Every year, a new drum major is selected to lead the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB). The Daily sat down with this year’s drum major, Mac Goodspeed ’16, to talk about his experiences in the band and what he loves about it.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): When/why did you join the band?
Mac Goodspeed (MG): My original knowledge of the Stanford Band was through “The Play,” which is in a classic Big Game; it was 1982, between Stanford and Cal, and the band was on the field in the last play of the game and Cal ended up winning, but there’s just this classic sports clip that’s always used in historical college football reels, and the band’s always there and they’re like the pinnacle of goofy silliness in a college football setting. When I came here during Admit Weekend, by far the most distinct memory I had was coming out of Memorial Auditorium after being stuck in there for awhile listening to a lot of administrative stuff, and seeing the band play. I saw it and immediately knew that was what I wanted to do.
TSD: How would you say the band contributed to your Stanford experience?
MG: Right now it’s all-encompassing. I would say that it’s definitely taught me many more valuable lessons than I expected to learn from it. I expected to come in and have a lot of great experiences, which I have, but I definitely picked up on some more important ways to carry myself. I learned to take some things less seriously; that I needed to let go a bit and learn to just add an element of fun to whatever I’m doing. Band rallies, no matter what we’re doing, are a group of people who are creative and witty enough to make sure that no matter what’s going on you’re having a good time. So I’ve been able to translate that to pretty much every aspect of my life. It’s also a good lesson in that same vein of taking something like music, which as a discipline can seem very formal or stiff in a lot of ways, especially in a marching band setting. The Stanford band is pretty much the polar opposite of that. It’s a good way to make sure that things don’t have to be as they are.
TSD: How do you think the band at Stanford differs from other bands?
MG: Logistically, the clear difference is that we’re something called a scatter band rather than a typical marching band, which means that instead of having a clear marching technique we scatter from formation to formation in the field shows. Also, I’d say logistically, we do a lot more in terms of community-oriented activities rather than just shows and playing for athletic events. We play at Special Olympics every year, we do a lot of stuff on campus and for our alumni, and in pretty much any aspect of Stanford or within the Palo Alto area, we’re invited to random things. For example, if the Giants win the World Series, we’ll be in the World Series parade in San Francisco.We do various sporting events in San Francisco and San Jose as well. Special Olympics, again, is a huge one. So it’s athletic events, rallies, but also community service, you could call it, too. Like alumni birthday parties, children’s fairs, things like that. Babies love us.
TSD: What would you say is the hardest part of working with the band?
MG: The band is always a delicate balance between progressing and having fun in a chaotic sense, so I’d say it’s very much a controlled chaos, and being in the management team which is three people — myself, drum major, the manager and the assistant manager, who work more on the logistical side of things — it really falls to those people to control the chaos, and obviously it’s like holding a bird. You don’t want to grip it too tightly because it’ll die, but you don’t want to let it fly away, so it’s definitely tough sometimes to strike a balance. Especially for something that I care so much about, it’s tough to sometimes get people whose main goal in the band is just to be there very infrequently just to have fun, so it’s sometimes tough to work with that, but at the same time you have to cater to it because that’s what keeps the spirit alive. The whole mantra of you don’t have to play an instrument, just come at football games and be with us, that’s the driving force behind the band. So catering to all different perspectives, I think, is tough, but it’s the core of what we do.
TSD: Where do you hope to take music in the future after Stanford?
MG: That’s a fantastic question! I’d love to hear from a CDC counselor on that. Right now, I keep it as a personal-fulfillment aspect of my life, so I’ll always be practicing instruments by myself and I hope to have a band, at least, on the side. I don’t foresee it being too much of my career, but at some point I’d love to incorporate it in some way. 20 years young, trying to keep my options open.
TSD: What are you most excited about for the band this year?
MG: I think there’s a fantastic renewed energy of creation in the band in terms of each member, regardless of their managerial position, feeling as if they can bring something unique: whether that’s doing a really cool rally project for themselves and the people around them, bringing a really great idea to the table, saying that we should do a new thing on campus, or really just spurring anything within band. I think there’s a good feeling of autonomy within each member, so that’s allowed us to make a lot of great strides in it. I also think that in the past, there’s been a distinction between our musical and performance life and our social vibe, and I think the processes are becoming more entwined in the sense that there’s a greater value placed upon the mutual respect and interpersonal relationships within the band. I think that serves very well not only for people’s experience coming there, but also how we sound, because a happy band likes to play the music well.
TSD: If there’s one thing you want the readers to know about the band, what would it be?
MG: We put in more work than we look like we do! But at the same time we just know how to have fun with it. We do it for the fun and we hope people can enjoy that with us.
Contact Leela Srinivasan at leelas ‘at’ stanford.edu.