The University of Utah marching band performs at halftime during an NCAA Football game vs. the Washington Huskies at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Exciting, nostalgic, motivating and meaningful are words one might use to describe the homecoming tradition and show put on each year by the University of Utah’s marching band, the Pride of Utah.

The Script Utah show is a one-of-a-kind performance that prepares audiences for the anticipated homecoming games. The band stands in a long line, folding back and forth on the east side of the field as they perform some of the university’s fight songs, all while forming the iconic name, “Utah” in cursive. Students, fans, and alumni look forward to this highly anticipated pxerformance.

The University of Utah Marching Band performed in an NCAA football game vs. Washington at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday Sept. 15, 2018.
(Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

“To me, this show is about showing school pride,” said third-year music education student and band member, Raymond Hernandez. “The show is a great way for the band to get the fans pumped for the game. The band marches in a follow-the-leader formation and spells out Utah in script. I think it catches some fans off guard because you can’t really tell what the band is doing until the until the end, and once you figure it out, it is really fun to see the word ‘Utah’ spelled out on the field.”

This show has been running since the 1950s when it was directed by then-band director Robert Gregory . Prior to directing for the U’s Pride of Utah band, Gregory spent time at the high-ranked marching band college, Ohio State University. He brought the concept of Script Utah to life when he became the director.

With a legendary show comes great preparation from all those involved in performing. The show is typically learned by band members in a week. Despite appearances, forming curves in a marching band isn’t the easiest choreography.

Each band member has to perfectly memorize their small spot on the field that they need to move to. They also need to know how many steps or music counts it takes to get there and how they fit into the picture. Then they need to memorize their individual parts to the music and how it fits into the ensemble. After all of that, they need to execute everything they’ve memorized simultaneously while maintaining clean musical and marching techniques.

“Learning the show can be very hard and tiring,” said Hernandez. “Some days it gets really rough but you always have your friends to encourage you. By the end of the day, though, it is such a huge honor to be a part of the show. This show has so much school pride in it. We get to play every single school song for thousands of loyal Utah fans while marching in the Marching Utes uniform. The experience is amazing and something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

The picture is a little bit different for the line of drummers that keeps the band in time.

The Utah Marching band performed at half-time vs. the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016

U alumnus and drumline section leader for 2016 and 2017, Ron Totman, recalls his experiences of preparing for the show.

“The drumline’s preparation for this show is more focused on the musicality as opposed to the drill,” he said. “The drumline remains in their drill set as the band forms the script Utah around the field and has the responsibility of counting in the next song after the previous song is completed. The memorization and musicality came from months of rehearsing together as a line every day, so our work was the conclusion of continuous growth and arduous practice over time.”

Script Utah is learned and rehearsed like any other type of show, just in less time.

Program Coordinator of Athletic Bands Alyse Mourdock said, “The process for Script Utah begins with learning the moves. We spend time in rehearsal putting each student in the correct spot and from there, they learn the pathway to spell out Utah. We practice Script Utah as many times as we need to ensure it looks great at the game.”

Mourdock continued to describe how she helps the band prepare.

“My position and role is assisting in the teaching of Script Utah. I will help the students learn the moves and assist in teaching the correct technique to make Script Utah the best it can be.”

Totman was involved in the band program for all four years that he attended the U in his undergrad and performed the Script Utah show in all four.

Of his experiences, he said, “When you’re in the program and simultaneously involved in classes, extracurricular activities, studying, etc., you realize its importance but are constantly busy and working through your degree, so you never see it in its true light. Now that I’ve graduated and am out of school… it’s much more impactful for me to be involved in the show, as it’s a reminder of the great times I had in college, all the friends I made through music, and how much the Music Program at the University of Utah developed me not only as a musician but as a responsible, organized individual. It holds a very special, nostalgic place in my heart, and I plan on being involved every year possible to show my gratitude to the program and all my professors for what they did for me.”

Hernandez seems to agree with Totman on the impact of the experience. In particular to the Utah Script, he said, “The whole process is very much a team effort. Everybody helps everybody. Sometimes I even learn something from the new members. When it comes to actually perform[ing] it on that field, it isn’t only me playing and marching, it is some of my closest friends, people I would consider family, and new friends all going towards the same goal.”

Members of the Pride of Utah find being a part of the band and particularly the homecoming event to be a personal honor. With the Script Utah show being a well-known tradition, they take the performance to heart.

“To be a part of one of the university’s biggest homecoming traditions is a big honor, and definitely an experience that not many students get to have,” said first-year drum major and fourth-year band member, Jacob Greer. “Because of how physically demanding the show can be, hearing the crowd cheer louder and louder as we finally finish spelling ‘Utah’ really gets our own thoughts off how difficult our moves are, but to how we are bringing joy to thousands of Utah fans.”

Greer is one of four students taking on this year’s title of drum major. Voted on by the band and then chosen by the director, Greer conducts the Pride of Utah Marching Band.

Of all the shows performed, some stand out more than others for various reasons. Whatever it may be, the performances give nostalgic feelings to the band members.

“My most memorable Script Utah show was probably my first homecoming game back in 2015,” said Greer. “I was in the trumpet section at the time, and while we were spelling out ‘Utah,’ all I could remember was how loud the stadium was. I remember standing on the field after finishing the show just amazed by how much of an impact we made on the stadium that night.”

Band members past and current consistently find awe in their first performances.

“Two of the coolest feelings I’ve ever experienced came from being a part of the Pride of Utah: my very first pre-game performance in front of 40,000 people in Rice Eccles Stadium my freshman year of college, and my final performance in Rice Eccles Stadium my senior year of college,” said Totman. “Both held very strong feelings that connected to each other in a ‘full-circle’ sort of way.”

The marching band plays before the game; The Utah Utes beat the Michigan Wolverines 24-17 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015

“We ran out of the tunnel onto the field to perform pre-game and as I came out of the tunnel I was welcomed by thousands of fans cheering,” said Hernandez, looking back to his first performance with the band. “I had never performed for so many people before. It was crazy. I was new to Salt Lake City at that time, and from that moment forward I knew I was going to love not only living here, but I would also love going to school here, and being a part of such a great organization with high standards, high expectations, high goals, friendly environment, fun environment, an amazing brand, and a group that always pushes themselves, known as the Marching Utes.”

Sadly, all shows must come to an end. While some members of the Pride of Utah will be performing their final Script Utah show this homecoming and others will march their first time, they’re advised to live that moment to its fullest.

“To seniors performing – live it up,” said Totman. “You might not ever get to experience performing in such a venue ever again. Take note of all the friends you’ve made, and how much you’ve grown over the years, and make every second of the shows count. To freshman – the University of Utah is an amazing place to be going to college, and the opportunities, we get to do, are incredible. Don’t take them for granted. Perform your heart out! You only get to do this so many times.”

c.robles@dailyutahchronicle.com

@claudiavrobles_

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