Spirit of Southland drum majors reflect on season

The 2013 football season ended with the Lions victorious as Southland Conference Champions, but their brother in victory was the Spirit of the Southland Marching Band.
With their music, cheers and halftime shows, the band carried the Lions closer to each win. Every week a football game became more than a spectator event; it became a spectacle. However, just as becoming SLC Champions is no easy feat, putting on a game day show is not a simple task. Along with band director Paul Frechou, the two drum majors, Jonathan Lyons and Sharie Mahler, put together a show for everyone to see.
Lyons says watching the games from the sidelines, being conductor, has been a great experience, but there is a lot of hard work going into the performances. Lyons juggles a job, classes, band rehearsals and playing saxophone in New Orleans on weekends.
The band spends up to eight hours a week rehearsing. They practice three days a week, and no matter the weather, unless it is pouring rain, the band plays, says Lyons. A typical practice involves going over field formations, down songs, the alma mater and the fight song until it’s right.
“This year we had a really good group. Everybody had a really good attitude,” Lyons said.
Raymond Jones plays the mellophone for marching band and for the pep band. The pep band plays at all home basketball games. He loves the exciting atmosphere of every game day. This also means staying alert; though the band is seated in the same section as the students, it doesn’t mean they are seeing the same thing. The band is always a few steps ahead.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” said Jones, a junior kinesiology major with an exercise science concentration. “It’s very fast-paced compared to everyone else watching. We’re able to enjoy it, but we have got to be on our toes the whole time.”
The most fast-paced day of the year for the band would be Homecoming Day. They start their morning at 7:30 to rehearse in Strawberry Stadium for about three hours. After they’ve rehearsed, the band heads to the University Center to line up for the Homecoming Parade. The group breaks for lunch until it’s time for the Lion Walk. Then their performance in front of Pottle follows. Thirty minutes before every game starts, they line up outside the War Memorial Student Union near Fayard and march to the stands while playing. The day goes by very quickly for the band, and then reality sets in. School is still there; classwork still has to be done.
“It’s just a lot of rehearsal and putting in the time during the week to get the product everyone sees in the field,” said Lyons, a senior music education major. “It is hard juggling school and everything else. I play music on the weekends so I’m up late, one or two in the morning.”
Jones and Lyons both credit a good balance to their schedules, and Mahler finds her balance in the comfort of the band.
“I think marching band is one of the more stress relieving things that instrumental leaders have to do,” said Mahler. “At football games you get to cheer. The other ensembles don’t have the same setting.”
Mahler, a senior music education major, has spent two years as drum major. Leading the band has been a rewarding experience for her.
“There’s the camaraderie, there’s the music, but I think one of my favorite parts is putting on a uniform and feeling taller,” Mahler said. “It really heightens your confidence level, and you feel a part of the team.”
For Lyons, being in a leadership position has set him up for his future.
“I can start what I want to do for the rest of my life here in college by teaching music and directing students and putting out a product on the field that people enjoy watching and listening to,” Lyons said.
Next football season fans can expect the same fun and high energy from the band, and you can see the pep band now at every basketball home game.