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Once in a Lifetime

text and photographs by Chris Janjic, originally published in The Daily Orange

When Syracuse University and Rutgers University’s marching bands played their first notes together at the Rutgers practice field, the grin on SU band director Justin Mertz’s face grew to a wide smile.

“It’s so loud!” he exclaimed.

 

Morgan Christopher Edwards, a senior aerospace engineering major, performs in the tuba line during practice in the Carrier Dome the week before the Super Bowl. The band started practicing at the beginning of Spring semester in January. 

Morgan Christopher Edwards, a senior aerospace engineering major, performs in the tuba line during practice in the Carrier Dome the week before the Super Bowl. The band started practicing at the beginning of Spring semester in January. 

It was the first time the two bands had played together on the morning of the Super Bowl. The SU Marching Band loaded onto a bus at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning to make it to Rutgers’ campus before practice began.

The two band directors coordinated music and formations the moment they found out they would be playing together more than three months ago. The SU marching band began to practice the week members returned to campus this semester.

“There was a lot of planning put into it, and we worked really well,” Mertz said.

Although it was a five-minute performance, a huge amount of preparation went into the performance. Each band brought around 200 members, and one thing remained constant for both of them: “This is easily the biggest performance that any of us will be in. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Mertz said.

Once on the bus, the band members curled into sleeping positions — not quite comfortable, but very familiar to the band mates.

“We’re all pretty used to these bus rides,” said Meghan Sinisi, a freshman baton twirler with the band.

At 10:15 a.m., the buses arrived at the Rutgers practice field and the band members warmed up alongside the Rutgers marching band. After fixing some kinks in formations and repairing a broken bass drum in the middle of rehearsal, band members filled the practice field with a sense of pride.

The band then went through a series of stops before reaching MetLife Stadium, including a mall, a movie theater and then a secure location where members received their field credentials.

At MetLife, police escorted the band members, dressed in their uniforms, in for their performance. The SUMB was shuffled from one waiting area to another on foot prior to the performance, as anticipation grew with members barely able to contain themselves during their second warm-up.

“They’re fired up,” Mertz said. “Everything is set up, and is going to go well. I can actually go home now.”

Excitement quickly turned to nervousness as members fell silent heading toward the entrance of the field.

Conductor stands were set in place and members sprinted into their positions. Both bands formed a giant “U.S.A.” on the field, and began playing “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen. The song then flowed into “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z, which was followed by Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

The band easily overpowered the football crowd, marching confidently, and the performance ended quickly after. Each member sprinted off the field, with enormous smiles and wide eyes, soaking in the moment, not wanting it to end.

Senior marketing and retail management major Natasha Olejar cried, “I don’t want to leave.”

Justin Mertz, left, and Rutgers veteran director of athletic bands Timothy Smith grin as they listen to their bands performing together for the first time on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. Each band brought around 200 members to the performance. 

Justin Mertz, left, and Rutgers veteran director of athletic bands Timothy Smith grin as they listen to their bands performing together for the first time on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. Each band brought around 200 members to the performance. 

Natasha Olejar a senior marketing and retail management major, follows along with the Rutgers color guard at the practice field on Rutgers' campus on Sunday morning. The bands only had one morning of practicing together to perfect their formations and fix any off-beat notes. 

Natasha Olejar a senior marketing and retail management major, follows along with the Rutgers color guard at the practice field on Rutgers' campus on Sunday morning. The bands only had one morning of practicing together to perfect their formations and fix any off-beat notes. 

Meghan Sinisi, left, checks her phone as Natasha Olejar, Connorlynn Gaffney and Meghan Durling take a selfie at the back of their bus on the way to MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The band spent most of their day on buses transporting from one destination to another. 

Meghan Sinisi, left, checks her phone as Natasha Olejar, Connorlynn Gaffney and Meghan Durling take a selfie at the back of their bus on the way to MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The band spent most of their day on buses transporting from one destination to another. 

Shaun Kinney, a sophomore music major, waits to enter MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening.  

Shaun Kinney, a sophomore music major, waits to enter MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening.
 

Members of the band practice outside of MetLife Stadium before the Super Bowl on Sunday evening. Excitement was at an all time high during the moments leading up to their big performance. 

Members of the band practice outside of MetLife Stadium before the Super Bowl on Sunday evening. Excitement was at an all time high during the moments leading up to their big performance. 

The Syracuse University Marching Band performs in front more than 80,000 people at MetLife Stadium as a part of the Super Bowl pregame show. 

The Syracuse University Marching Band performs in front more than 80,000 people at MetLife Stadium as a part of the Super Bowl pregame show. 

"I don't want to leave," Natasha Olejar cries after her performance with the Syracuse University Marching Band at the Super Bowl on Sunday night. 

"I don't want to leave," Natasha Olejar cries after her performance with the Syracuse University Marching Band at the Super Bowl on Sunday night. 


© Chris Janjic 2017 | All Rights Reserved.