For many of the 350 members of Tiger Band, the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship was the experience of a lifetime.
“We’re all just blown away,” said Commander Trey Lockett, a drum major.
“I think the band loved every moment of it,” Lockett said Tuesday night in the parking lot of the Brooks Center. He and his bandmates spent several hours traveling back from the West Coast on the eve of the first day of classes at Clemson University.
“It was amazing to see how well our players played,” he added. “Just to be a part of that was incredible, very exciting.”
The Clemson Tigers’ historic undefeated season concluded Monday night with a 44-16 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
For Lockett, the game was a perfect way to end his tenure as leader of the band. The 22-year-old senior performing arts major is hanging up his uniform this semester after being in the band five years, with three years as a drum major.
“Being a drum major, we’re always right up in front,” he said. “It’s awesome to be there, right close to the action.”
At Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the band enjoyed a big moment in the spotlight. The halftime show was broadcast live on ESPN Classic, with 310 cameras trained on the mighty Tiger Band. That was in addition to the 75,000 football fans in attendance who got to experience what is meant by the Tiger Band motto, “Shakin’ the Southland.”
“It’s awesome to be able to travel across country and show off to other people what we’re doing,” said Timothy Hurlburt, assistant director of bands at Clemson.
Time to explore
Tiger Band musicians not only perform in the cities they visit; they also get a little free time.
Before the game, student musicians had the chance to enjoy San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf for a few hours.
“We had dinner there and went to Ghirardelli Square,” Lockett said. “I had one of the best ice cream sundaes I’ve had in a long time.”
That’s one of the joys of being in the Tiger Band, Hurlburt said. Many of the students get to see places they have never visited before.
“We want the students to have a great experience,” he said.
When they were in Dallas for the recent Cotton Bowl, for instance, many band members visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which examines the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. And last season, band members got to spend New Year’s Eve in New Orleans and march in the city’s big parade before the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018.
“It’s definitely a business trip but we do get a good amount of free time in these awesome cities we visit,” Lockett said.
A big band family
Students from every college and more than 40 majors across campus play in Tiger Band. Many of those students have received scholarships from the Clemson University Tiger Band Association, created in 1977 to support band members.
During a football season, the student musicians would have practiced 152 hours, played the famous “Tiger Rag” an average of 40 times at each home game and, while on the road, consumed 550 pizzas.
The band, under the direction of Mark Spede, has performed in 67 away games in the past 10 years, sometimes in difficult conditions. There was the time in 2004, for example, that the band played in 103-degree weather at Texas A&M.
The logistics of travel for the band and cheering squad can be challenging, but the Tiger Band is a smooth operation, Hurlburt said.
“Moving 350 people across the country with a week’s notice is not the easiest thing in the world,” he said. “We spend a lot of time planning. Hiccups happen along the way, but we’re flexible and we roll with the punches.”
In the crucible of traveling and performing, many close friendships are forged, Lockett said.
“When I’m emceeing a concert, I say that they’re 350 of my very best friends,” he said. “I believe they’re some of the greatest people on campus. I’ve just loved the time I’ve had with them, whether in a football stadium or in an awesome city like San Francisco or New Orleans or on the rehearsal field at Clemson.
“We all love each other. We’re one big family.”
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