TCU Band focuses on innovation

The TCU Marching Band takes the field during halftime of the Baylor game in 2007. Photo courtesy of the TCU Marching Band website. A vintage photo of the 1958 TCU Marching Band playing "Howdy." Photo courtesy of the TCU Marching Band Website. The 2007 TCU Marching Band playing at halftime of the Colorado State game. Photo courtesy of the TCU Marching Band website.
// Posted

While some university bands like the University of Texas Longhorn Band have a set traditional style, the TCU band has maintained its modern style over the years.

“Many universities have a certain tradition that they will not get rid of because it is their identity,” said Brian Youngblood, director of the Horned Frog Marching Band. “TCU changes continuously for what is modern at that time.”

Both modern and traditional band styles have two components: individual and overall, Youngblood said.

For the TCU band, Youngblood said the modern style in the individual component has its members pointing their horns towards the sideline no matter what direction the band is marching.

Overall, the band marches in point-to-point straight lines with smooth strides so the instrument does not bobble, he said.

On the other hand, traditional bands like the University of Wisconsin Marching Band have an individual style that has its members pointing their horns in whichever direction they are marching, Youngblood said. Members of traditional bands also march with a “pop” in their step, like prancing and pausing for a second when the knee is by the waist.

Overall, traditional style bands march in curved lines to a destination on the field, he said.

“The tradition at TCU is that we are always open to change and the advancement as the marching world continues to change,” drum major Jordan Kendle said.

TCU’s marching band style would be the style found at high school band competitions, Youngblood said. Most high school band competitions showcase the newest way to march to a popular song.

During the 40s, 50s and 60s, many bands found their identity and have never looked back, he said.

For example, the University of Texas Longhorn Band has maintained its traditional uniforms, its Big Bertha bass drum and its songs played at every football game since it was founded in 1900, he said.

On the other hand, since the band started in 1904, TCU has never settled on a certain band style or approach, Youngblood said.

For example, TCU has always been a co-ed band, while most bands in the early 1900s were male only, he said. Females started to be let in when bands lost male members to World War I.

Under the direction of Leon Breeden, who directed the Frogs from 1944-49, the TCU band marched to jazz music on the field while other bands marched to traditional music, Youngblood said.

Youngblood said playing jazz music on the field during that decade was unusual.

From 1955-81, James A. Jacobsen directed the Frogs and changed the band’s marching style to a “precision marching quickstep,” meaning the band marched at a fast pace, Youngblood said.

Jacobsen implemented picture drills for the band in which band members would create an image on the field that resembled a song, Youngblood said. For example, the members formed a picture of a house while playing “Home Sweet Home.”

The band’s size and ability grew during the Jacobsen years. Back then, the band’s size was around 120-160 members, compared to the 185 members in the current Horned Frog band, according to the TCU Band website.

“I think it’s unique and cool that [TCU] is not bound by some kind of tradition where [it] cannot change for the better,” Youngblood said.

Music majors only make up about one fourth of the band and it is not mandatory for all music majors to be in the band, Youngblood said.

For example, music performance majors are encouraged but not required to be in the band. Music education majors, band scholarship recipients and people who play a wind or percussion instrument, however, are required to be in the band.

“Everyone who wants to be in the band can be,” Youngblood said.

The band will close its marching season at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Frogs will begin the show in Tempe, Ariz. with “God Bless Texas,” Youngblood said.

Following a country theme, the band’s introduction for the TCU Showgirls will be the Hank Williams song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.”

The band will close its exhibition show by playing Brian Setzer’s “Dirty Boogie” and spelling out the word frogs.

At the end of the bowl game, like each regular season game, the band will play the TCU fight song.

See a problem with this story? Tell us about it.