It's about 250 miles from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Syracuse, New York. But that's not too far for the Rutgers University Marching Scarlet Knights to coordinate an intricate musical extravaganza with the Syracuse University Marching Band at one of the nation's premier sporting events.
A Super Performance
Icing on the Cake
Show producers at the National Football League invited the bands to represent their home states as part of the New York-New Jersey theme for the first Super Bowl played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
When the producers first approached Rutgers, alumnus and band director Timothy Smith was thrilled by the invitation to perform: "We were already coming off a great year. Our membership has been growing steadily (from about 135 in 2000 to 200 today), we moved practices to Hight Point Solutions Stadium (the band had bounced around among other campus locations in previous years), we got a lot of great publicity from the Victoria's Secret runway show (the drumline opened the event), so the Super Bowl invite was the icing on the cake!"
Precise Steps, Long Distance
For the all new set, the Pride of New Jersey and the Pride of the Orange will march onto the field together. The combined bands will celebrate music made famous in each state, before closing with a grand finale. Collectively, with each member tracing a more than a half-mile path during the six-minute performance, the two bands' 400 players will cover about the distance between their home campuses.
The bands will have been coordinating and polishing their intricate set for weeks beforehand. Rutgers players, who come from all academic disciplines, have been practicing the music on their own during the winter break. Between January 21, when the students are back on campus, and the game February 2, the band aims to squeeze in four or five three-hour practice sessions. The Syracuse players will be rehearsing their part just as assiduously.
The bands won't meet until game day at the stadium.
A Big Puzzle
Large, joint marching band performances are rare. "It's like a big puzzle. We'll be working on our half while they're working on theirs," says Smith, who is in frequent contact with Justin Mertz, the Syracuse band director. They are fine tuning steps and formations before the bands meet up for a sole run-through at the stadium prior the actual performance. "These students are so polished and precise, we anticipate it will come together smoothly."