By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
While most students spent this week moving to campus and getting ready for the new school year, the 338 members of the Famous Maroon Band were already hard at work.
The Mississippi State University band held its annual band camp all week in preparation of the upcoming football season. The students spent nine hours a day intensively working on their new routine. At 8:30 a.m., they began the day with marching rehearsal outside before the heat gets too unbearable. After lunch, they spent several hours in music rehearsal, both as a group and in instrumental sections. Later in the evening, members went back outside for a few more hours of marching.
Band camp is really the only time members have for intensive practice before football season starts, but once classes start, they will continue to meet for rehearsals for several hours a week.
It’s a lot of hard work, but it will all be worth it come Sept. 15 when MSU faces Louisiana State University for the first home game of the season.
“We think of ourselves as part of the soundtrack to the gameday experience,” said Elva Kaye Lance, director of bands.
The band spent the week working on its pregame and half-time shows. This year, the halftime shows will include a number of superhero theme songs and the pop songs from the last decade, songs which MSU students grew up on.
Though the year has just begun, the Famous Maroon Band directors believe it will be a great one.
“This year we have some of the most talented freshmen we’ve ever had,” Craig Aarhus, associate director of bands said. “So when you combine that with our veterans, it’s been working out really well.”
And this band doesn’t just excel at music — they’re pretty smart, too. The average ACT score for the band members is 25; they even have one member who got a perfect score. There are three distinguished scholars among their ranks and several Eagle Scouts. While their members represent every college and nearly every major offered at MSU, approximately 30-40 percent are engineering majors.
Coming to college for the first time can be pretty intimidating, especially at a school as large as MSU. But for incoming freshmen and transfer students, the band camp makes it a little easier to make friends and find where they fit in before classes even starts.
“We try to make band a bridge from high school to college and make the transition a little smoother for them,” Aarhus said. “When the first day of class comes around and the campus is just a sea of faces and buildings for new students, our kids will already have people and friends they know.”
Maybe it’s those close friendships that have caused the Famous Maroon Band to grow by over 100 members in the less than 10 years. The band has gone from 220 members in 2002 to 338 members this year.
“We’ve grown quite a bit over the last few years, and we’ve had to order extra uniforms (and) extra equipment,” Lance said.
For more information on the Famous Maroon Band, visit http://www.msuband.msstate.edu  or check out its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/famousmaroonband .