The Marching Scarlet Knights play football games, high school demonstrations and a big part of each other's lives
One of the most memorable sights during a Rutgers football game is the marching band, a 200-plus member athletic band that performs before the games start and during halftime. The Marching Scarlet Knights have been part of the Rutgers football ritual for more than a decade, and today the band promotes Rutgers spirit at every home football game.
The band has been a University tradition since the beginning of the 20th century, when it started as a small group that played during drills for the Rutgers College Cadet Corps, according to the band’s website. It played in its first game in 1921 and adopted the formation and marching style performance of a classic marching band in 1928.
Since then, the band has expanded, growing from just 11 people at its inception to 250, becoming co-ed and acquiring its own distinct uniforms, songs and traditions along the way.
Todd Nichols is the current band director, replacing the longtime director, Timothy Smith, in 2017. He will be joined by Joe Busuito as assistant director.
The band performs several unique songs, including “The Bells Must Ring,” “Colonel Rutgers” and the University alma mater, “On the Banks of the Old Raritan.” It uses approximately a dozen wind instruments, like trombones and saxophones. The Color Guards can be seen at every game waving and tossing flags in coordination with the music, a classic sight at any football pregame show.
Some of the band's traditions include band camp, a six-day training event one week before the fall semester. Members practice for approximately 12 hours a day, learning the common marching songs and having their skills evaluated.
Before every home game, the members of the band get together for 4 hours before kickoff to practice their marches, which are followed by their performance when the football team walks onto the field. After every game, the band plays out with the alma mater. It also performed during the Super Bowl XLVIII pregame, playing alongside the Syracuse University marching band.
Molly DeHart, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, is a current member of the marching band and plays the clarinet at weekly home games.
At first, she was skeptical about joining the marching band in college and devoting so much time to it, but she quickly came to love performing and being a part of the University's athletic spirit.
“I did marching band in high school, and after senior year, I thought I was done. I started to do research on the Rutgers marching band website and signed up for their emails. I attended their rehearsals over the summer and loved it," she said.
The “Scarlet Code” sets the rules and practices of the band, DeHart said. Seniority and performance during band camp determine the positions that students occupy within the band, with “alternates” for each position who cover others when they cannot make it to a game.
The band performs at every home game, putting on a display of music to promote University spirit alongside a marching performance to the tune of the songs. The band marches in formation, takes the shape of the Scarlet Knight’s head or the traditional Rutgers “R” and other shapes or displays of school pride.
“Pregame is about 8 minutes, which is pretty long. That's like a typical high school show length. Halftime is a lot shorter, it's about 5 minutes. For special occasions like senior day, they might cut some stuff out or add stuff. We also do high school exhibition shows where we go to high schools and play for them. That's like a combination of some of our pregame and halftime shows, and some of those can be up to 11 minutes long,” DeHart said.
Even though the band is a great experience, the first-year student said that it can certainly take up a lot of time. Practices happen four times a week and go on for at least 2 hours. It is a serious commitment that can sometimes make time management, especially on the weekends, a little difficult, she said.
Members should practice on their own time as well to make sure their instrument skills stay sharp, taking even more time from a performer’s week. It is a lot of work, DeHart said.
Despite the large amount of time that the marching band demands, she said she would not give it up easily. Her favorite aspect of the band is the bond between all its members and being able to contribute to the spirit of Rutgers athletics.
“My favorite part is the family aspect of it. We sang the alma mater a lot. At band camp, before every game and after every game, we would sing it. Everyone puts their arms around each other and it doesn't matter who you're standing next to. It could be someone you don't know or it could be your best friend. I think in that moment everyone just feels like they’re so united," DeHart said.