Thanks to everyone who commented last week on my Band Week Guide For Incoming Freshmen. There was a lot of good material in the responses. Craig also wrote up his guide to game day for incoming freshmen, and it's very good. However, it's not really relevant to anyone in the marching band. Your Saturday morning is going to be a very, very different experience, so I'd like to give you an idea of what you're getting into.
Saturday Begins On Friday
On Friday, check your equipment, make sure you have clean spats and gloves. If not, make your purchases now. If you can't find a yuba strap, this'll give you the opportunity to get to a shoe store and buy one of those really thin laces (In black, of course). Buy a Bo-style baseball cap with the Block M and nothing else on the front and bring it with you for game day. Brass, polish up your horn.
Appalachian State is a noon game, so you're guaranteed to have an 8:00AM practice. Mark it down now. Sometimes with a 3:30 game they'll push practice back a bit, but this will be an 8:00. For those rehearsals, I usually ended getting up at 5:30 (I lived in Markley my freshman year. You can get away with a later time if you're closer). Partying is out of the question, really, and you're going to value every extra minute of sleep. I could never manage to fall asleep before midnight, but try to get what you can. Guys, you'll want to shave either on Friday night or not at all. The plastic chin strap will irritate the skin too much if you shave on Saturday morning.
Fire Up, It's Saturday!
When you wake up, check the weather. You're probably going to want to dress in layers, especially if it's a sunny day. A lot of Saturdays, you'll end up walking down in sweats and a jacket but stripping down to the regulation shorts and t-shirt by the time marching rehearsal begins, even the reserves. Bring sunglasses. Half the time it's impossible to see the tower without them.
My 5:30 alarm gave me enough time to get a shower in, wake up a little, check my gear, and walk down from Markley to Revelli Hall by 7:15 or so. Having extra time will allow you to grab a bagel and/or coffee at the hall, and both were quite cheap when I was in the band. It's also useful for that one time when you can't find your black socks or you can only locate one shoe in the bottom of the closet. Oh, and a tip on carrying your uniform: If you're tall enough without the garment bag dragging, you can hook it into the top handle of your backpack. It'll flop around a bit against your legs, and you'll need a little more space in your locker, but it's less annoying than shifting it between your arms every five minutes. Once you get out to Elbel, take a few minutes to look over the music again, get stretched out, etc. The usual stuff. Remember: You need your hat with plume and yuba for Saturday rehearsal.
Practice will consist of warm-ups, then regular music rehearsal, followed by marching rehearsal for block members. During marching rehearsal, reserves shouldn't wander too far. Do they still hand out jobs while the rest of the band marches? They did when I was around. Everyone should do water bottle duty at some point, but it's easiest on a cooler day against a bad team. OK, the bad team part doesn't really make it easier, it just means you don't regret missing the game as much.
Whenever practice lets out, lunch begins (~10:00, usually). I recommend the hot dog stand on Hoover Street at the railroad tracks, because grilled >> boiled. Don't stuff yourself or you'll regret it. In the choice between nausea or being starving in the third quarter, I'll choose starving by a wide margin. For me, that meant that a dog and a Coke was my lunch.
Family members may request that you visit them during lunch. This is fine if they're parked at Elbel or the Coliseum, but if they're out at Pioneer, DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. It's a longer walk and you have less time than you think. Make them come to you if they insist.
Give yourself plenty of time to get your uniform on. If you go early, you'll have a lot more room, which I always appreciated, an it's your last chance to control your own schedule. Take the time to make a last stop at the bathroom before putting on the uniform. Find a spot in the bibbers to stuff your Bo-style hat. Some hats you can snap around one of the suspenders. If you have an extra yuba, you can even thread it through one of the ventilation holes in the hat and tie it to the bibbers.
I Love a Parade
It's a long series, and rank moves aren't really stressed during Band Week, so you're bound to miss a couple of cues. Look to older band members and follow what they do. As you approach the parking lot to Michigan Stadium, half ranks will be called for and some people will forget where to go. You may have to improvise. Just make sure you end up with six people in each rank and nobody will know the difference. Remember: rank moves are verboten after the stop for Parking Lot Victors, but vocals are still good (Again, is this still the case?).
With the band so stretched out, it's hard to hear whistles at the steps, especially in the reserves. Do your best, let everyone around you know what's next, and follow any visual cues for "Let's Go Blue" and "The Victors". Don't let anybody cut through the band. When reserves are dismissed, run down the tunnel like a crazy person. Skip if you want to. Slap hands with all the little kids hanging over the railing. Enjoy every second of it.
Reserves, find your seat, then make sure people don't cut through the section. If you're a freshman third trumpet, you don't get to sit in the front row, dude. Wait for the show to begin, and then be LOUD. When the block members get into the stands, they get the water bottles first, even if it's 90 and you're dying. The drum cheers between plays take a little while to pick up on, so keep your ears open and pay attention to people who've been there before. The MMB does not participate in the Wave, nor do we boo anyone (and I think hissing is bush league). Your cape is not to be used as a penalty flag. If you aren't hoarse by the end of the game, don't give up. You can be louder next time. After the '99 Notre Dame game I sounded like Tom Waits for the next three days.
Apples will be served during the third quarter. Eat quickly, as there's no telling when you'll have to play again and the box will soon be coming back for the cores.
When Michigan wins, we turn our hats backward. It can be tricky to find the right chin strap setting for this at first. When the post-game concert is over, you'll want to tighten it up so that your hat doesn't flop into your face due to a particularly vigorous rank move.
Following the post-game concert, line up in half ranks for the parade back to the stadium. This can be a little trickier than it sounds. Again, just make sure you have six in a row. Shortly after you start moving, it'll be time for quarter ranks, which will again lead to some improvising before you emerge from the tunnel in half ranks. Given how early it is in the season, you probably won't have special rank moves for the way back (Flying Camels, anyone?).
When you get back to Revelli, you'll be exhausted and soaked in sweat. This is when your family will decide to take you out for dinner. It's times like these when it can pay off to bring a change of clothes, because otherwise your choices become 1) Go back to the dorm to change while the other 100,000 people get in line in front of you at Cottage Inn OR 2) Find yourself all alone at the far end of the table (Personally, I never chose 2). Whatever you go for, there's a solid chance you'll fall asleep at the table.
There's Got To Be a Morning After
There are four home games in September. Four! In the hottest month of football season. Pick two games of those and take your uniform down to Revelli for dry cleaning on Sunday. Trust me, everyone will appreciate it. AT LEAST take it in once, otherwise it becomes a biohazard. You don't want that thing lurking in your closet.