The Cornhusker Marching Band presents its annual Highlights Concert on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Pershing Center.
Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students/seniors and are available from the Pershing Center Box Office at (402) 441-7766 or through Ticketmaster (additional Ticketmaster fees apply). Pershing Center is located at 226 Centennial Mall South in downtown Lincoln.
The band will present the music performed at each of their halftime shows, in addition to their pre-game music.
“It’s pretty much everything we’ve put on the field for the season,” said Senior Lecturer Tony Falcone, who is in his 11th year directing the Cornhusker Marching Band and his 15th year at UNL.
Their halftime shows this season included a program titled “Cartoons for Grown-Ups,” which included the themes from the television shows “The Simpsons,” “American Dad,” “Family Guy” and “Jonny Quest;” music from “Phantom of the Opera;” a tribute to the late pop singer Whitney Houston; a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Rolling Stones; and a “Go Big Red, White and Blue” patriotic show.
“I program the entire season as if it were kind of a show,” Falcone said. “I look for variety from game to game, so we represent lots of different styles of music, lots of different eras.”
He is always planning ahead to the next season.
“I already have a file going for show themes for next year,” he said. “And then we whittle it down from there.”
Most of the themes are set by early to mid-summer to allow time to obtain copyright permissions and preparation.
What fans see on game days, though, is just a small part of what goes into the Cornhusker Marching Band.
“The games themselves are such a small part, time-wise,” Falcone said. “It’s like Hartley Burr Alexander’s quote on the stadium, ‘Not the goal, but the game.’ And for us the game is all of the preparation and all of the things that take us there, because it’s those early morning hours, week after week. That’s what takes the dedication.”
Students rehearse from 7-8:20 a.m. Mondays through Fridays during the Fall and for two hours on home football games. In addition, students have to memorize music, and some have additional pep band duties on Fridays and Saturdays.
“It takes a lot of dedication, it really does,” said Music Education Senior Hannah Lambert, who is in her fourth year with the Cornhusker Marching Band, and who is a drum major this year. “Our students are absolutely incredible. It takes a lot to wake up in the morning, and that involves going to bed early the night before. It’s waking up and then being there, regardless of weather and regardless of how you’re feeling. That’s big.”
Lambert, who graduated from Norris High School just south of Lincoln, originally wasn’t going to participate in the Cornhusker Marching Band when she came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a freshman, but then she decided to try it.
“I’m so happy I did,” she said. “It’s such an incredible community of people. In the first week before school that’s band camp, you just find a family automatically when you get to campus. You spend this week suffering in the hot sun and sweating a bunch with these people. And through the season, you wake up early together, and it gets cold, and you freeze your tails off together. It just creates this supportive environment and just this big, huge family.”
One of the greatest moments, Lambert said, is walking into Memorial Stadium for your first game day.
“It’s my favorite moment—the first game of every season, watching the rookies’ faces is so cool because you remember feeling that way,” Lambert said. “You just walk out, and it’s just this rush. There are so many people, and it’s so loud and so red. And then you get onto the field, and it’s just super surreal, and you kind of forget to play. You’re just counting and making sure you march it right because you’re freaking out.”
Falcone said he loves being in Memorial Stadium any time.
“I love it on Saturdays and the odd Tuesday morning when you walk in, and it’s dark and it’s foggy and it’s quiet,” he said. “It’s amazing how different the stadium is when you’re in there rehearsing, and it’s empty than when there’s a game. It seems like it’s 10 times bigger on a game day somehow, even though it’s the exact same structure.”
The band has a nickname—“The Pride of All Nebraska”—which they take seriously. Lambert said she is proud of their work ethic and camaraderie.
“I used to be on the tunnel where the football players come in, that’s where I stood for the last three years,” she said. “Above it, it says, ‘I play for Nebraska.’ And of course, they mean the football players rushing in, but I think we all take that kind of for ourselves also. We play for Nebraska, and we’re here for the team, no matter what—win, fight, lose. It really is important.”
Falcone hopes people appreciate what the Cornhusker Marching Band students do for the university.
“The effort they put in, their enthusiasm on game day, that’s what I look forward to more than the football game or whether we win or lose—just watching them give it their all for that whole game,” Falcone said. “A couple of times over the last couple of seasons we’ve been down, and it looked like we were out. They stayed in the game, and I hope helped spark the crowd back into it, and the team has come back and won those games. So to watch them do that and really mean it is really special.”