Though contending with low funding and budget cuts, the Herd of Thunder (HOT) is working on recording and releasing its first CD – a project that has taken three years to complete.
Producers said making a CD with a 300-person marching band is a difficult task, especially when the band lacks sufficient funds. But, producers said, the CD is not a means to make a profit. Rather, it is a testament to the band’s establishment and a nostalgic soundtrack for Bulls fans everywhere who want to listen to the HOT when and where they want.
“We think if people enjoy the atmosphere at the football games, why wouldn’t they enjoy a similar atmosphere in their car driving to work,” said John Carmichael, director of bands and associate professor of conducting. “They can do the Bull sign and do their head and dance up and down while other people waiting in the congestion on Bruce B. Downs can stare at them in amazement.”
While providing fans with their favorite game-day tunes is important, the CD also plays an essential role in distinguishing the marching band and the University, Carmichael said.
“I think the CD will have a very positive effect on the future success of the instrumental music program at USF,” he said. “A strong marching band can only be seen as a positive. They have needed to put out a CD for years, but they get to the end of the year and they have used all of their money trying to fund their very existence.”
For three years, the marching band has tried to produce a CD, but their biggest issue has been paying for it.
“We have zero money,” said Michael Robinson, head director of HOT.
Last year, the marching band had to cut $40,000 from its operating budget, and this year another $30,000 is being slashed. The band was allotted $20,000 for operating costs this year, Robinson said. The problem with that amount becomes clear when it’s compared to the $1 million given to the marching band at the University of Florida for operating costs from its athletic department, he said.
“USF Athletics and the band are pretty young,” Robinson said. “If I was at a place like Tennessee with a band that’s been around for 100 years, I could send out an e-mail to 50,000 band alumni and everyone could send a hundred bucks and we would be fine. But I don’t have that many alumni to count on.”
Of the $20,000 operating budget, Robinson said nearly $14,000 is spent simply feeding the band members. Although there are other budgets for expenses, the marching band has a long checklist of utilities and facilities that it pays to use every year, he said. The practice field, storage trailers, lifts, portable bathrooms and even the band’s copy machine are rented from the University.
In spite of the band’s financial situation, the CD project was rejuvenated this year with the arrival of Carmichael, who pledged to use a portion of his start-up fund to finance the CD’s production. It has been his top priority to produce CDs of both traditional USF game songs and the USF Wind Ensemble.
“We are establishing a national presence as a university of excellence across the board,” Carmichael said. “One way to do that is to put out into the general public, in a commercial sort of way, available to anyone who wants it, recordings of your top instrumental ensembles playing art music.”
Carmichael said the band already has a CD’s worth of material in the editing phase that will be licensed and released commercially. Although the CD’s major function is to build recognition, not profit, Carmichael said whatever money is brought in by the CD will go toward replenishing the funds that helped produce it, as well as funding future CD projects.
“I could get three-fourths of my money back, but it’s a gamble,” Carmichael said. “I think it’s important enough to gamble on that, and not have any guarantee that any money is coming back. The marching band is important, the school wanted to start one, and you shouldn’t do anything unless you are going to do it right.”