Cornhusker Marching Band exhibition concert is Aug. 20

Last year’s Cornhusker Marching Band recorded a pregame and halftime performance in Memorial Stadium in October for the virtual game day experience. This year the band will return to performing live at each home game in front of a full stadium of fans. Photo by Craig Chandler, University Communication.
Last year’s Cornhusker Marching Band recorded a pregame and halftime performance in Memorial Stadium in October for the virtual game day experience. This year the band will return to performing live at each home game in front of a full stadium of fans. Photo by Craig Chandler, University Communication.

Cornhusker Marching Band exhibition concert is Aug. 20

calendar icon28 Jul 2021    

Lincoln, Neb.--The Cornhusker Marching Band’s annual exhibition concert returns Friday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Stadium. The concert is free and open to the public.

The annual concert will present highlights of what the Cornhusker Marching Band has been working on during their pre-season Band Camp, including the famous “drill down” and a preview of the first halftime show.

“I’ve had many people tell me they enjoy coming to the band exhibition because it helps them annually begin their school year,” said Doug Bush, the assistant director of bands and assistant marching band director. “It’s just a fun, free, family event where we gather in Memorial Stadium, hear and clap along with the fight songs and see what the Cornhusker Marching Band has been up to during band camp. It’s a special event. Exhibitions this size don’t happen everywhere.”

Tony Falcone, associate director of bands and director of the Cornhusker Marching Band, said the band has its work cut out for them at band camp.

“Two entire classes of the band (this year’s freshmen and sophomores) won’t have performed in front of 90,000 in Memorial Stadium,” he said. “That’s going to be a steep learning curve, and we’re going to have to rely heavily on our student leadership for guidance and institutional memory to get us back up to speed.”

The exhibition concert gives band members a “practice run” before their first home game.

“Although they don’t really look at it as practice. They take it seriously,” Bush said. “It’s a way for them to get the first-show jitters out before that first pre-game performance with 90,000 fans in the stands.”

It’s a welcome return to a more normal season for the Cornhusker Marching Band this season after the pandemic canceled the exhibition concert last season, and the band did not perform live at football games. In fact, no more than two-thirds of the band rehearsed in Cook Pavilion at one time last year.

“I think I speak for the entire band when I say that we can’t wait to have a more normal band experience this fall. Last year looked much different than a normal year,” said drum major Katherine Schmit, a junior music education major from Lincoln. “Rather than working on a different half-time show each week, we worked on one show for the whole season, which was recorded and shown during football games. Our rehearsal time was much more limited than usual, so I’m thankful we had the opportunity to meet at all.”

Ian Maltas, a drum major and senior psychology and communications studies major from Lincoln, is also excited to have a more normal season this year.

“There’s really nothing quite like hearing fight songs played by 300 people all at once,” he said. “I am most looking forward to the energy that comes with the noise of Memorial Stadium on a game day. I don’t think there’s anything else like it.”

Falcone is excited to get back out on the field in front of an audience again.

“I think it will be a jolt to everyone’s system to feel that energy again, audience included,” he said. “There will be a lot of goose bumps and tears. What I’ve missed the most is watching the students enjoy the experience and come together as a family through all the hard work. We did our best to preserve that last season, but it was a challenge.”

Bush said last year provided the band with an interesting opportunity to focus on different things.

“Without having game performances to prepare for, we were able to have a much longer rehearsal arc to get our material learned,” he said. “We also spent time focusing on the band family and making sure we were watching out for each other through the pandemic. It certainly felt strange sitting at home watching Husker football on television rather than being in attendance. It was a little frustrating, but we all understood why.”

What Maltas missed the most last year was interaction.

“Not only with the fans, but also with my fellow band members,” Maltas said. “I think walking into Memorial Stadium with 90,000 people this year will make me feel like a freshman again. Every new member remembers the rush they felt the first time they marched pregame to a sold-out crowd, but not every band member gets to experience that same feeling twice.”

Falcone is proud of the way the band came through the challenges of last year.

“We were faced with many obstacles. We didn’t have band camp, nor the use of the stadium, and the safety protocols drastically affected how we were able to accomplish our goals,” he said. “But I felt like we did an admirable job. Within all those limitations, we took the opportunity to stretch our creativity and perform in ways we wouldn’t get to in a regular season. Our students were amazing through the whole thing. They held their heads high and never gave up. Many of them expressed to me how grateful they were that we were able to continue.”

Schmit said there’s no feeling like walking into Memorial Stadium when it’s full.

“I missed performing for a real audience, so the prospect of being back in the stadium is pretty thrilling,” she said. “I am incredibly excited for new members of the band to have this life-changing experience for the first time.”

Bush enjoys the opportunity for his students to perform for large crowds of Husker fans.

“I think it will feel a lot like the very first time I walked out of the northwest tunnel in Memorial Stadium on game day,” he said. “It can be overwhelming with both excitement and emotion.”

The band is known as “The Pride of All Nebraska.” Maltas said that is a big deal to him.

“I’m constantly reminded of how amazing this opportunity is when I tell people I’m in the band,” he said. “It’s no longer an activity that only nerdy people do. People look up to you and envy your position. It’s a fantastic experience to perform on the same field as the Husker football team and be part of the game day experience for 90,000 of the most devoted fans in the country.”

Schmit said, “We are a representation of the hard work, passion and good character that exists throughout all of Nebraska.”

She is looking forward to developing the band’s sense of community this season.

“We’ve all experienced the same difficult year together, and so this year is all about getting back to work and building those valuable relationships within the band,” she said.

Maltas said the concert is the soonest way to get into the spirit of the Husker football season.

“There will be videos of the football team practicing online, but this is the first thing that the general public can go to in person to get a live part of that game day feeling,” he said. “Hearing ‘Hail Varsity’ and ‘No Place Like Nebraska” with 300 people playing together is a feeling that can’t be replicated through livestreams or video, so I would say anyone who needs a little bit of game day before the first game should absolutely be there.”

Schmit is excited to perform for fans again at the exhibition concert.

“If you attend our exhibition on Aug. 20, you’ll get to see the band march pregame for the first time in over a year,” she said. “We can’t wait to be back home in Memorial Stadium. Thank you for watching and supporting the band.”

Falcone said the exhibition concert is an important part of the band’s preparations for the season as they run through their game-day routine and perform in front of people in the stadium.

“Everyone should come to the Band Camp Exhibition to see the sights, hear the sounds and feel the feelings of Marching Band live and in person for the first time in what, for many, will be two years,” he said. “It’s also one of the very few things that we do just for ourselves, so it’s a special night for the students and their friends and families, many of whom don’t always get the opportunity to see us at a football game.”

Fans attending the Cornhusker Marching Band exhibition concert should enter Memorial Stadium through Gate 3 (Southwest entrance) and Gate 11 (Northwest entrance). The gates will open at 6 p.m.

The Cornhusker Marching Band resides in the Glenn Korff School of Music.