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Every new candidate and returning veteran go through a rigorous tryout procedure including marching, playing, and both together. Men and women are held to the same demanding physical standards, whether playing trumpet or sousaphone. These high standards are kept up throughout the season with weekly music checks, uniform inspections, and challenges.
Since 1976, the band’s membership has held steady at 225 marching members. The band’s instrumentation is unique among college bands, patterned after the traditional British military brass band. The 192-piece block band consists of the following instrumentation:
In addition, each of the 16 rows has two alternates with the exception of one additional alternate in one of the percussion rows (one alternate each on quints/tenors, cymbals, and bass drum) to bring the total to 33 alternates.
The alternates, though temporarily not marching, have important roles in the band. Because the band has no auxiliary units (flag corps, etc.), alternates (and student staffers) are used to handle props or other equipment to add an extra element to a show. Secondly, alternates have the ability to challenge regulars for a marching position each week. The challenge process consists of a shortened version of tryouts, where the squad leaders evaluate the challenger and challengee on music and marching. This process ensures that the 192 people are those that will put forth the most effort for that week’s show and entertain the 105,000 fans in the stadium.