Students with instruments in hand begin to congregate around 4 p.m in the parking lot in groups seemingly sorted by instrument.
The lot is a dark gray valley between Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and the IU Tennis Center. The atmosphere is sweltering with heat waves rising from the pavement as the sun beats down overhead.
Around 280 students check into practice on their phones before lining up in arc formations organized by instrument as the beginning of practice ticks closer.
At 4:30 p.m. sharp, IU senior and drum major Carson Bauer raises a whistle and presses it to his lips.
Every member of the band abruptly shifts into place, facing toward Bauer and drum major Kal Ellison. In unison, the band immediately responds to Bauer’s whistle with a roar.
Bauer, with his whistle still at his lips, blows a second tune.
At that note, every member of the band yells “I” and raises their left leg before stomping it into the pavement while yelling “U” in succession.
Indiana’s Marching Hundred makes it official. They’re ready to practice for game week.
For the first time since the Gator Bowl in January 2020, the Marching Hundred is preparing to perform at an Indiana football game. The band will once again play “Indiana, Our Indiana” for fans Saturday at the football game against the University of Idaho.
With the game falling on the 20th anniversary, the band will perform a tribute show honoring those who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The show will open with “Living in America,” followed by an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” and “Empire State of Mind” as a tribute to New York City before closing with “America The Beautiful”.
The Marching Hundred is also experimenting to create a menacing atmosphere for the opposing team’s offense to play during defensive third downs, director Eric Smedley said.
“I’d just say look out for us on the field,” Bauer said. “We’re doing some pretty cool new stuff.”
In addition to its pregame and halftime shows, the band performs between plays in the northeast section of Memorial Stadium. The band tries to bring additional energy to gamedays by adding dances into its playing routines while in the stands, Smedley said.
“Every tune we play in the stands has choreography,” Smedley said. “It’s just this giant spirit machine.”
For Bauer, the band camp in August was the first time he had seen most of his friends in the Marching Hundred since the band’s limited practices in November 2020.
“It feels like you’re really a part of something bigger than yourself,” Bauer said.
The Marching Hundred practiced entirely outside with only 150 out of around 300 members at a time last fall, Smedley said. The band recorded three halftime performances and a pregame routine to be played on the jumbotron at Memorial Stadium during games last year.
Along with recorded shows, the band also organized open rehearsals at IU’s Conrad Prebys Amphitheater. The Big Red Basketball Band also performed an in-person send-off when Indiana women’s basketball left for the NCAA Tournament at Cook Hall.
Only junior and senior band members have performed at an Indiana game. Smedley said he feels this year’s group has a different level of energy in practices ahead of its first home game.
“By the time Friday or Saturday comes, usually the band is pretty tired,” Smedley said. “Yes, they were tired, but that energy level was still there because they were just so excited to be back making music and being with their friends.”
The band takes inspiration from another high-energy campus figure: Indiana football head coach Tom Allen. Allen’s “LEO” motto is printed on the back of the band’s T-shirts, and band practice each day ends with Smedley yelling it before the band shouts it back.
“To me, when I hear the bands playing, that’s what I think makes college different from the professional game,” Allen said at a press conference Monday. “It’s just an awesome part of the atmosphere. I love that part of it — excited to have them back.”
Allen said he tries to show appreciation for the band whenever he can, and Smedley said the Marching Hundred has noticed. During the Welcome Week pep rally following his speech, Smedley said Allen made a point of walking through the band’s ranks for high fives and introductions.
Memorial Stadium tends to empty as games go on with fans heading toward the parking lot to beat traffic. The Marching Hundred always stays till the end to cheer on and play for the team, no matter the conditions.
“We always stay till the very end,” Smedley said. “Even if the weather gets bad and people are vacating the stadium, the band is there.”