At MIT, the quirky marching band steals the show
Performing in bathing suits, caroling during the holidays, the band is the school’s spirit
Student life at MIT can only be described as, well, different. So much about our campus cannot be found at any place else: East and West Campus dorm dynamics, the notion of “IHTFP”, and the famous hacks are just a few examples.
Our football culture is no exception, as I discovered this past Saturday.
Growing up in Texas, I am used to attending the games of perennial BCS powerhouses such as the University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies, so in comparison, football games at MIT are nothing like they are back home (probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to most people). Large state schools tend to have huge stadiums that seat tens of thousands of fans, hordes of tailgaters, and national TV coverage — none of which can be found at an MIT football game.
What may be surprising, though, is that while we have far fewer fans at the games than other schools, there were still students covered in body paint, an announcer enthusiastically calling every play, and cheerleaders pepping up the crowd, just like at any football game. So what makes our games so special? Well, aside from the unique cardinal-red and steel-gray body paint color scheme (okay, maybe it was just red and gray), one thing you won’t find at any other college football game in the country is a marching band quite like the Engineers’.
Before Saturday, my image of a college marching band was a massive group of horn, woodwind, and percussion players, all playing with military precision, adorned in perfectly matching outfits complete with tall plumed hats, and marching at half time with meticulous coordination.
Our marching band is about 20 strong at best, and the only matching attire they wear are red capes and striped hats. Their halftime show consisted of playing Beach Boys hits and the Jaws theme while standing in bathing suits in the long jump sand pit. I can safely say I have never seen anything like it.
There were a few other quirky moments that kept the crowd entertained. After the “beach show,” the band performed what they call the MIT drill, which consists of yelling to the crowd, “Give me an M! Give me an A! Give an S! Give me another S!”, and so on, for all thirty-four letters of “Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” and then yelling, “what does that spell? M-I-T!” Needless to say, they have a pretty good sense of humor.
Shaymus W. Hudson ’12, a marching band member and a junior in Materials Science, said that, when the marching band performs, “It’s a show. People find it entertaining.”
I also discovered the marching band performs not only at football games, but also at MIT basketball, lacrosse, field hockey games, and has even performed on the ice during a break at an hockey game. The band also goes caroling around Christmas time, and delivers band-o-grams around Valentine’s Day. Other traditions include singing the Engineers Drinking Song on the elevator ride down from their rehearsal space in the student center on their way to games, and doing the Beaver Call at sporting events, which goes like:
I’m a Beaver,
You’re a Beaver,
We are Beavers All.
And when we get together, we do the Beaver call.
e to the u, du/dx, e to the x, dx.
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Integral, radical, mu dv.
Slipstick, sliderule, MIT.
Most members of the band have some previous playing experience, and find that the low time commitment combined with the crazy antics of the band allows them to have fun doing something they already love to do. Much of their music is self-arranged, and the overall attitude, according to marching band president Lauren M. Jozwiak ’11, is that “[they] don’t take themselves too seriously”. Music director Sarah Don adds, “and we are always looking for new members.”
What makes MIT a special place is that the student body, like the MIT marching band members, “don’t take themselves too seriously”. At other schools, people could not tolerate a marching band that wore capes and did beach-themed halftime shows. We are part of a culture that embraces things that are clever, eccentric, and entertaining. Whether we actively take part in a group like the marching band, or go hacking, or drop things from high places just for fun, we know that here those things will be appreciated, or at least tolerated.
With that being said, seriously consider going to the next football game (the next home game is on Saturday, October 2nd) with your friends and paint “GO TECH” on your stomachs, or learn how to say the Beaver call in Esperanto, or show up in a suit of Cardinal Red chain mail. Do something crazy to show your Beaver pride, because this is the only place where that will be socially acceptable.
We may not all be sports fans, but I believe we could all use a break from psetting to do something we will never be able to do again: Be crazy college sports fans. We can all learn a lesson from the MIT marching band, and get out there and show our MIT pride while having fun doing it.