“I think it only means good things for the color guard, and that’s obvious just from auditions,” said ECU Marching Pirates color guard instructor Grace Duque. “I’ve never had so many good spinners come try out.”
Bigger is not always better, but in the case of marching bands, a bigger band means larger formations and more sound. But more than numbers, it is the caliber of the musicians, spinners, and dancers that ECU is attracting that is making the difference.
Two-a-days aren't just for the football team. With that much practice, it's important that band members stretch and stay loose.
“[Our members] are here because they want to be,” said Smith. “We get the cream of the crop from high school bands. The least experienced people here, were the most experienced in high school. So when you begin [at camp] you are already starting at a high level.”
The starting point may be high, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do. It takes the dedicated practice time of band camp to bring everyone together.
“We spend a lot of time working on marching fundamentals,” said Knighten. “The issue for us here is not teaching people how to march, but trying to unify style because students come from such diverse programs with a lot of different styles.”
It is important that the band comes together quickly because band camp is the only opportunity the members have to learn the music and marching formations—called drill—for the football pregame show, and for the halftime show they will perform for the season opener against Virginia Tech on August 30, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Once camp is over and the fall semester begins, practice is devoted to learning the remaining halftime shows the band will perform at home football games this season.
The Marching Pirates are ECU’s largest student organization, and membership is open to all qualified students enrolled in the university. The band has students representing every college and nearly every academic department. Members also participate in a variety of organizations on campus such as academic honor societies, concert bands, intramural sports, ROTC, fraternities and sororities, and more. Two hours of elective or fine arts credit are awarded for participation in marching band and is applicable toward free elective requirements in all degree plans.
With the rest of the band rehearsing inside, the color guard has the practice field to themselves.
In recent years, the band has traveled to football games at the United States Naval Academy, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech, Duke, South Carolina, and North Carolina State University, and has performed at high school marching band festivals throughout North Carolina and Virginia. Performance highlights include the 2003 Rockingham NASCAR race, and President George W. Bush’s visit to ECU in April, 2001. The band has also performed at the 2006 PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama, the 2001 GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, the 2000 galleryfurniture.com Bowl in Houston, Texas, the 1999 Mobile, Alabama Bowl, and the 1994 and 1995 Liberty Bowls in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1996, the Marching Pirates have performed halftime shows for the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, and for the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.