By Sarah English / For The Chewelah Independent
The Fight Song was played 15 times. C-O-U-G-S was spelled out twice; once upside down (to please fans on both sides). Almost seven minutes of music was performed at half-time. All while marching and playing and moving. And Elizabeth McKellar would love to do it all again, in a band uniform, in Martin Stadium.
After all, there are some perks. Cougar Marching Band alum McKellar, a 2012 Colville graduate, remembers “some amazing trips” with all expenses covered. She traveled with the band to Albuquerque for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in 2014 and to El Paso for the Sun Bowl in 2015, as well as to Cougar games played at Oregon State and Oregon. Elizabeth also notes a fringe benefit that football season ticket holders can appreciate: “Getting into all the home games for free was kinda sorta awesome.”
McKellar put in an equal amount of work for all of the fun she got out of being in the Cougar Marching Band. The band practiced nine hours a week, and McKellar would blow her trumpet and keep her marks every step of the way. “The formations used in routines could take less than a rehearsal to learn,” remembers McKellar. “It was just the transitions that could get difficult,” she notes, and it would typically take a week or two to learn these, though there were some “one week wonders.”
Game days were longer than a week’s worth of practices combined. McKellar recalls the marching band would “begin to play on game day six hours before the game, play all game, and then play until everyone leaves the field.” And it was a busy schedule. After having a meal together, the marching band would greet the football team at the Cougar Pride statue and then divide into three small bands to perform amid the inflatables and food tents at Cougville; around the vendors and big-screen TVs in the Fieldhouse; and at the more upscale tailgate in the Compton Union Building ballroom. The band would reunite in the stadium tunnel and wait for the pre-game show to start. After that came all the Fight Song playing and the C-O-U-G-ing and the shark-attacking with a half-time show in the middle; and then finally teaming up with the football players near the student section of the stadium for a final WSU Fight Song after a win.
Attending Washington State University and participating in the Cougar Marching Band was an easy choice for class of 1986 Jenkins graduate Wendy Person Schorn. Her band instructor at Jenkins, Scott Selevold, took band members to Future Cougar Day every year. Schorn took part in mini workshops with the WSU band and watched them perform on the field during the day’s football game. She loved the campus and decided that’s where she wanted to attend. McKellar was a legacy, with a Coug dad and a brother in the Cougar Marching Band, who “basically told me that I was joining and I had no choice. I didn’t have any regrets,” she said.
The 2012 Apple Cup played in Pullman is McKellar’s favorite school memory, when the Cougars came back from behind and won in overtime. “It was really freaking cold, our coats were frosting over, our water was almost completely solid… but it was the greatest moment,” she said. And the band had some of the best seats in the stadium from which to witness the victory. “When UW missed that field goal, we knew before the UW fans, who were cheering because from their angle they thought they won. But we could see the angle and then the interception. The crowd was awesome. I couldn’t talk for two days after,” McKellar recalled.
Schorn had a different Apple Cup experience when the marching band played at an Apple Cup hosted at the rival school in Seattle. Instead of dealing with freezing weather, she and her band mates endured flying food when they were pelted with edibles and other items and the team bus was egged. An earlier band trip to play California in Berkley was much more pleasant for Schorn.
By the time McKellar joined the band a few years later, the mentality was that “there is no rivalry when it comes to the bands; it’s just about playing music.” But “there’s something different in the air during Apple Cup,” she admitted.
Especially an Apple Cup this year with the Rose Bowl on the horizon. “I won’t pretend to know anything about football stats and predicting,” McKellar said. “I just know enough of the basic concepts of the game to enjoy it. However, the true crimson and gray Coug in me says. ‘We’re gonna rock the socks off the Pac-12 and those poor saps who have the misfortune of being our opponents won’t know what hit them!’”