A parade through downtown Lawrence will kick off Kansas University’s 65th annual Band Day on Saturday. Beginning at 9 a.m., high school marching bands from across the region will march down Massachusetts Street from Seventh to 11th streets.
Bands also will perform during halftime of the KU football game against Rice University, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadium.
Roughly 3,000 high school students in about 30 different marching bands taking to a football field and playing music simultaneously is a sight — and sound — to behold.
When it comes to pulling off Kansas University’s annual Band Day feat, keeping it simple is the key.
A few KU fight songs and the popular show tune “Seventy Six Trombones” from “The Music Man” will have been learned and practiced ahead of time, so when students arrive for the 65th annual Band Day on Saturday, they’ll need just an hour of rehearsal to solidify their field position.
“We don’t do any movement,” said KU assistant band director Sharon Toulouse, who is in charge of this year’s Band Day. “It’s pretty much just get on, play and get off.”
High school marching bands from across Kansas, plus a few from Missouri, will team up to perform with KU’s band during halftime of the KU-Rice football game. The bands also start the day with a parade down Massachusetts Street.
Perry-Lecompton High School band director Mike Maloun has been bringing students to KU Band Day for most of the past 20 years. His students always want to come back, he said. The event is fun for them because “it’s just all about the band.”
While he’s taken bands to a couple of Kansas State University band days, Maloun said his school usually sticks with KU. After all, it’s in a neighboring town.
“We’re close to Lawrence, and our parents enjoy seeing us locally there,” he said, also disclosing that he attended KU.
Toulouse said Band Day gives students a chance to get on campus and be exposed to KU’s music program and traditions.
“It’s a great opportunity for high school bands to experience what it’s like to be on a college-level football field, and to play next to a college-level band,” she said. “It’s a great recruiting tool.”
While “Seventy Six Trombones” doesn’t actually require 76 trombones (KU’s band, incidentally, has 28), the jubilant “Music Man” song fits the goal of keeping things simple.
“It’s just a great, fun arrangement that’s well-known by many people,” Toulouse said. “It’s easy to put together with the thousands of high school students that will be participating.”