When the Farmer's Bank and Trust Live United Bowl football game kicks off at noon tomorrow in Texarkana, Arkansas, all eyes will be on the Emporia State University football student-athletes. Yet there is another group of students who will be in the stadium with their own important role — the Emporia State Marching Hornets.
Members of the marching band, including color guard and Stingers dance team, who traveled to the same bowl in 2021 are eager to return to what they describe as an experience of a lifetime that built lifetime friendships.
“The memories that I made on the trip last year are ones that I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Libby Franks, a junior instrumental music education major. “Additionally, the game day experience was one of the best atmospheres of last season which made the performance more enjoyable and exciting.”
Franks, who has been part of the band for three years, will have an expanded role in 2022 because she has a leadership role as high brass section leader.
Henry Huck, also an instrumental music education major, is a senior and low brass section leader. He has been in the band every year he’s been at Emporia State University. Last year, Huck said, he was surprised how much free time band members had.
During a typical week of a home football game, band members spend about seven hours in practice, with a 15-plus hour Game Day.
Last year in Texarkana, he said, they had free time after arriving on Friday.
“After the game on Saturday, we had the whole evening to ourselves which was awesome.”
At Emporia State, band members do not have to be music majors. Jaden Gallagher, section leader for Color Guard, is a junior majoring in information systems.
“I love performing,” she said. “It allows me to meet amazing people and gives me experiences and memories I can’t get elsewhere.”
One of Gallagher’s favorite memories from the 2021 bowl experience came at the Friday night dinner.
“One of the band members and I got seated with the mayor and city council of Texarkana at dinner!” Gallagher recalled.
Breeanna Moore is a senior psychology major and member of the Stingers dance team for four years, with the last two as a section leader. She appreciates that the Emporia State Marching Hornets is made up of three groups — the instrumentalists, the Color Guard and the Stingers.
“I like being a part of the Emporia State Marching Hornets because of how nice everyone is and the close bonds you make,” Moore said. “Even though I am a part of the Stingers dance team, the band is so welcoming and supportive of us, and it is a great feeling to have them have our backs.”
Aside from Dr. Bill Woodworth, associate professor of music and director of the band, Katelynn Hess may be one of the busiest band members on the trip. She graduated in spring 2022 with a music education degree and is now a graduate student majoring in trumpet performance. She works as a graduate teaching assistant with athletic bands and is in her sixth year with the band.
“I had two years as a trumpet player, two years as a trumpet section leader, one year as drum major, and this year as a GTA,” she said.
She also has traveled with the football team to three bowl appearances. This year and 2021 in Texarkana and to the Corsicana Bowl in 2018. One of her favorite memories came last year when an ESU fan approached her during the tailgate.
“They asked if I could have the band play the fight song for the tailgate. So, we played a few songs for them.”
During the bowl game, the band’s halftime performance will sound familiar to Hornet fans although the routine will be different. Woodworth explained that when the bowl bid comes, he looks back at all the halftime performances from the season and selects three musical numbers that he arranges into a new show.
In Texarkana, those will be “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas, “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus and “Not Afraid” by Eminem.
For Hess, the entire season is fun, despite all of the work.
“There is nothing like marching band really,” she said. “We play fun music with great arrangements from our director Dr. Woodworth. We get to put on a unique performance during football games and sit on the sidelines cheering and having fun. We spend so much time together that we really became a family and find our closest friends.”
For Huck, the low brass section leader, his experiences in the marching band have opened up his future.
“Marching band is why I want to become a band director, and the culture Dr. Woodworth has built has made me a better person,” Huck said. “It's hard to explain but the way he took over the program when he first got here — he turned it into a powerhouse. We get stronger and stronger every year, and a huge part of that is because of our director.”