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Rutgers Marching Band: Leadership and growth

Tim Smith has been the director of the Rutgers Marching Band since 2000. And despite challenging financial times, the band has grown - but he wants, and needs, to do more.

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The Rutgers Marching Band is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year.  And as it does, we've taken a look at where it's been, who it is compared with, and now where it is today under the direction of Professor Timothy Smith.

The band went to a more "traditional" marching style in the late 60's, the "Big Ten" style.  After a tumultuous time in the late eighties and nineties, including a half-dozen different directors, the band is now under the direction of Tim Smith.  Professor Smith is a graduate of Rutgers University, and in addition to his duties as band director, he is a faculty member at the Mason Gross School of the Arts (MGSA).  Tim was gracious enough to talk with us about his story and where the band is today.

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Tim started out as a percussionist (gotta love the drum line!) and became a music educator.  Like so many others, he was in his high school band, and his love of bands began.  Starting at Rutgers in 1998, he became director of the marching band in 2000.  And it has grown since then.  "The band numbers 250 now, that's up from 134 when I took over", he told us.  "My goal is to take the band as far as the available support will allow us. We have plans to cap it at 275 this year due to financial constraints. However, the current uniform drive is aiming to purchase 325 uniforms."

That logically brings us to the current fund raising campaign being conducted by the Mason Gross School.  "We are currently fundraising to purchase new uniforms. The drive is going very well, but we still need some support!  I just did a radio spot advertising a large band concert we're putting on next week at the State Theater. The marching band will be joined by other Mason Gross Bands, the Concert Band, Symphony Band, and Wind Ensemble in a gala celebration of the marching bands' 100th anniversary.

That concert, the Rutgers Band Extravaganza, is set for March 12.  Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

We've talked about how important the marching bands are in the Big Ten and Tim understands that.  "I believe our band has an impact on Rutgers Athletics. The band is being integrated more and more into football game day (Scarlet Walk Performance, Drumline at the Block R Party, tailgate parade) thanks to Julie and her staff. We do a really nice post game show that I wish our fans would stick around for. We play an upbeat tune, and close by playing "Loyal Sons" and signing the Alma Mater."

There is a trend to use pre-recorded music at both football and basketball games.  But Tim again understands where that is coming from.  "My vision for the band at sporting events is for the band to be the "go-to" source of music. With that said, the Athletic Department has bills to pay, through recognizing sponsors, donors and advertisers. It gets tough to always squeeze the band into a time out. I have to say, I work with a guy, Andrew Robinson, who is just great about trying to get us air time. He and I have developed a great working relationship, and it's really starting to show in the balance of "canned" music for ads, and the band. It's only going to get better."

And the students; where does the student section fit into the atmosphere at a game and how does it mix with the band?  "The students are great fans of the band! They all high-five our band members on their way in and out of the stands, and always give the band the loudest cheers for their on field performance. The students take most of their cues from the band. Just look at the third down air guitar started by the band in 2005, and the first down fanfare cheer. I'm also working with game day staff in the Athletic Department to have more current musical arrangements written to engage the students even more."

Money, of course, is critical.  On the Banks has talked about funding athletics, but the fact is that music needs the same type of support.  "The relationship between Mason Gross School of the Arts and Athletics is great, even though there are significant differences in how the two entities operate. Both departments recognize the importance of our Athletic Bands, and share the goal of continuing to build the band program. The Athletic Department bears nearly all of the financial responsibility for the bands."

And how has that impacted the uniform fundraising drive?  "The current uniform fundraising project is a great example of the cooperation between MGSA and Athletics. I've been in many meetings this winter with both departments at the table, and the working relationships are really solid. The band is in good hands."

But, of course, it still needs funds for the new uniforms.  And you can help make it happen by clicking here.