong. Aside from playing in well-known American venues, such as Radio City Music hall, and being the first Big Ten band to play in the Macy’s thanksgiving day parade, they have gone internationally to play in Singapore, China in 2008.

More information on the Purdue All-American Marching band can be found on their band’s history page.

This is a long and rich history, much similar to older bands in the country. I love history and knowing where I’ve come from, and who came before me. I personally gained a lot of respect for bands once I learned their history. So many people worked so hard to make our bands what they are today. All of the directors, members, assistants and fans have encouraged the marching band community and helped it grow to be a part of football and a part of many schools’ traditions. Respect them and cheer them on. They’ve worked hard to be where they are today.