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Unsung Hero: Conducting His Way From Alumni To The White House

Features Editor

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 02:02

They brave the heat for every September football game, and their perfect mix of pop music and songs of Boston pride may cause you to nearly fall off your tiny spot on the bleachers. The Boston College "Screaming Eagles" Marching Band provides the soundtrack to every football game and pump energy into the bodies of every Superfan, despite what’s happening on the field. While their performance would be nothing without the immense dedication of their numerous members, their success can also be attributed to the help of Matthew Hutchinson, A&S ’13, a senior who has been the main conductor of the band for the past three years.

As a freshman who had participated in his high school’s marching band, Hutchinson entered BC as a baritone player, but soon realized that he wanted to take on a greater role by conducting.

"My freshman year I auditioned, maybe against five or six other candidates, which included upperclassmen, so I anticipated that I would be taking on an assistant’s position," Hutchinson said. The audition process involves conducting three pieces of music selected at random from director David Healey, followed by a student vote along with the director’s selection for the most qualified candidate. Despite being only a freshman, Hutchinson obtained the position, and is now responsible for conducting all the field shows and leading the band during rehearsals.

Some may wonder about how the music selections are made, since a certain song is needed to express the mood of every moment. "At game day, it is up to the discretion of myself and the stands conductors," Hutchinson said. "We usually come to an agreement on what we think is an appropriate time and place for every piece of music in our repertoire." Healey is responsible for choosing the songs prior to the season, and Hutchinson makes sure to assemble the songs in a manner that is fitting for every game.

Hutchinson had his first experience conducting in high school, but his true appreciation for the role heightened during his time at BC. "I think that it’s just an incredible experience when it came to college because the level of talent in the ensemble surpasses my high school band by so much," he said. It’s a very different experience being in front of the band and hearing the creation of harmony first-hand, he explained, which is one of his favorite aspects of being the conductor.

Hutchinson had the chance to create the ultimate performance with the band’s recent appearance at the presidential inauguration. He had performed at New York City parades in high school, but none could match the experience of marching on the streets of Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

"It just looked surreal—that is the best I can describe it," Hutchinson said. "Getting closer to the president, I was trying to maintain posture, but then I could see to my left the president and the first lady, and it was just incredible."

The selection of the "Screaming Eagles" to perform in the inaugural parade resulted undoubtedly from long hours of rehearsal, which Hutchinson noted as a challenge when trying to conduct a group of about 180 people.

"Sometimes the band isn’t completely focused, so when not everyone is focused and you’re at the helm of the band, things start derailing and it’s very nerve-wracking," he said. "Sometimes when you’re performing, you’re afraid of what could happen. There’s a lot of pressure on game day," he added, especially during the first few weeks of the season, when the band is testing new material. Band camp, which is about a week and a half before the start of the fall season, can be a very intensive process, but the student body can attest to the fact that those lengthy practices have had outstanding results.

The marching band differs from many of the student organizations on campus in that most of its members make the commitment even before they arrive at BC. Through post cards, information tables at orientation, and reaching out to freshmen with marching band or instrumental experience, Hutchinson, as well as the other student leaders, ensures that they have a sizable amount of incoming freshmen to join the largest student organization on campus.

When he’s not in the stands, Hutchinson balances his chemistry major with his participation in Eagle EMS. He intends to go to medical school after graduation, but for the next year he will be working for a pharmaceutical company based in Long Island, N.Y.

Looking back on the past four years, Hutchinson can say with confidence that it’s been a "good run," and anyone who has heard the band perform can surely agree.

"After my time in high school in marching band, and four years here at BC, it’s definitely bittersweet," he said. "I could not have asked for a better encore performance than performing for the President of the United States. It’s just such a good way to end."


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