The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, the Pulse of the Spirit of Aggieland, is adapting to the coronavirus like all other organizations on campus — by moving online.
This transition online includes shifting auditions for general band membership to video format. Students who have already signed up for an in-person audition received an email about how to submit their audition and other prospective members who have not signed up yet must complete an audition information form to get the new instructions.
Director of Bands and Music Activities Timothy Rhea, doctor of musical arts, said auditions should have no major changes, aside from not having a band director physically in the room.
“With the recent move to online formats across the university, we enjoyed the resources to put in place an online audition process that is straight-forward and user friendly,” Rhea said. “We are making every effort to make certain that every incoming student interested in the Aggie Band is aware of this option for the audition requirement.”
Another major change for the Aggie Band is having virtual tryouts for the highest student leadership position in the band: drum major. Michael Milton, current combined band drum major and computer science senior, will help judge the final audition that will occur sometime in April.
“We are still determining exactly what this will look like,” Milton said. “But it will be some combination of observing their conducting (likely along with a recording), instructing how a piece is conducted, instructing a drill we send them and some interview questions. We won’t get to see how the candidates perform in front of the band and how well they interact with the band, but I believe we will still get a good read of their abilities.”
Though the finalists cannot continue meeting in-person with the current drum majors, Milton said they still have many resources to use to fine-tune their skills.
“The current drum majors have been meeting with the candidates on a regular basis to instruct various marching and conducting techniques they need to know,” Milton said. “When we left for Spring Break, every finalist was given a mace to practice with, as well as critiques from their preliminary audition so they can practice and improve over Spring Break. If they have any questions or want critiques, they can ask any of the drum majors for help.”
One candidate for drum major from A-Battery, biomedical sciences junior Kyle Medlock, said losing the chance to lead the Aggie Band during tryouts will be disappointing for the four who will not be chosen.
“As a finalist, even if you are not selected as drum major you get the chance to conduct the entire band during final auditions,” Medlock said. “It is upsetting to think four of the seven finalists will have put all this work in and will never have the experience to step off the Aggie Band.”
After Spring Break, the upperclassmen normally begin teaching the other cadets how to be good leaders for next year’s band. Though training has to be conducted online now, Medlock said they will overcome the situation and succeed next semester.
“I do think they’ll be an initial learning curve at the start of next fall semester, but I know the quality of cadets that make up band leadership,” Medlock said. “We are trained throughout our Corps experience to overcome any challenge thrown our way, and we will get through this and be just as effective as ever before in our mission of creating leaders of the highest caliber.”
According to Rhea, the band is taking every challenge one step at a time and striving to be great students despite the changes and losses of important events.
“We are adapting as things evolve,” Rhea said. “Not getting to see the Aggie Band for a final time this year was disappointing for all of us, but a reality that we all understood was necessary. Right now, the most important thing for all members of the Aggie Band is to achieve academic success in this new online environment.”