November 09, 2022
Planning to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Keep an ear open for the Missouri Waltz and an eye out for Mizzou Engineers.
All 350 members of Marching Mizzou — many of them Mizzou Engineers — are headed to the Big Apple this month where they will perform in the parade and in front of a national audience.
“This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Serenity Mallon, a junior mechanical engineering major who plays piccolo.
Mizzou Engineering has been a strong part of Marching Mizzou since its beginnings, said Amy Knopps, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands. While housed in the College of Arts & Science, Marching Mizzou is comprised of students from across campus. In fact, 84% of members are majoring in programs outside of music, and engineering is consistently in the top five colleges represented within the organization.
“Engineering students are drawn to what we do because they’re analytical,” Knopps said. “And they’re used to doing several things at once.”
On the field, engineering skillsets come in handy, students agree.
Chase Bridger, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, says he’s systematic about how he learns music and drills as the one of the Alto Saxophone Section Leaders. And mathematics comes into play when figuring out rhythms and beats, Mallon added.
“When we learn new drills — the formations we create during our pre-game and half-time performances — I find it easier to think of as just plotting points (marchers) onto a graph (field),” Mallon said. “That way, it’s easier for me to see if certain details are curving when they need to be straight, and where we need to correct our positions while we learn and perform.”
Over the past couple of years, the ties between engineering and Marching Mizzou have been on display at Faurot Field. Last month, Jim Fitterling, BS ME ’83, served as Honorary Conductor during the pre-game performance at Homecoming. Fitterling, who played trumpet in Marching Mizzou as a student, was on campus to be inducted into the Mizzou Hall of Fame for his work and leadership as Chairman and CEO of Dow.
And last year, engineering students programmed a robot to perform alongside the Marching Mizzou at a halftime performance. The collaboration with Spot, the robotic dog from Boston Dynamics, made international news.
Freshman AJ Springmann caught the performance.
“Engineering students programming Spot and creating a unique show was awesome to me,” said Springmann, a mechanical engineering major who plays the baritone. “When I was looking for a college, I wanted to continue playing my instrument. I enjoy the creative outlet it gives me, and I truly enjoy making music. When I learned about Marching Mizzou, I was already confirmed to go to Mizzou, so it was a sweet cherry on top for me.”
One of the most frequent questions Knopps hears from engineering students interested in being a part of Marching Mizzou is whether they can succeed in both.
“That’s always a concern,” Knopps said. “They want to continue that band experience, but they’re nervous about time balance. I tell them, ‘It’s doable.’”
To juggle coursework with practices and performances, Mallon — the piccolo player majoring in mechanical engineering — tries to schedule fewer classes in the fall and saves the tougher engineering courses for the spring. They also take advantage of any gaps in their schedule to study and complete assignments.
“I stay as ahead as possible on schoolwork, knowing that I’ll be spending six to eight hours a week at rehearsal, and if there is a gameday performance, I will be spending eight hours that Saturday rehearsing and cheering on the football team for another Tiger win,” Mallon said.
It takes dedication, hard work and commitment, Springmann added.
“You can’t just wake up and laze through the day, you’ve got to hit it with ambition and strength,” he said. “Marching Mizzou is physically demanding as well as mentally. You have long practices four days a week and long days game. It isn’t for the weak.”
But he and fellow Tigers agree: It’s worth it.
“I enjoy participating in Marching Mizzou because of the culture and the dedication,” Springmann said. “Most of the sections in the band have traditions and culture that span decades, so being a part of that is rewarding.”
The basic tenets of marching band are also a reason to participate.
“I love playing music and performing,” Bridger said. “Marching Mizzou allows me to enjoy both alongside my friends. I also enjoy going to sports games and traveling with Marching Mizzou.”
Tate Patton, a freshman pre-engineering major who plays baritone, said he enjoys the friendly atmosphere and meeting people with similar interests.
“It’s a fun way to find friends and people similar to yourself,” he said. “Plus, you get to go to all the home football games.”
Then there are the special occasions. Earlier this fall, Marching Mizzou performed at Arrowhead Stadium at the Kansas City Chief’s opening game.
“Playing at the Chief’s game was one of the coolest experiences I have participated in,” Bridger said “I remember looking around as soon as I got on the field and seeing a sea of people looking at me. It was the most people I have ever performed in front of.”
Bridger knows that’s about to change, but he admitted he’s still processing the fact he’ll be part of the parade that Macy’s started in 1924.
“It took me a few moments to comprehend what the announcement actually meant,” he said when asked what he thought when he first heard they’d been invited. “I was almost in disbelief because I never would have guessed that I would get the opportunity to march in this huge parade.”
Want to participate in marching band while still pursuing a degree in engineering? Apply to Mizzou today!