The 2018 class of the Northern Illinois University Huskie Marching Band increased by more than 50 members from last year. Tom Bough has been NIU's Director of Athletic Bands for the past 14 years. On this week's Friday Forum, he talks about how he keeps everyone tapping to the same beat.
"We talk about marching band as being one very large family, and so ultimately we want the kids to be successful in their academic studies," Bough said. "We often say, 'Get to class, get a degree, get a job, get a life and get out.' So, we want to equip them for academic success as well as musical success."
Bough is also a performer with a doctorate in tuba performance.
He says the degree enabled him to develop his skills as a performer, in addition to learning how to teach music performance.
He says there are other skills that he weaves into the experience, especially since some students are leaving home for the first time to come and play for the marching band.
"Our particular classroom is not just the football field," Bough said. "We try and impart what to do if you have roommate challenges. What do you do if you are having academic challenges? Where do you go if you are sick? I mean just nuts and bolts stuff that we want to equip the students to be aware of the resources that are here."
As far as programming the performances, Bough says it's a collaborative process.
"The really fun thing about college marching band is we do a different show almost every week," Bough said. "We actually give the students a substantial voice in selecting a lot of the music. I mean they're doing all the work, I want them to have a say."
Bough says virtually every major on campus is represented in the band this year.
"The diversity of majors and cultures and experience I think is a real strength of the band program," he said.