Marching band to drum over to high school marching competition

They may be hidden in the background, but you'll always hear Mercer's 12th man cheering on the Bears.

Image: Ethan Thompson

They may be hidden in the background, but you’ll always hear Mercer’s 12th man cheering on the Bears.

Will Darragh, Staff Writer

You hear them almost every afternoon. You see them at every home football game. You probably have at least one of them in one of your classes. Mercer’s marching band is active on campus, but they also take their skills on the road to recruit potential marchers for Mercer.

As part of their recruitment program, they are traveling to Valdosta, Georgia on Oct. 29 to perform at a local high school marching competition. After the high school bands play, Mercer’s marching band will do an exhibition to encourage high schoolers to march for Mercer.

High schoolers will be able to talk to members of the band, having the opportunity to make connections with marchers from Mercer.

Doug Cowden is the current director for Marching Band. He started marching in 1990, he has been working and teaching for high school marching bands since 1997, and in 2006 he came to Mercer and started a pep band, which became a proper marching band with the reinstatement of Mercer’s football program in 2012.

Cowden said that the first four years of the program have been spent getting things started. Though Mercer does not currently offer marching scholarships, they are currently in the process of creating them. The athletic administration is in support of the scholarships, he said.

Cowden brags about the inclusiveness of Mercer’s Marching Band. Any student, regardless of what school they are in, can try out for marching band.

“It makes it better because each group of majors has certain positive characters, and when you bring them together you get a plethora of perspectives and ways to make things better,” he said.

He estimates only 20 percent are music majors and that the two majors with the highest representation are engineering and biology.

Aside from their inclusiveness, Mercer’s band distinguishes themselves in their work ethic.

“We have a philosophy that if you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability . . . We try to do things that many marching bands won’t do,” Cowden said.

Haley Peters is a junior drum major who is majoring in biology on the pre-pharmacy track. She marched competitively in high school, and though there are no collegiate level marching competitions, she says she still feels she has not stopped improving.

There is currently no parent organization to fund marching competitions at the college level, but Cowden predicts that, based on rumors he has heard, there could be the first collegiate competition within the next couple of years.

Another drum major, Maia Nichols, a chemical commerce major, says she enjoys being able to perform at the high school competitions. “This is my first year as a drum major. I’m looking forward to conducting in the last piece,” Nichols said.

Peters is also looking forward to the upcoming competition. “In high school, one of my favorite parts of the competitions was the exhibition. It’s nice being on the other end. It’s cool to see students who are genuinely interested in what we do,” Peters said.

Though Peters and Nichols are happy with what they currently do, they look forward to potential competitions. Reflecting on their experience, they believe that marching band has been a fun and accepting environment.

“Bus rides are the best,” said Peters, looking forward to traveling on the 29th.

Cowden said that when he is recruiting, he looks for students that are not necessarily full of talent, but for students who want to constantly improve. He believes the two most positive things students can look forward to in marching for Mercer are firstly that they will make friends for life; and second, they will be able to reach the highest level of performance that they will ever achieve.

Cowden, Peters and Nichols look forward to expanding the program through more recruiting, which would be helped greatly by the creation of scholarships.