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Published November 13, 2023
By Madison Buller
My name is Maddie and I’m a Human Development and Family Sciences major, as well as a saxophone player in the Western Thunder Marching band. On my rare breaks from school, practices and performances, when I actually get to sit down, think and reflect about my college experience, I often find myself wondering what my life would have looked like if I had never started taking saxophone lessons back in the fourth grade. What other hobbies might I have gotten into? What other classes might I have taken during my time at UW? Would I have still made the friends that I have now? But most importantly I wonder, who might I have been? Would I still have learned all the valuable lessons marching band taught me, just in other ways?
I highly doubt it.
Despite how time-consuming, difficult and exhausting marching band can be, its also one of the best things I have in life and it fills my every day with joy and laughter. I’m surrounded by some of the best people in the world and I’ve made so many incredible friends. There’s not a day that goes by where marching band doesn’t make me happy in some way and it has only made me a better version of myself. From personal growth to my homework technique, here are just some of the ways that marching band has helped me through the ups and downs of my eventful college career.
I overthink the tiniest things. It’s impossible for me to control and for the past twenty-two years, it has been one of the biggest burdens on my shoulders. I’ll work on the most basic math problem for over an hour thinking it’s too hard and that I can’t do it, until im easily walked through it by my professor. I often find myself overthinking why my Dad hasn’t returned my call from a few hours ago, despite the fact that I know he has a busy day. I worry if my roommate is mad at me if I didn’t see her in the kitchen that morning or if my dog is feeling unwell because he didn’t give me the most enthusiastic greeting when I got home. For as long as I can remember, I have overthought everything that has crossed my path.
Being in Western Thunder can be a very fast-paced environment, especially when we have three home games back to back, but when we get a couple of weeks to slowly learn a show, that’s when I’ve learned to stop overthinking. When we learn drill (the formations we make on the field) we learn each set one by one, running each set multiple times before moving onto the next one. We repeat this process several times throughout the week until the entire show is learned and then we do run after run to review. I’ve learned over the years to apply the drill-learning process to my overthinking - just take things one set at a time, and when the set is learned, go back and review until you can’t possibly get it wrong, then, move on to the next set.
Now, Applying our drill-learning process to my homework, I read over the equation slowly, solve each problem step by step, at my own pace, review my work multiple times, check my notes and finally submit it. Overthinking is still a special little quirk of mine, but Western Thunder has taught me to take things set-by-set.
For some reason I can’t decipher, I do a lot of things a lot faster than I should. I walk super fast, I tend to drive too fast if I’m stressed, I even read way too fast, too fast to even process what I’d just read. Because of this, I often miss important information on assignments and my grades can suffer.
In marching band, we have to be thinking about a million things at once when we’re on the field: how many steps are in the next set, when to step off, when to come to a halt, what notes to play and what song is coming up next. We have to analyze every piece of data to get everything exactly right, from sheet music, to drill charts, all while making notes of any critiques we’re given so the next run can be better. We’re trained to do things one set at a time, but marching band is all about multitasking, analyzing hundreds of pieces of data at once and successfully getting them all done.
When I do homework now, I analyze every piece of it to make sure I don’t miss a thing. I read over an essay prompt hundreds of times to make sure I answer each question it asks for and that I write the paper accordingly to how the prompt requests. I’ve grown to have so much more confidence in myself and I’ve learned to take my time with all of my tasks so that I can be the best that I possibly can.
I sometimes worry about very small things that shouldn’t matter. I will leave my apartment almost an hour early for class every single day because I’m always so worried about being late, I will change the portions in my dog’s food because I’m always so worried about him becoming unhealthy, I will change outfits multiple times at the start of the day because I’m worried I don’t look good, you get the jist. I worry about something every day but being in Western Thunder has taught me to not sweat the small stuff.
In the band, we’ll sometimes find ourselves in a situation where we have to get a show ready in as little as one week. At times we’re struggling to get everything on the field in time and it can be really stressful. Somehow, we always manage to pull through on gameday. Everything comes together through a great amount of teamwork and dedication and the little things that tripped us up in practice go smoother than ever.
When I’m worried about the small things now, like being late to class or forgetting something or wondering wether or not I did my homework correctly, I remind myself that if I can get an entire halftime show memorized in less than five days, I can also accomplish whatever else it is I’m trying to do and balance the many demands. Somehow, things will come together.
Though I may love spending day in and day out in my apartment with my dog, Bruno, I too have days where something comes up that triggers some major anxiety, maybe it’s something going on back home or something going on with school. Whatever it is, I need to leave my apartment to clear my mind for a bit. The Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts, where the Department of Music is housed, has basically become a second home and it’s often where I find myself heading to in times like this. The building has one of those calm, warm and familiar atmospheres. Here, I can practice my marching, read over my drills and review stand tunes. Before long, I’ll feel so much calmer and can go about my day with a clear mind, facing my previous problem now head on.
Band has given me not only a place, but people that I can escape to whenever I might need it. High school band didn’t give me a lot of people who loved and appreciated me for me, but Western Thunder sure has. All of my closest friends are in the band so there’s always people ready to help and listen and there’s ten other shoulders in my lovely tenor sax section to cry on if need be. There’s nothing better than being surrounded by people who understand me and love band the way I do. Western Thunder has blessed me with people that lift me up and all those friends are the best thing I have in my life. I never thought I’d find something I love more than marching band, but turns out, the members of the band are that one special exception.
Through the highs and lows of being a fulltime student at the University of Wyoming, juggling all of the things that we students do, I’ve had my fair share of moments where it feels like too much to handle. In these moments I remember the days I get to spend with Western Thunder, in War Memorial Stadium, doing what I love. I look forward to every afternoon rehearsal, every home game, bowl game, parade and trip to Casper, because I get to spend so much time with some truly fantastic people in such a special organization that has helped me in so many ways, and made me stronger than I could ever possibly imagine. When I have rough days, I take solace in knowing I’ll go to rehearsal later and see all the people who make up my community at UW, and I’ll leave War so much happier than when I walked in.
Being part of Western Thunder has altered my prospective in all the best ways. It's given me focus, drive and dedication thats bled over into all other aspects of my life and I find myself being a much better student and a much better person overall. While I am almost always a happy person, this college marching band made me happier than I already was. I owe everything I am to Western Thunder, to every marching band I’ve ever been a part of. I hope that somewhere out there, there are young, aspiring musicians like me, who will be marching for the first time next season, and have their lives drastically enlightened by the marching arts, just like I did.
The University of Wyoming "Western Thunder" Marching Band is comprised of students involved in almost every academic major offered and is open to all students on campus with no audition necessary unless you are involved with the drumline.