‘Big, Fat, Mature Sound’

Golden Eagles Marching Band Doubles its Size

Photo of the Golden Eagles Marching Band

When Southeast Missouri State University’s Golden Eagles Marching Band performs for its 50th straight year this fall, they will be sporting a new look; the band has doubled its size.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Aug. 15, 2007 – When Southeast Missouri State University’s Golden Eagles Marching Band performs for its 50th straight year this fall, they will be sporting a new look.

The band has doubled its size. This year, the Golden Eagles Marching Band will have 158 members, up from just 72 last year.

“This is probably the biggest thing that has happened to our band program ever,” said Barry Bernhardt, director of University Bands at Southeast.

In January, Southeast announced a new marching band scholarship program.

“Barry worked really hard at getting the word out,” said Chris Goeke, chair of Southeast’s Department of Music. “The increase is just phenomenal.”

Under the marching band scholarship program that begins this fall, all first-year band members are receiving a $500 stipend. Second-year members are receiving a $650 stipend. Third-year members are receiving a $750 stipend, and fourth-year members are getting a $1,000 stipend. Students who were members of any all-state band, orchestra or choir also were eligible to receive a $1,000 annual stipend.

“We have at least 100 new kids,” Bernhardt said during a break Aug. 14 on the second day of a full week of all-day practice sessions leading up to the start of the fall 2007 semester.

The scholarship money, Bernhardt said, “makes it worthwhile to be in marching band. At least they are getting something financially out of the activity.”

He says the new scholarship program also encourages upperclassmen to remain in the program, since scholarship dollars increase as students become juniors and senior. Until now, he said, band members received just $150 for participating in the Golden Eagles and one hour of course credit.

“We’ve always had great kids, and they have worked hard for me,” he said. “We have always recruited.”

This year, he said, it was “a matter of getting the word out that the money is there.”

This year’s new scholarship program also was designed to attract more non-music majors to the band – good students who may have played with their high school band, but are coming to Southeast with plans to pursue a degree field other than music. His efforts, he says, have reaped that result.

“The word is getting out that Southeast is a great place,” he said.

The Golden Eagles drum line this year will have 28 members, up from just 11 last year.

“Yesterday, we played through the pre-game show on the first day” of practice, he said. “It’s a big, fat mature sound.”

The Golden Eagles are practicing from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily this week. The band practices outdoors on the practice field from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Rehearsals resume again, each day, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Some afternoon sessions are held indoors; others are outdoors. The band marches outdoors each evening from 6 to 8 p.m., then continues indoors until at least 10:30 p.m.

Bernhardt said that while he prepared the music earlier this summer for band members to rehearse, drill design must wait till the students arrive.

“I don’t write any of the drill design until they are here,” he said, adding he has spent many late night hours, until 3:45 a.m. today, burning the midnight oil, tending to this task.

“I have to stay a day ahead of them,” he said. “When they have a 14-hour day, I have a 20-plus hour day.”

As a result of the influx in marching band members, the Department of Music has purchased more equipment for use by the band, including new horns and percussion instruments. Bernhardt said the new equipment will replace some items dating from 1958.

“I’m thrilled to death about it,” he said. “I’m thrilled for the University. I’m thrilled for the students. It’s all about the students. It’s going to be a really great band. The community is going to see close to the biggest band ever at the University and, without a doubt, the best band we’ve had in 18 years. And, it’s just going to get better.”

The Golden Eagles will sing and play the “Alma Mater” as a traditional impromptu performance at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the third floor lobby area of Academic Hall. On Thursday, Aug. 16, the band, as a community service gesture, will help new students move their belongings into their residence hall rooms in the Towers Complex. The band will perform publicly for the first time Friday morning, Aug. 17, at the Welcome Convocation for new Southeast students at 10 a.m. in the Show Me Center. The band is expected to perform the “Alma Mater” and several fight songs.

The band will perform half time shows at six Southeast home football games this fall, the first of which is Sept. 8 when the Southeast Redhawks take on Southwest Baptist at 6 p.m. at Houck Stadium.

Bernhardt says the new scholarship program comes at an exciting time for the Golden Eagles.

The Golden Eagles, he says, are privileged to perform on Oct. 27 as part of the Greater St. Louis Marching Band Festival at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The band will perform Buddy Rich’s “Channel One Suite,” a big band suite in three movements. The Golden Eagles will serve as the “guest band” at this festival featuring 48 area high school bands. Bernhardt says 12,000 to 15,000 students and their parents will be on hand to see their performance.

“This is the biggest marching band festival in Missouri,” he said.

In addition, the Golden Eagles are scheduled to perform in summer 2008 at the prestigious Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“This is the largest event of its kind in the world,” Bernhardt said. “We are only the second United States college band invited to participate, and we are going for our second time.”

The Golden Eagles performed at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1999. During a five-week tour of the United Kingdom, the band performed more than 30 times. The Golden Eagles were seen by more than 217,000 during their live performances, by more than five million in a BBC broadcast to the entire United Kingdom, and by an estimated 50 million viewers worldwide.

Bernhardt says 10,000 people attend the Tattoo each night for 26 nights. The Golden Eagles’ 2008 performance will be seen worldwide by more than 100 million people via a BBC broadcast.