ESCANABA - Nearly 17 months ago, Shane Myrick of Escanaba stood in the stands of the largest stadium in the country and imagined. Though the University of Michigan stadium was nearly empty at the time, he envisoned a packed house of cheering fans, a game between two storied teams, and himself on the field, doing his part to add to the game day atmosphere.
Today Myrick, a University of Michigan sophomore, doesn't have to imagine. He gets to experience it as a tromboune player in the marching band.
"I had a lot of moments where I was like, 'Wow, this is going to be huge.' I had never been to a U of M game before my first game with the marching band. I remember getting to go in the stands and I'd never even been there. Just seeing that and imagining it being full of 114,000 people - We don't even have 16,000 here in Escanaba," Myrick said of his first experiences in the Big House.
Every Saturday now, Myrick, a 2010 Escanaba High School graduate, marches out onto the field in the pregame and again at halftime with the marching band - the result of a rigorous and time-intensive practice regimen.
"The time commitment here is much much more (than at high school). It's much more physically demanding as well, probably moreso than any other college band even," he said.
"We do three different styles of marching. Lock or high step, traditional march and glide or low step. Each of these have different specific techniques. We don't do too much marching though, it's more technique. We make formations on the field and march in place.
Photo provided by MMBphotovideo.com
The trombone section of the University of Michigan marching band performs during game day earlier this season at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Shane Myrick is second from the front.
"In pregame, we always do the lock step and traditional march. For halftime, we do the glide step. We'll come out of the tunnel doing really high steps with our legs 90 degrees parallel with our thighs, then fold out and do the block M, do the fanfare and start the pregame."
As Myrick learned, every spot on the marching band must be earned.
"You have to try out for every game, even if you're part of the marching band. My freshman year I was only selected for one game. This year, I've been selected for every single game. Part of the reason is I got better, but they also know that sophomores know what's going on more than the freshmen, so it's a seniority thing as well," Myrick said.
In a season worth of games at the Big House in Ann Arbor, memories are sure to be made. One night in particular stood out for Myrick.
"The night game against Notre Dame, just coming out of the tunnel for that game, the stands were completely packed. Everyone was in their seats and it was the loudest it's ever been. It was just amazing," he said. "The game itself was probably the most exciting game I've seen this year. The fans were still in their seats an hour after the game ended.
"We did a special light show for halftime where we played techno rave music our director arranged. The dance and flag teams wore white suits and it was arranged by the same company that worked with the Black Eyed Peas during the Super Bowl. It turned out really good."
The marching band program is so essential to the game day atmosphere that even the coaches check in on their progress from time to time, as Myrick explained.
"The coaches are very busy but at the beginning of the season we got to do a pregame show for the football team where we showed them our full routine and played a few songs. The players got really into it and (coach) Brady Hoke even gave us a speech when we inaugurated the freshmen," he said.
"Hoke loves the band and has said that in interviews. He said before when he was an assistant here, he used to come out before the band so that he could watch the band come out of the tunnel. Everyone likes Brady a lot."
After compiling a 10-2 record, Michigan has accepted an invitation to play at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 in New Orleans. Being invited to perform in the band at a bowl game is an honor. Only 275 of the 380 band members will be joining the team and Myrick will be one of them.
"I'm mainly just excited about going to a bowl game and being in New Orleans. I didn't get to go to the Gator Bowl last season as not too many freshman went. I'm also excited to be in a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) game. That's huge. There will be a lot of attention on us so everyone is stressing and making sure that we look our best because everybody will be watching," he said.
Time restraints during the Sugar Bowl will restrict what the marching band is able to do.
"We are going to be doing a show that we've previously done for a home game this season. We haven't had too much time to rehearse so you don't want to learn an entirely new show," he said.
"It's also a shorter show, so we'll only play two or three songs that we have planned, but we still get to do the pregame. For some bowl games, they don't allow that."
Being part of the University of Michigan marching band has been quite the ride for Myrick, who said the experiences he's had will stay with him for life.
"The U of M marching band has been like a big family. There's been a lot of emotional stuff in the band this year that has brought us together as a family. We spend so much time together between rehearsals and the friends you make are friends for life. We feel like we're all connected," he said.
"It's such a big time commitment but it's so worth it. You experience so much more going to U of M. It's something you can't explain."