Last Saturday, as Wildcat Nation celebrated the Senior Day victory over the Illini, the members of the Northwestern University Marching Band returned to their dorms, showered, put on their purple best, and gathered for the annual Band Banquet. The tradition of the banquet goes back decades: The band members gather with directors, graduate assistants, and alumni to celebrate the “end” of NUMB’s marching season – though this year the band are content with the knowledge they’ll be getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida for New Year’s.
During halftime earlier that day, the band performed the “March of the Steelmen.” The song was adopted by the Northwestern Marching Band’s first director, Glenn Cliffe Bainum, in 1928. Since then it has closed every home season, set to a drill of Bainum’s hand titled the “Old Plus-Four.” The band performed the traditional drill and music to perfection, kneeling on the field in salute on the final notes and provoking a spell of nostalgia over every NUMBALUM in the stands. After the march, band announcer Pete Friedmann, a NUMBALUM himself, read the names of the seniors, who ran to the center of the field, put their arms around each other, and sang the Alma Mater, led by Director of Bands Dr. Mallory Thompson, also a NUMBALUM. Some seniors wiped away tears as they raised their instruments up and played the first strain of “Go U,” all 27 NUMB seniors playing together, before the rest of NUMB joined in for the break strain, and the band marched off the field.
NUMB’s halftime, Northwestern vs. Illinois. Note the winning #GoU100 video, which was made by the boneheads (a.k.a. the trombone section).
Their names were announced again at the banquet, in front of 170 people instead of tens of thousands. This tight-knit group spent the fall together, rehearsing 4-5 days a week, plus game days. The senior class leads the band; they set the example, they run leadership, they help determine morale at a rainy Friday rehearsal. This year, one of the band’s two drum majors is a senior; the official Band Geek (an elected and respected position) is a senior. Every senior, whether or not they held a leadership position, is a valued and beloved member. NUMB Director Dan Farris announced each of their names in turn, and the seniors went to the podium for their speeches.
The speeches were varied: Some said a quick “Thank you, and go ‘Cats,” and others took their time detailing favorite memories, lessons learned, declarations of love, and advice for their younger friends. A few teased Mr. Farris, or pleaded with him to replace the Basketball Band’s khaki uniform requirement with jeans. Others passed on sacred relics; the boneheads offered the oddest selection, from a custom flag to an official section bowling ball, but a deflated balloon, the honorary title of “NUMB Jew,” and other playful items were all passed down in fun and merriment.
On their first day of band camp, Dr. Thompson tells newcomers that they’ve made the two best decisions of their lives: First, they came to Northwestern. And second, they joined NUMB. At the podium, as seniors recalled these words at their senior
band banquet, they offered a cheerful “You were right!” to Dr. Thompson, who sat smiling six feet away.
Before the evening was done, awards were passed out. Senior Kaitie Hilburn received the Carl Dill Award, presented by the NUMBALUMS to one senior who embodies the spirit of NUMB and of Carl Dill, an inspirational and much-loved NUMBALUM. Spirit awards were given to a junior, a sophomore, and a freshman, the awards being an old red sweater, a cow costume, and a Santa hat. Through rain or shine, band camp or band banquet, you can always count on NUMB to have a sense of humor.
At the close of the banquet, Mr. Farris and Dr. Thompson thanked the band and the seniors, then reminded them that rehearsal would be held soon, to prepare for the bowl game. The band cheered.
Hats off to the 2013 seniors, including:
Andres “Regent Samuel Clemens” Caneva
Kaitie Hilburn, Carl Dill Award winner
John Michael Kelly
Motoki “The Commando” Mizoguchi
Michael “El Presidente” San Gabino
Karen “Carousel” Schmidt
Philip “Conficker.c” Smith