“It’s everything that you could look for in a college marching band”: A look at the UWL Screaming Eagles


Image retrieved from uwlax.edu.

Jessica Fitzgerald, Arts & Entertainment Reporter

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse marching band was created in 1964, and the group was originally called the Marching Chiefs. One year after UWL adopted the eagle mascot in 1989, the group became known as The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Screaming Eagles Marching Band. Today, the group is under the direction of Dr. Tammy Fisher, and they perform on campus for home football games, and around the community at events like the Oktoberfest parade. Over the years, the group has seen developments in size and performance abilities which created the Screaming Eagles that exist today.

UWL senior and Screaming Eagles member Christian Schommer said, “We are very much the epitome of a college marching band. We are strong musically, we look good and we sound good, but at the end of the day we know that we are there to put on a show. We are there to get everyone riled up and to make sure that they have a good time at the game. There is lots of energy and lots of goofiness. It’s everything that you could look for in a college marching band.”

In preparation for home football games, the Screaming Eagles march from the Truman T. Lowe Center for the Arts to the Roger Harring Stadium at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex while the drumline plays the cadence. They then stop in front of the stadium to play pep tunes for tailgaters before they head inside. Schommer said his favorite part of being a part of the Screaming Eagles is performing at football games to give the crowd energy. Dr. Tammy Fisher said, “There’s something about playing music and entertaining people and making them happy. There’s something intangible about that. It makes you feel good to make others feel good.”

When asked about their experience with upperclassmen in the band, UWL freshman and marching band member AZ Bohl said, “The first day that I went to drumline, I had a stressful audition experience, but all of the upperclassmen told me that it was okay. The upperclassmen have been mentors and have helped the underclassmen feel safe when we feel stressed about our first year of college marching band.”

While Dr. Fisher is the director of the marching band, she said that the heart and soul of the group are the upperclassmen who are involved in student leadership. She said, “We just voted on drum majors for next year, and now we have to interview students who signed up to be student leaders, and we have 36 students that we are interviewing for leadership positions. So that tradition remains strong, and it’s great that so many students want to step up and do that.”

Schommer is a student leader for the Screaming Eagles drumline. He said that the Screaming Eagles are big on tradition. He said, “The drumline is an interesting group. In general, the marching band is big on tradition. We have all of our traditions, and the drumline more so than the rest of the band. Every day during drumline camp we go to Rudy’s on Thursday. Why? Because that’s when we go to Rudy’s. It’s been that way for ten years, so that’s what we do. And in the same way, somebody decided at some point that we were going to give everyone in the drumline a nickname, and that’s what they’ll go as for their whole time here. So as far as the process is done, if you want to know how we get our nicknames, you have to join drumline. That’s just the way it is. It’s a secret!”

According to Bohl, the fun that is had within the Screaming Eagles community is the best part of the experience. Bohl said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand your music knowledge with people you enjoy being with, and it’s with songs you love and enjoy, and you get to feel like you’ve made yourself a second home throughout the school year.”

Schommer said, “What ends up happening is you become best friends with all of your section mates. You spend a lot of time together, especially in the beginning of the season so you make a lot of friendships and a lot of lasting connections. Overall, we just have a lot of fun. Our director likes to joke around that band is 51% hard work and 49% fun. We look good, we sound good, and priority number three is just to have a blast.”

While the Screaming Eagles are able to prioritize having fun, Dr. Fisher said that it’s also important to her that the group maintains its reputation. She said, “I take it very seriously that we are ambassadors of UWL because we are out in the public and all eyes are on us. So, we have a reputation we need to uphold and we want to continue being a group that’s welcoming to everybody. It’s a safe environment where people can be themselves and continue to make great music and have a lot of fun doing that.”

On Nov. 5, the Screaming Eagles performed at a home football game in rainy weather that Dr. Fisher said “was just awful.” About the condition of Saturday’s game and the overall benefit of participating in the Screaming Eagles, Dr. Fisher said, “It doesn’t matter what your major is, you can take the experience that you get from marching band and apply that to life. You can complain about things like the weather, but they’re not going to change. You can just deal with it, you know? It takes a very strong work ethic to get through marching band because there are some long grueling days. People find out that they are able to do more than they thought they could. There are a lot of things that you can take from the marching band experiences and apply to your classwork and to life.”

The Screaming Eagles are approaching the end of their season, so they are holding a review concert on Nov. 13 at Mitchell Hall. Dr. Fisher said that Mitchell Hall is the only indoor space on campus that is large enough to host the entire marching band, and that it allows space for the full band to perform, including the color guard and the twirlers.

The concert is scheduled at 1:00 p.m, and admission to the event is free. Schommer said, “It’s our way to put a bow on top of the season. We go in, we perform our halftime show at a standstill, do lots of peptunes, and have a great time to celebrate the end of another great season.”

All in all, Schommer said that UWL Screaming Eagle Marching Band members value having a great time while making great music. To sum up the Screaming Eagles experience, Schommer said, “Join band. It’s fun!”

Image retrieved from uwlax.edu

Image retrieved from uwlax.edu