Wichita State fans who stuck in their seats at halftime of Saturday night’s men’s basketball game against Tulane were treated to the debut of the Shocker Sound Machine, Wichita State’s first-year basketball marching band.
Dressed in black and yellow, designed by Fruhauf Uniforms, the ensemble of around 35 students performed for a little more than five minutes. They had performed before at a women’s basketball game, but this was their first performance in front of the majority of 10,000-plus fans in attendance.
It wasn’t a traditional marching band performance because the Shocker Sound Machine doesn’t consider itself to be a traditional marching band. It was a mix of traditional and contemporary techniques and included trumpets, saxophones, trombones, mellophones, euphoniums, a tuba, snare drums, bass drums, and a set of tenor drums. The performance ended with a hearty applause from the audience.
“I thought the crowd was engaged and I thought the kids looked like they were having fun and that’s really the most important part,” said Lucas Hulett, assistant director of bands. “It was nice doing it in an indoor venue and not having to be outside. Acoustically, it really fills the place up. I think we absolutely have a future here.”
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The debut came seven months after WSU announced the formation of the Shocker Sound Machine in July. In the months since, Dr. Tim Shade, director of bands, and Hulett have worked together to recruit members for the ensemble, host try-outs, write the entire performance, and train in a limited amount of time (two hours twice a week).
Grad students Robert Tindle, Matthew Baker, Rick Moose and Joel Montes have helped along the way, while the staff hired Joey Montes to help with design work.
The target audience for the Shocker Sound Machine actually aren’t music majors. Those students typically have busy schedules that are difficult to schedule practices around.
So Shade and Hulett took a different approach to filling out the ensemble.
“What we’re hoping for next year is to draw the community that are not music majors,” Hulett said. “We want to find the people who still want to play their instrument and have fun. That’s what we found this first year. A huge freshmen class made this possible.”
Freshman Katelyn Koch, a Rose Hill native, is a good example. She plays saxophone for the Shocker Sound Machine, but is a theater major. She was part of Rose Hill’s color guard in the marching band for all four years and heard about the auditions at WSU in July.
“I was really worried because I wanted to keep playing my instrument, but it was difficult for me to find a part for it in my schedule. I was pretty upset, but then I got the e-mail (about Shocker Sound Machine) and I knew I had to do it.”
After 60 hours of practice leading up to Saturday’s season debut, Koch said she thought the performance went well.
“It was so cool seeing all of the people who stuck around,” Koch said. “We were worried people would be gone getting snacks or whatever. But that was so awesome getting that kind of approval from everyone who cheered us on.”
This was meant to be a feeling-out year for the Shocker Sound Machine. Starting with the 2019-20 academic school year, Shade and Hulett are planning to expand the program and be able to offer scholarships. Those interested can be part-time students at the university.
The goal is to play up to six home basketball games, but also play more in the community. They envision pop-up concerts, flash mobs and pep rallies in their future.
“I would definitely encourage anyone interested to give it a try,” Koch said. “The worst thing you want to do is go to college and see all of these exciting things around you and you don’t do it. I get to be involved, I get to play my music and I get to march. I feel like I’m back home.”