MMB Drum Major audition season

Submitted by glewe on April 5th, 2011 at 11:42 PM

MMB Drum Major auditions are slated to begin tomorrow, April 6th. For those who don't know, the process is as such:

All DM candidates do a pre-audition for the MMB staff. Staff then picks the best candidates based on their pre-audition, and to follow that audition, the final candidates will audition again for the whole marching band on the day of the spring meeting (the last day of classes, April 19th), who will then elect the best candidate to the position. Tomorrow is the pre-audition at Elbel field. This year, there are 7 candidates. One had to drop out because of injury - otherwise there would be 8.



April 6th, 2011 at 10:04 AM ^

Lay flat on the ground, put your hands back and do a back bend like a cheerleader, then lower your head til it touches the ground. That's the best one. Other than that, it's stretching out your back and your backward flexibility. But there is a ton of leg strength that you need to have.


April 6th, 2011 at 3:08 PM ^

Well, only those who become Drum Majors give up their instruments. (Twirlers may audition too.) David Hines Jr. used to play Euphonium. I think he also used to play clarinet in high school. The rest of the candidates will return as usual next year.


April 6th, 2011 at 12:00 AM ^

Some members take video at the Spring Meeting and post them on YouTube, but I don't think it's necessarily true of all years. Plus, it's difficult to post the dry stuff (like marching, back bend,  etc), so they would probably only post the twirling portion, which is optional but highly recommended.

Bando Calrissian

April 6th, 2011 at 2:55 AM ^

Just so people know, a lot of these kids, if not all, have been informally working as a group since the fall to prepare for this audition.  Or, at least, that's how it was a few years back.  This isn't something taken lightly, and is the culmination of hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work that may not even go past tomorrow.

Good luck to everyone trying out, I know from my friends who tried out that it was an incredibly stressful process.  Just putting yourself out there is an achievement.


April 6th, 2011 at 7:54 AM ^

I auditioned for drum major my senior year at Michigan (couldn't because of injury my junior year - sucks for whoever had to drop this year) back when the entire audition happened in front of the band during band week in August. It's nerve-wracking and mentally demanding - not just because of having to perform in front of the people you want to lead, but because all of the time put in prepping over the summer coming down to one shot.
Hopefully all of the candidates come away feeling like they had their best performance. If you get beaten by a better candidate, there's no shame in it. If you gack it up....


April 6th, 2011 at 10:38 AM ^

That was a tough way to do it, auditioning in August right before the start of the season.  Seems a bit more humane the new way.  I had a good friend who was runner-up in the August audition, couldn't deal with it, and never walked into Revelli Hall again.  If she would have had the summer to think things through, she would probably have been back.

Do they still audition the twirlers in August before the whole band, or has that changed too?  It used to be done exactly like the drum majors.  That was brutal, too.  Another good friend was crushed by that process as a freshman.  She stayed with it, but it always stayed with her for her four years in the band.


April 6th, 2011 at 12:38 PM ^

Twirlers audition for the staff for admittance to the band, and then audition for the whole band at the end of band week to determine "if they're ready to march." It is very, very informal, and it would be rare that a twirler who has been admitted to the band does not get to march.


April 6th, 2011 at 8:46 AM ^

@Corey, I don't recall Nix himself making the hatless backbend mandatory in 2007. I think it just kind of happened that way because the DMs starting taking the hat off all the time. Mind you, at the time, a few folks opposed the very idea of a hatless backbend. I remember Karl saying that technically removing the hat is removing part of your uniform during a performance, which is an interesting way of looking at it. He was partially joking, but you know how old, stodgy Michigan alumni can be. At anyrate, it's awesome. 

I remember the audition process. It's incredibly physically and mentally taxing. Best of luck to everyone trying out. 




April 6th, 2011 at 9:39 AM ^

IIRC it was Matt Cavanaugh around 2003 who started going hatless. I think he pulled it out against ND during 38-0 #1, but he might have started doing it in 2002. Then Dennis Lee went two full years of hatlessness to follow that. I remember Matt taking off the hat and putting a rose in his mouth during the backbend at the 2004 Rose Bowl against USC.



April 6th, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

Matt Pickus, drum major in 1993 and 1994 started going hatless (not every game right away), and I think it was sporadic afterwards but became sort-of expected.

I tended to agree with the grumpy old alumni initially about removing the hat meaning taking apart your uniform on the field, but now I'm okay with it - the crowd loves it, and entertaining the crowd is what it's about. Of course, to be fair (and open), I competed against Pickus for DM in 1992 and there's no way I ever could have done it (just not flexible enough).


April 6th, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

Also, Matt still goes nuts every year as an alumni DM at homecoming.  He'll be the one twriling, spinning, and ultimately jumping and landing in the splits.  Can't believe he's still doing it almost 20 years later.


April 6th, 2011 at 10:06 AM ^

At the 1996 Boston College game, I remember drum major Ramon Johnson messed up the backbend.  He leaned to his right and had to put his arm out to keep himself from losing his balance.  Then the crowd went, "OHHHH!!!"  I have the home movie of it.

I have to ask since I only make around 2 home games per year, how common is that when the drum major messes up the backbend?  Despite going hatless now, they make it look so effortless.


April 6th, 2011 at 10:35 AM ^

It's uncommon for the Michigan DM to screw up the backbend. At least, I've seen it happen very rarely, but it does happen once in a blue moon.

Not to be completely petty, but I've seen the MSU DM falter twice. The crowd cheers when that  happens, but I feel bad for them. The backbend is difficult physically and mentally, especially in the heat of the moment when people are watching. Adding a loud, racous away crowd makes it even tougher. 

three red spiders

April 6th, 2011 at 1:39 PM ^

Obviously we've got some MMB alumni here and I keep trying to figure out which ones of you were there when I was and who I know.  I marched from 89-92 (rosebowl, gator bowl, rose bowl, rose bowl...beat that suckas....)...trumpet player...ranks 6 and 7...

Side wife is an ex MMB twirler; the twirler auditions used to be way more gaurantee at all you were marching just because you were in the band...I don't know if that was better or worse...


April 6th, 2011 at 10:27 PM ^

I majored in music (clarinet performance) at M.  The music program is the best in the B1G   and has been for decades.  The band tradition at Michigan is outstanding.  I don't know how I would have felt about being required to march under Revelli, but dang did he know how to conduct and run a college band.


three red spiders

April 7th, 2011 at 9:15 AM ^

Maybe because I hardly ever make it back to a squared and have never done blast from the past I just can't figure either for sure...I've narrowed it 2 or 3 for each of you, but I'm stumped...really my memory sucks, don't be offended...


give me your initials and I'll pull the year books out of the attic tonight and check...



April 6th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

Back in my day (Jeff Wilkins, Guy Bordo, Steve Roberts) the tryouts were in front of the entire band in August during Band Week --  As were the twirlers AND the Announcer.  The Announcer tryouts were largely pro-forma, but I liked that someone else did have a chance at it. 

Anyone who is a Non-Band  Geek who has actually hung around for to the end of this discussion should know that the DM has many important dutties ontop of the back bend and game day struttin'.  He/She has a huge role in rehearsals and representing the University at various events. 

And despite my age, I'm apparently not grumpy or stodgy.  I like the hatless back bend.  It gets the crowd incredibly psyched.  Always in awe of anyone who consistently pulls it off, especially in bad/cold weather. 

Trumpet '78 to '82 (Rose Bowl, Gator Bowl, Rose Bowl, Astro Bluebonnet Bowl, Super Bowl) Business manager Senior Year