At the age of five, sophomore Murphy Aucamp began playing the drums and never stopped, continuing on to perform in his middle school and high school bands.
Aucamp is now on the University of Miami Band of the Hour’s drum line.
“I was skeptical of joining band my second year,” he said. “The main reason I came back is because we were getting a new director and I wanted to see what direction it would go in.”
The beginning of this year brought changes for Aucamp and his fellow band members. They recently welcomed new leadership, including Jay Rees, director of athletic bands and professor of music; Douglas McCullough, assistant director of athletic bands and director of marching; and Natalie Chernow, dance line coach.
Rees, a UM alumnus, said he wanted to change up the band when he joined the team.
“There are some conceptual changes going on and then there are some logistical changes occurring,” he said. “The big picture thing that is different is that we are pushing the level of excellence of the band to a much higher level and we are expecting the band students to perform at that very high level. We are giving them really exciting, demanding and innovative material to work with.”
Rees also mentioned that in the coming year the band students will also receive completely new uniforms and a brand new set of instruments for all of brass and percussion.
Along with the new equipment, the student performers, who currently receive a stipend of $200, will earn a $1,500 paycheck if they participate in Band of the Hour in the fall.
Additionally, if they agree to perform in the Pep Band in the spring, they will receive an extra $1,000. Pep Band is the group that plays in sporting and other events during the spring semester.
“Obviously it is nice to be paid more, but I think there is more to it than that,” said drum major Colton Freitas, who plays the trombone when he is not conducting. “Personally, I feel that it is nice to get this type of recognition from the Athletic Department. In essence, they are telling us that they appreciate all the hard work, commitment to excellence, and excitement that we provide for everyone at the events we participate in by giving us this pay increase.”
While the changes have forced the students to adjust, they have also pushed them to strive for excellence. This holds true for senior Julia Klingner. As a drum major, she took on the role of conducting the Daft Punk-based halftime show, which was performed at every football game throughout fall 2014, and was pushed to do better than her best.
“Professor Rees kept on drilling me about my expression and energy, and I felt like no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get it right,” Kilngner said. “Then on the final run through of the show, I just totally went for it, releasing all inhibitions. After I cut off the band, I almost passed out while still on the podium, and my whole body felt like Jell-O.”
The 90-year-old band hopes to become more reputable and establish a tradition of excellence in the future, one where students do not join just to get free football tickets to the games, director Rees explained, but where they want to play their best and promote an image of UM that students can be proud of.
“I am more intrinsically motivated to continue to be part of this organization because I am both proud of what we have accomplished so far together, and more importantly because I am excited about what we have the potential to be in the not-so-distant-future,” Freitas said.