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FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

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FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

In the Palm Beach Post:

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Go play Intramural Sports! www.fau.edu/campusrec/imsports/
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Re: FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

Thats pretty cool! I never knew about the straw hats and all that good stuff!
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Re: FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

now, if we could just grow into a band of 100+ solid instruments that would be SWEET! :)
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Re: FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

Yeah that would be really nice! Take up a few more seats in the stadium too! haha
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Re: FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

FAU's band grows out of its straw hats

Thursday, September 27, 2007

They're not exactly Ohio State University or the USC Trojans or the Southern University Human Jukebox.

But on a field in Fort Lauderdale, the crowd and fervor growing with each football season, the Florida Atlantic University marching band has come a long way from its Hawaiian shirts, khaki pants and straw hats.

They've gone from shabby to chic.

"To have a band, period, is just huge," said Sean Murray, FAU's associate director of bands. "It adds so much more to the games."

And George Sparks, FAU's school of arts director, said, "The development of the team and the development of the band very much go hand in hand.

"I love to watch them."

Sparks, a professional musician and professor at FAU, was the impetus behind the band back in 2002.

"That first year, our budget was very, very small," he said.

Sparks, wanting desperately to have a marching band on the field for the new Owls team, encouraged all of the students in his concert band to take up marching.

He bought the right instruments - baritones, woodwinds, percussion - and began daily practices.

But there was a problem. A big one.

What to wear?

Members outfitted for $50 a pop

Sparks didn't have money for uniforms, which can cost well more than $500 per performer.

"I went on the Internet and found Hawaiian shirts," he said. "We really wanted something with owls on them, but we couldn't find anything off the rack."

He found khaki pants at a restaurant supply store. And straw hats with a blue cloth band that read "FAU."

Sparks outfitted the band members for $50 a pop, and that was the uniform for the marching band until two seasons ago, 2005-06.

Murray, who got his undergrad, master's and doctoral degrees at Florida State, came on board the next year.

"It's absolutely growing," he said. "We're going out in the community and doing events. I spend a lot of time recruiting in the spring."

About 80 percent, or about 48 of the 60 marching band members, are not music majors, Murray said. And the band still doesn't have the money to travel to very many away games.

"We're not working on a $100,000 budget or anything," he said. "The only game we're looking to travel to is the UF game."

It's good to have priorities.

Fight song, alma mater, sousaphone

This year, with his 60 students, the FAU marching band will perform at every home football game. (The next one will be at 4 p.m. Oct. 6 against the University of South Florida.)

And FAU might still be more of a commuter school, but it's trying to amp up the college mainstays.

There's a fight song with this clever line: There's football in paradise. There's an alma mater. There's a sousaphone and those really big drums.

Am I impressing you with my marching band knowledge?

For Sparks, the guy who pushed for all this from the very beginning, the changes are impressive. A marching band is a long-lasting college tradition, and Sparks knows this firsthand.

He's a University of Michigan guy - where the halftime show can be every bit as entertaining as the game.

"We've been lucky," Sparks said. "I think the main thing is the quality has improved. At FAU, we're still developing the tradition."

But Hawaiian shirts, khaki pants and straw hats?

What a great place to start.

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