When the “tap, tap, tap” of the gock block sounds, they march. Though their legs are aching with exhaustion, they move in formation with their instruments glued to their mouths or their flags blowing in the wind. Rehearsals can be rough.
Skip ahead to the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. The clock is ticking down to halftime, which signifies a break for players on the field. But for the USF’s band, The Herd of Thunder, it means game time.
The drum major gives the countdown, and as the first note of the show is played, the thunder rolls.
September 1999 marked the beginning of a USF tradition. The H.O.T Marching Band has quickly become a recognized unit at USF with its 158 members and 13 colorguard members. The colorguard is a group of dancers who perform on the field with the band at halftime. They usually dance with flags, wooden rifles or metal sabers but have been known to dance empty-handed as well.
The H.O.T. is led by band Director Michael Robinson and Assistant Director Steven Visnage.
“This year, the band is as strong as ever,” graduate assist and director of the band, Ingrid Larragoity, said. “Herd of Thunder is the host exhibition band in the Band Of America (BOA) competition in November.”
Like USF’s young football program, the band, she said, seems to improve each year.
“The band doesn’t dissolve at the end of football games,” Larragoity said.
Off the field, the H.O.T. competes in Winterguard International events, as well. WGI is a competition that includes an indoor percussion group, colorguard and other small ensembles.
Larragoity said the H.O.T. Colorguard is an entity often overlooked by the average student. They practice three times a week and perform with the band during half-time shows. They also compete in WGI with floorshows that include dancing, flag spinning and rifle and saber techniques. Last year, USF competed for the first time in WGI, and its colorguard placed second in “Independent A” class.
“We are the visual aspect of the band,” said Donald Sienkiewiciz, colorguard co-section leader.
Sean Costin, a trombone player, said students who perform with H.O.T. experience a relationship with other students unique to this organization.
“I have fun while I’m working hard and learning. (The H.O.T. Marching Band members) all endure the same practices and busy schedule, so we’re going through the same experience,” Costin said.
In addition, Larragoity said the band interacts with the football team to show its support for the Bulls.
“I’ve never seen a band so anxious to support their football team, or a football team so reliant upon a marching band for support,” Larragoity said.
The band practices Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, often with weekend or pre-game rehearsals. Scholarships are offered to students who march with the band or dance with the colorguard. Both organizations are always looking for new members, Larragoity said.
“Mary (Dooley, colorguard instructor) is willing to train any dancer with passion and ambition to perform with the Winterguard,” Larragoity said.
Never seen the band in action? Leave for a snack during halftime?
“Stay, and see what USF can do,” Larragoity said.