On September 3, 1999, the fourth page of the Tack headlined an article written by Micah Chaplin: “The band’s not marching on.” The article cited a lack of interest and the difficulty of juggling both a marching and concert band as reason for discontinuing. During the 1997-1998 school year, the Beaver Band ended their 75 year run.
Twenty years later, this is almost a response to Chaplin: the band is marching on, “rising like a phoenix from nothing”, their slogan reads.
When President Merchant arrived in 2017, he began looking for a Director of Athletic Bands to bring both music and life back to sporting and community events. He found Tiffany Wurth, who started her position last year. “All year last year, I spent recruiting and building the marching band — buying all the instruments, all the equipment, all the uniforms.” She began a band camp at the start of August. With only thirty four students, the band is small, but its noise is as powerful as the fire the phoenix rose from.
Her first year, however, Wurth says the environment was much different at the games. During the 2018 football season, recorded music was played over the sound system, with the exception of homecoming. Wurth took the pep band to the homecoming game, and said that even though the other games had recorded music playing, “the atmosphere just erupted for homecoming when we had the band.”
Wurth also took the pep band to home basketball games last year. The student body, used to a half-silent game, had to adjust to the pep band’s presence. “It was a challenge at first,” Wurth recounts. “We would play the school song, and nobody would clap.” After a while, though, the band and the student body became so comfortable with the other that the band members would do cheers before the cheerleaders could. “The student body and the pep band were going back and forth,” she says. “It turned into a fun, real college experience.”
At their first halftime show during Saturday night’s football game, BVU’s Marching Blue performed a mashup of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, and other iconic songs by Queen. Wurth knew the first show needed to garner attention from the crowd. Coming off the heels of the recent Bohemian Rhapsody film release, Queen was a perfect choice. It showed at the performance, with younger kids dancing in the stands, and teens and adults both singing along. Wurth was also quick to note that Queen used a phoenix as their band’s symbol, implying there had to be more than a coincidence.
The music wasn’t the only thing worth taking in. The new white and gold uniforms were snazzy, featuring a cape on the left shoulder. It was a contrast from the uniforms the band used in the late 90s — archived photos show a blue and yellow uniform, topped by a cowboy hat with a plume. The band was led by drum majors Samantha Hays, a freshman and Amanda Gunderson, a transfer student from Iowa Central. They led the band spot on, with the members keyed in and focused.
Ben Maas is an environmental science professor who helped in the process of hiring and interviewing Wurth, and has since volunteered with the band. He plays the sousaphone, and returned to play this year. He says it was fun but strange returning to the field, as he had retired from marching band. “I did it at the University of Minnesota for five years, I did it at Illinois State University for two years as a master student, and I thought I was done so it’s been weird, but it’s been good, it’s been fun.” he said fondly. Maas added, “It’s great to have it back. The fan response at the game was huge. I was not expecting that.”
Wurth says she has loved getting to rebuild the marching band. In one of my favorite remarks she stated, “I actually had a gentleman come up to me and say, ‘Why would you want to start a marching band from scratch, where you don’t have any people, and you don’t have anything?’ I just thought, you’re starting a marching band from scratch! You’re totally giving a whole university something they haven’t had in a long time. And you get to build it.”
It may have been me looking for a semi-emotional story, but when describing the family she’s built within the marching band, I couldn’t tell if Wurth’s eyes were watering or not. “One of the things that we love about our program is that we are a family,” she said. “So we have gotten to build a family and an atmosphere from the ground up. And it’s been absolutely wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to do this?”
When asked about future shows, an ambitious Wurth said she’s had twelve different shows on her list. So far, the band has two more planned besides Queen. She was tight lipped on this Saturday’s show, but did tease that it was completely different than Queen, saying it will be “kind of subdued, but it’s still a show the audience will know. And then the third one kind of goes back to ‘in your face’.”
Wurth says if students would like to join her marching band family, people can still volunteer for pep and marching band this semester. It may be too late to register and take it for credit this semester, but they can sign up for credits starting in the spring. Wurth also invites members and alumni to come play. If you ask me, what she has created sounds more than worth it.Page Break