Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1991


August 17, 1991


Raucous sousaphones and bleacher-shaking drums, red and blue uniforms with plumes pointing to the sky.

Longtime fans often associate the Kansas University Marching Band with such audible and visual traditions.

"Every time we're on TV, I'll always get mail that says we're so glad the KU band still looks like the KU band," said band director Bob Foster.

Foster also works to carry on the quieter tradition of teaching.

Consider Jenny Haile. A Lawrence senior, she will play quads, a series of four drums, in the percussion section of Foster's marching band for a fourth time. She also will prepare for a career as a college professor.

The marching band and Foster have given her tools to perform elsewhere, Haile said.

She has observed Foster since junior high school, when he occasionally was a guest conductor at her school.

"I THOUGHT he was a scary old guy," Haile said of her first impression of the conductor. "I was scared of him because he was so big on the stand."

The feeling remained when Foster visited Lawrence High school, Haile said. He was demanding.

She recalls him singling her out after a mistake: "Now, Jenny, you know how to play that cymbal crash."

Haile has enjoyed Foster's tutelage in a more personal atmosphere since joining the KU Marching Band. The organization is cohesive on and off the field. Haile's description of Foster's opening remarks at the band's first meeting each year attests to that.

"He always says, `We're glad you're here.' To the upperclassmen, that's really funny, but it's true," she said. "So, I'm not scared any more."

THE PASSING of fear allowed room for confidence, which the KU Marching Band has given Haile in abundance.

"The feeling that you can step out onto a field and easily please 5,000 or 6,000 people is a heck of a feeling," she said.

That assurance arrives only after hard work. During marching and football season, the band practices two hours a day, three days a week. The percussion section often practices an extra two hours on Wednesdays.

"If you don't put extra time on it, you're not going to sound like one snare," Haile said. "You're going to sound like 10 snares trying to sound like one."

Haile will take the band lessons with her when she seeks a political science graduate degree next year. Another band member, Jim Sullivan, Overland Park graduate student, already has begun looking for a position with an elementary school as a music teacher.

AT THE SAME time, Sullivan will march for his fifth year. Haile calls the trumpet player one of the band's most important leaders.

"You have to have Sully there. He keeps everything light."

"He pops something off and everyone busts up laughing," she said. "Foster will yell, `What's going on?', and Jim will have his horn up to his lips ready to play. He'll say, `Nothing.'"

Sullivan chooses the same word many band members use to describe the band's lure rewarding.

"I still want to show my ability to play," he said. "I'm running out of opportunities."

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