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What It Takes: The Mighty Sound of Maryland

Marching Band Members Share Secrets Behind Spectacular Halftime Shows

By Karen Shih ’09

Maryland marching band practices

The Mighty Sound of Maryland, which performs at every home football game, rehearses for Saturday night’s Homecoming show that will feature music from composer John Williams’ blockbuster soundtracks.

Photo by John T. Consoli

Think it’s hard to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time? Try crossing a football field to create intricate formations while playing the latest chart-toppers or Disney hits from memory on a saxophone or snare drum.

Those are the marching orders of the 215-member Mighty Sound of Maryland, led by Director of Athletic Bands Andrea Brown, which performs crowd-pleasing halftime shows and UMD school songs every time the Terps play at home. It’s also marched at presidential inaugurations and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and supported the team at bowl games across the country.

Tomorrow night at the Homecoming game, the band will pump out pieces from composer John Williams, known for his work on era-defining films like “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter” and “Indiana Jones.”  

“We get to make iconic shapes like the bike from ‘E.T.,’ the ‘S’ from ‘Superman’ and the ‘Jurassic Park’ logo,” said drum major Abel Solomon ’23. “It helps that we have iconic music too, that sense of familiarity.”

Solomon and tuba player Tenley Fahey ’25 share what it takes to learn new music and formations every two weeks, the challenges of keeping their uniforms fresh during a long and sweaty football season and what it was like to get a Lil Nas X shout-out last year.

Solomon: I’m a really big sports fan. The ability to combine watching sports and making music, it’s just fun. I’m originally a trumpet player, and I enjoy the whole community aspect, the teambuilding, the life lessons you learn from music.

Fahey: We practice a lot more than your typical sit-down concert band. We meet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday for two hours at a time. Then we have game days. We’re always around each other, and it’s a really close bond. Every school is represented among our different members, but we all share an interest in music.

Solomon: As a drum major, I’m up on the ladder conducting. I’m also the liaison between students and staff, taking the reins when the director is focusing on other things.

Fahey: As a squad leader, I’m in charge of marching and making sure the forms look good; keeping the straight lines straight, making sure people have proper technique. If we’re trying to make a smiley face on the field, people should know it’s smiling—not frowning.

Solomon: Usually we have two weeks to rehearse—sometimes one, if we have back-to-back home games. Our process is learning the movements of the drill first, then adding the music.

Fahey: We have an app called “The Ultimate Drill Book” that shows the coordinates of where we should be on the field. Each of us is assigned a letter and a number, and we’re sent the coordinates a day or two before we start rehearsing.

Think about walking and singing and eating a sandwich. We’re moving our fingers and our feet. At Maryland, we don’t use (sheet) music on the field—some other schools do that—so that’s another challenge.

It can get pretty chaotic at first. People will end up on the wrong side of the field. But that’s why we have Early Week to really get people into the swing of things.

Solomon: It’s the hardest week of the year. We all arrive a week before the fall semester starts in the August heat, and we rehearse 12 hours a day from Saturday to Sunday. We always hit a couple of walls during those first days, but then we start to see progress. When we get to the first halftime or pregame show, it’s all worth it.

Fahey: That’s also the week when we get our uniforms. They’re not really made for hot weather or cold weather, and the season is long. They’re only sent out to be cleaned once in the middle of the season, so we have to strategies to make sure they don’t smell. Don’t leave your bag zipped up with the uniform inside, and always wear deodorant!

Solomon: We do more than just the halftime show. I love the “truck,” our parade across campus before the game. We do a lot of cheers to a drumbeat, and people who are tailgating clap along and high-five us.

Fahey: We do fun horn moves like tuba lifts, pushing our very large instrument up above our heads, over and over. I love seeing what each section does during the truck—it’s our own little piece of the pie.

Then, when we enter the stadium, we do the pre-game. It’s something to show the other school who we are. We play the Victory Song, the Fight Song, the alma mater, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the toast to Maryland.

That’s when we do one of the most physically demanding things: double-time, when we march at a very fast tempo out onto the field. We also stand for the entire game, out of respect for the team. They’re playing and giving it their all, and so are we.

Solomon: It’s hard to pick a favorite show. I loved the one we did in the game against SMU (Southern Methodist University) in September. It was dedicated to the divas of the 1990s and 2000s, like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston. We played famous tunes that everyone loves.

Fahey: Our “Shrek” anniversary show last year was a lot of fun. It was also crazy when Lil Nas X retweeted our performance of “Montero.” It was so exciting when someone sent it to one of our group chats! We also had (Grammy winner) Jon Batiste comment on one of our social media posts. We hope that happens again this year.

Solomon: Wait a little bit to go get your food at halftime—you might miss out on us playing your favorite song. Sit down, enjoy the show!

This is part of a monthly series that looks behind the scenes at “what it takes” to keep the University of Maryland humming and create a vibrant campus experience. Got an idea for a future installment? Email

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