Undergraduate Admission Blog

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October 12, 2017

The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe

At the end of my first week at USC, my alarm blared to life at 5:30am on a Saturday and I had to wonder if I was making a huge mistake.

It wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed my mind – from the moment I signed up at orientation, during the grueling 7:00am to 10:00pm camp just before school began, and while juggling my first week of classes and practices. I had a sinking feeling I was in over my head. However, if there was one mantra drilled into me throughout the course of the week long camp, it was that Trojans never quit. It was with this logic that I soon found myself surrounded by over 300 USC Trojan Marching Band members on an already blazing hot September morning, ready to embark on a four-year journey.

Joining the TMB was a decision that I made before I even really understood what college was. I had a general understanding of USC early on, with my father starting his PhD there shortly after I was born and my brother beginning his freshman year in Thornton when I entered kindergarten. Growing up, there were numerous late nights spent in my father’s office in VKC and countless hours devoted to searching throughout campus for my “best friend” Traveler (I was very disappointed to discover he did not actually live in Heritage Hall). But perhaps my favorite activity was watching my older brother perform with the Trojan Marching Band. Whether it was practices on Cromwell Field or halftime shows at the Coliseum – if the TMB was performing, I made sure I was sitting front and center. Around six-years-old, I began formulating my plot to get my hands on a trumpet and the signature TMB helmet.

When I made good on the promise to myself eleven years later, I still wasn’t prepared for what it meant to be a part of the largest, most visible spirit organization on campus. At USC, the band takes on almost celebrity-status; something they back up with the caliber of the gigs they book. Freshman year included a performance with DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, P. Diddy and numerous other famous artists at the BET Awards. Sophomore year an appearance on Glee as Trumpet #2.  My junior year started with a bang, joining the LA Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl for the annual Tchaikovsky Fireworks Spectacular. By senior year, I was back in Bovard Auditorium where it all began that first night of band camp four years earlier. However, this time it was to record a track composed by Alan Silvestri for an upcoming DreamWorks film. The piece was inspired by our famous song “TUSK”, and for us seniors in the room who had stuck with the band since that sweltering Saturday morning rehearsal four years prior, it was a bittersweet ending.

Despite the amazing opportunities, being in the band was never easy. It took painstaking effort to blend class, work, internships, and other commitments with practices, football games, travel, and numerous performances each week. Shin splints, sunburns and fatigued embouchures were commonplace throughout the fall semester. And blending over 300 personalities into one organization led to numerous challenges on a daily basis. However, the driving force that made everything worthwhile was our shared passion for USC and our commitment to our fellow Trojans.

Even though my days in the band are over, I still get that small thrill whenever I walk past their practices on Cromwell Field or see band members hustling off to various performances around campus. And this speaks to the type of students we look for in our admission process. No matter the extracurricular, we want students who are passionate about organizations that allow them to become a part of and contribute to a larger community. Moreover, it’s not always about being the “four-year captain” or founder/president of your club. Sometimes your commitment to your extracurriculars and the contributions you make to an organization can speak for itself. So be sure to share your passions through the Activities Summary to help us envision which of our student communities you may go on to join.

These days, while I don’t miss my 5:30am alarm on Saturday mornings, I will always be grateful that the Trojan Marching Band gave me some of my closest friends, provided amazing opportunities, and taught me what it truly meant to Fight On.

By: Kellie Graham ’13
Assistant Director of Admission

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