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Column: A Nod to the Band

Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 00:01

On Monday, President of the United States Barack Obama will be inaugurated for a second time. The event will be missing the record crowds from January 2009, as well as the historic nature of an African American taking the presidential oath for the first time. Monday’s inauguration will feature a new special guest, though: the Screaming Eagles Marching Band.

Despite being the largest student organization at Boston College, the marching band largely stays out of the limelight. They played a prominent part in the Eagles’ first down chant controversy, when the student section’s loud comparison of the opposing team to female dogs forced a hasty change in the band’s song choice. For the most part, though, the band plays a supporting role, providing the soundtrack to BC football games. They play “Seven Nation Army” to heighten suspense between plays, “For Boston” after a BC score, and a smorgasbord of pop songs during commercial breaks. Despite their massive presence in the corner of the student sections, fans largely ignore the band when they aren’t on the field during halftime. I myself am guilty of taking the band for granted during games, with the notable exception of when I watch as my favorite conductor directs the band in exuberant fashion.

Earlier this year, I wrote a column describing how the Holy War could potentially be the signature home game of my BC experience. For a multitude of reasons, that frustrating defeat was nowhere near signature. The aftermath of the final home game against Virginia Tech, however, was a highly memorable moment. As the football team trudged off the field after “Hail Alma Mater” was played, the seniors remained in the stands and chanted for the band to play one more song.

The band obliged and began to play “Build Me Up Buttercup,” an unintentionally amusing choice in light of the recent last second defeat to Virginia Tech. As the song drew to a close, the seniors, myself included, chanted even louder for one more song. We had all suddenly realized that this was the last moment we could enjoy the BC football experience as students. The first in a long series of lasts had unexpectedly arrived. The marching band was suddenly the center of attention as the seniors begged for one last encore, many with tears in their eyes.

For nearly a half hour the band continued to play song after song for the seniors, long after the players had left the field. After the game I asked my roommate, a sousaphone player, if he was annoyed by the extended encore. He replied that the seniors always remain in the stands after the final home game, and it’s one of his favorite parts of playing in the marching band. I remembered how the gratitude shone in the band members’ faces after the seniors gave them one last standing ovation before leaving the field as students for the last time, and couldn’t help but agree with him.

On Sunday, the band will fly down to Washington, D.C. in preparation for the inauguration. This is no small achievement; around 2,000 groups applied to participate in the parade and only around 70 were accepted. While I may jokingly refer to the band as the social rejects when my roommate is around, in reality they were an integral part of the BC football experience. I may have slept through nearly every Eagle Walk to the field, but I thoroughly enjoyed hearing them perform during the games. While people with inferior schedules are in class on Monday, I will be watching the inauguration, hoping to catch a glimpse of the band on TV. That final encore after “Hail Alma Mater,” rather the Notre Dame game, was the signature BC football experience for me.

 

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