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At USF, the band's all here

Published Sep. 29, 2005

On Sept. 11, to the tune of Ricky Martin's La Copa de la Vida, the University of South Florida will take a major, well-choreographed step in its evolution from commuter school to full-fledged university.

The Herd of Thunder _ 200 students with gleaming instruments, crisp new uniforms and plumed hats _ will march onto the field of Raymond James Stadium for the Bulls' football game against Southwest Texas State University. It will be the first appearance of USF's marching band.

"People here are just pumped," said Sid Haton, director of athletic bands at USF.

Twenty-six people applied for the 10 spots available for sousaphones, the huge $5,000 tubas emblematic of university marching bands.

Haton, 36, arrived at USF in January from the University of Oregon to help the school of music launch the band. The task of building a marching band from scratch was an opportunity he didn't want to miss.

It entails much more than picking uniforms.

"We're aiming for a style that is sophisticated, suave," said Haton. "It will be aggressive visually, with a kaleidoscopic, lava-lamp look."

That rules out strutting and baton twirling, he said.

In addition to the musicians, the Herd will include up to 40 people in a color guard. Their uniforms will be a little different from those of the musicians. They'll carry flags and other props to add to the pageantry.

Uniforms for the musicians consist of a short green jacket with a white or gold sash over black pants, topped by a chako, a type of marching band hat resembling the hats worn by French police officers. They'll be adorned by gold-braided trim around the brims, a gold ornament on the front of the hat and a white Mylar plume. USF ordered 300 uniforms at $350 apiece.

All the brass instruments will be nickel-plated so they'll be silver in color.

In terms of music and membership, the Herd will stress diversity. All students are encouraged to apply, said Haton, not just music majors. At Oregon, 57 of the band's 200 members were psychology majors, he said. Nationally, only 10 percent of marching band members tend to be music majors.

Blind and handicapped students are welcome to participate, he said. The band's music and routines will be scaled to the ability of the students.

"The goal is to ensure the success of our people, to always give people a positive experience, and to be entertaining," he said.

The band plans to choose a theme for each appearance. Latin music will predominate during the first show. The second show will feature funk, such as Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson.

Plans for the third show haven't gelled yet, but Haton said the band could choose any type of music, from The Nutcracker to Simon and Garfunkel, or even songs from cartoons.

Music for each of the shows will be available on the band's Web site at More than 2,200 people have visited the site since it went online July 13. Band members can hear just the part played by their instruments or by the whole band, as well as print out music for each instrument.