Golden Wave Band: Backbone of Baylor halftime performances

Each week, Baylor's Golden Wave Band practices for more than six hours in preparation for their halftime performance at every home football game. Photo courtesy of Baylor Photography

By Emma Weidmann | Intern

The Baylor University Golden Wave Band is known for its halftime performances at football games, but many people don’t realize how much goes on before they take the field.

Each week, the band practices for six hours on a new show to be premiered at the weekend’s home game. A typical game day for the marching band begins five hours before kickoff with a short rehearsal and the Bear Walk, where the band marches as the football team enters McLane Stadium. The band plays at the pregame, halftime and postgame show.

“This season we’ve been doing a new show pretty much every week, so at rehearsals we start with a quick warmup and stretches, all of that stuff to get us ready because it is a physical exercise, so we need to make sure everybody stays safe,” Houston junior and saxophone section leader Paige Nielsen said. “Our first day of rehearsal is a lot of repetition and work and learning those spots and going back and doing it again, singing the music, and then we just kinda keep building up on that until Friday where we put everything together.”

There are traditions within this tight-knit community that make the marching band special to its members. Nielsen’s favorite tradition is the BUGWB’r, a newspaper put out by a committee of members for the bus rides to away games. It consists of memes and funny moments from the season and provides entertainment on what is sometimes a long journey.

Another tradition consists of freshmen being given a single white petal at the beginning of their band career, and when they become seniors are given a whole white flower to toss off the bridge toward McLane Stadium, commemorating their time at Baylor and in band.

“Everyone there loves being there, and that’s the difference between high school band and college band. In high school, you have to be in marching band if you want to be in concert band, but people sign up for BUGWB because they love it so much and they keep coming back because it’s an amazing place. If the people weren’t there, it would be a completely different experience,” Nielsen said.

The experience of players in a section can vary from Nielsen, who has played saxophone for nearly eight years, to very little experience with music. The Golden Wave Band is inclusive of all skill levels; if there is a student who would like to play, they should not be discouraged by their lack of experience.

Lots of skill is needed for positions like Nielsen’s and for those who wish to be staff members. In order to be a section leader, members must first be a squad member, a sort of leadership team, and from there will apply for the section leader position and be evaluated by their peers.

“All of the people on staff have been a part of the marching band here at Baylor, and it’s a position that requires around two years of experience first before you can be on staff. So, we all know how the marching band works,” Midlothian senior and staff member Clayton Mills said.

The job of a section leader is to anticipate the needs of the players in their section, to provide them rides to practice, print out music and lead their section in rehearsals. But it’s not just a leadership position — a section leader is also a support system.

Staff members work alongside players and band directors to make sure the operation runs smoothly and to manage uniforms and game day procedures for the band, Mills said.

“We do a lot of behind-the-scenes work during the summer to get ready for the season. We’ve got to order a bunch of stuff. Outfitting a 300-person band takes a lot of work,” Mills said.