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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UC Davis Marching Band members reflect on how the organization has impacted their college experiences

Students say that the marching band has helped them adjust to college and make friends


By AMBER WARNKE — features@theaggie.org 


The UC Davis Marching Band, known as the “Spirit of the Davis Campus,” performs at on- and off-campus events throughout the year with over 175 members. The Aggie Band was formed in 1929 and was restructured in 2019 from being a student-led organization to being directed by the university, which gives students creative and social opportunities to engage with the school. 

David Elgourt, a first-year computer engineering major, appreciates the ways being a member of the Aggie Band has helped him adjust to moving to college. 

“It was kind of scary at first being like, ‘Oh I don’t have any friends,’ but being in band forces you to meet new people and become friends […] within your specific instrument section,” Elgourt said.

Rebecca Newman, a second-year English and cinema and digital media double major, also said that the marching band has helped with making friends.

 “Beyond just playing my instrument, the band is a really nice social circle,” Newman said. “It’s full of a lot of people that are always willing to talk to you and help you out. It’s also a really strong support group. I trust the people in my section more than most people on this Earth.”

Newman especially appreciates the marching band retreat, a week-long intensive series of meetings for band members to hone their skills that takes place during orientation. 

“It’s like band camp,” Newman said. “It’s a week before classes actually start, and you kind of learn the basics of being in the band and meet all the people that you’re going to be spending your time with.”

First-year sustainable environmental design major Sam Feigelman said that retreat can be tiring, but that it’s a good way to get introduced to Davis. 

“That was a wild week,” Feigelman said. “I came into Davis […] juggling orientation and this [retreat], and I barely [knew] anybody, and I’m just meeting my roommates, so that whole week there was a lot going on, but it was really fun just doing band eight hours a day. That’s a highlight for a lot of kids. You’re meeting all these new people, you’re doing a lot of work on your instrument, but you’re also having a lot of fun doing it.”

Newman said that the environment was more welcoming than her high school band. 

“I was also a little worried because I’m a percussionist,” Newman said, “and that culture surrounding Battery [drums] in certain marching bands is kind of toxic, […] but I thought I would give it a try and I ended up really liking it because the way this band’s drum section functions is completely different than the way I could have expected.”

Newman has found that the drumming section is welcoming, but can feel slightly disconnected from the rest of the marching band at times. 

“For us as drummers, I feel like our experience is a little unique,” Newman said. “It’s better this year, but my freshman year, and still a little this year, our section feels a little more separate from the rest of the band, which isn’t really a good or a bad thing, it’s just interesting. Even in between the sections in the rest of the band, it’s not like people stay only to their section, but […] your section is your group. And then there’s dynamics between those groups, which is just kind of an interesting thing to navigate.”

Alana Faria, a second-year history major, joined at the beginning of the year with no previous marching band experience. She said she has seen improvements in her performance throughout the year. 

“It was hard to adjust because [my cymbals are] really heavy; it was hard to get used to that, but it wasn’t too difficult to learn how to march,” Faria said. “[Now] it’s a big part of my life, and I’m glad that it is.”

The marching band is open to newcomers, accepting members of all experience levels, even those with no musical background, and offers lessons and mentorship to first-timers. 

“Everything is taught, assuming you have no experience,” Feigelman said.

First-year civil engineering major Josh Feil said students who don’t have experience should not be dissuaded from joining.

 “You don’t have to play an instrument; we will teach you,” Feil said. “We will take literally anyone; it’s open no matter what your experience level is.”

The marching band is a good space for students to pick up a new hobby, according to Newman. 

“You’ll learn it in a supportive environment because none of us are judging the rest of us based on our musical skill,” Newman said. “We’re more focused on who you are as a person. If we have fun together, we’ll have fun playing together.”

Feil believes future students will have fun in the marching band and is proud to be a part of the Davis spirit.

“Here at Davis, specifically, it is what you make it,” Feil said. “We are, I’d say, one of the more spirited organizations on campus. People know the band; they see the band [and] we’re proud to be the band. We’re involved in a lot of facets. We’re getting asked to play at university gigs, at community gigs, at athletic events. So I feel like we’re really well-known.”
Newman also finds identity in being part of the marching band. 

“You obviously want to perform well, but it really is community-based,” Newman said. “It’s more about what you do together,”

Elgourt said that some of the band’s most impressive performances are their rallies after football and basketball games. Participation in rallies and games can come with a large time commitment, according to first-year genetics major Nirvana Nejad. During football season, performances require frequent practice. Members learn the music and steps for a show four days a week, according to Feigelman. 

Newman believes that, while marching band can take a lot of time in a student’s busy schedule, it is worth it.

 “I have a lot of fun here,” Newman said. “It’s definitely the activity at Davis that I put most of my energy into.”

Written by: Amber Warnke — features@theaggie.org