If you’ve ever spent your Saturday afternoon surrounded by red and blue tents, eating your favorite catering brands in the Grove, and getting pumped for the upcoming football game, you’ve been a part of the Ole Miss tailgating experience. You’ve probably seen the football players proudly march the Walk of Champions. You’ve probably sat in folding cloth chairs and enjoyed the company of your best friends. You might have even heard the drum line play on the Grove stage.
But how much do you really know about the long hours and hard work they put in to play for you every week?
Not only is the drum line the busiest and hardest-worked section of the band during game day, they also put in more hours than the rest of the band every day from Day 1.
Band camp for the drum line begins three days before the rest of the band. The morning of the first day, they hold auditions. By the end of the day, every one is squared away, knowing which piece they are going to play for the remainder of the semester. They then practice all day for the next two days and continue to work hard once the are joined by the year’s Ole Miss band members.
Once the school year gets rolling, the band practices every week for nine to 10 hours on game weeks and at least eight hours during by weeks or away game weeks. The drum line starts every practice 15 minutes before everyone else and typically finish 15 minutes later every day. Once a week every two weeks, they even have their own practice that lasts for about an hour.
The drum line also gets singled out to appear at Ole Miss sporting events. Last year they played at the basketball game against Mississippi Valley State University. This year, they attended the soccer game against Arkansas on Sept. 25. Of course, their biggest role is getting the crowd pumped for football games. On game days, the drum line gives 110 percent long before and after the crowd sees them in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. They begin the day in the band hall an hour and a half before the rest of the band has to be anywhere. In this time, they practice cadences to get the blood flowing to their hands and then they walk together in a single file line from the music building to the Grove.
Some of the members then go to the union to play for the football team as they come through the Walk of Champions, then hustle back to the Grove stage to play with the remainder of the drum line. The drum line’s stage show lasts for about 15 minutes and they play two cadences collectively called “Rebel Beat.” The favorite part among Grovers is the band’s own version of the Hotty Toddy chant.
They then join the band in the Grove to play “Swing Low Ole Miss” and back them up as they play the remainder of their set. Of course, they don’t stop there.
“The drums throughout the day are almost constantly playing,” assistant director of bands Randy Dale said. “If you’ve seen them in the street between the grove and the stadium, the drums play when the band is playing, when the band isn’t playing. It takes us about 13-14 minutes to get over there and the drums are playing the entire time.”
When they get to the stadium, the band plays the pre-game show. The drum line plays the band onto and off of the field and continues to play as the band is shifting sets.
In the stands, the band plays a collection of both traditional and popular songs, including Firework, Locked Out of Heaven, Thrift Shop, Party Rock Anthem and several others.
“They have to be prepared at any moment to just play something, so we’ve got to have several things ready to go,” Dale said.
The band’s half-time show for the past three games included music from Foo Fighters, Sound Garden and Nirvana. The next few shows they play will be motown themed.
You can catch the Ole Miss drum line at the game against the University of Alabama this Saturday, beginning with their show at 11 a.m. in the Circle.
Rachel Vanderford is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.