The Butler University Marching Band wants to bring the heat

The band marches before their exciting halftime performance. Photo by Natalie Goo


We all know the amazing metal band Metallica. From their hits such as “Enter Sandman”, “Master of Puppets” and “Nothing Else Matters”, their timeless rock beats have captivated generations. What many may not know is that the Butler University Marching Band is competing with their incredible music in the Metallica Marching Band Competition open to bands across the country. The winners are selected and given cash prizes up to $40,000. Winners will be announced the week of Jan. 1, 2024, and Butler Marching Band musicians like myself hope to be named one of the victors. 

Butler Athletic Bands Director Melissa Johnson knew that doing this show was going to bring in a new era for music at Butler. Johnson is excited that the event allows for band members to compete. 

“I had already considered doing a metal music show,” Johnson said. “So doing this competition was a perfect way to incorporate metal music and a competitive aspect. Plus, it lights a fire for those who have competed before and miss the feeling that competing brings.” 

As someone who did not participate in marching band in high school, this experience has been a wild adventure for me. Yet, the competition aspect has given me the drive to continue to try new things and better myself. 

Sophomore elementary education major Cady Venant said she has seen how the dynamic of the band has changed from last year to this year. She was quick to credit the amazing first-year class that joined the band this year, and noted how the underclassmen brought the upperclassmen, as well as the whole band, up to a new, happier level. 

“There’s definitely a more positive dynamic this year,” Venant said. “The freshmen have had a huge impact on the band this year … It has made this year’s experience so much better compared to last year.” 

I have been on several different teams in various sports where the group’s interactions are extremely negative — it was survival of the fittest. This band has changed my perspective on competition. Instead of trying to one up one another, everyone is extremely friendly and supportive. We do weekly spirit awards, cheer each other on as we move through rehearsal and push each other to improve.  We can be competitive as a group and not competitive with one another. We are constantly helping each other whether that be with setting up the field, tearing things down or supporting the group through tough rehearsals; the Butler Marching Band has created a welcoming environment for everyone to be a vital part of. 

Johnson, who has been at the head of Butler Athletic Bands for nearly three years, has seen a healthier culture emerge within the band. While change does not happen overnight, Johnson is working hard to adapt the culture of the Butler Marching Band to a more inclusive, sociable and beneficial environment for everyone. 

“Since my time here, I have seen the band develop a more positive, nurturing environment,” Johnson said. “I do not want to stop while we are ahead, though. I want all of the athletic bands to have a positive, hardworking attitude and be a team.” 

Not only are Johnson and the leadership in the athletic bands striving to change the dynamic, they are wanting to get the Butler name out there. We all know that Butler is known for its high academic standing in the Midwest, as well as the basketball hype we love, but Butler is so much more than that. Johnson and Venant agreed that this is bigger than being “just a competition.” It is a way for the band, as well as the university, to promote Butler on a whole new level. 

“The submission is a video on YouTube,” Johnson said. “Even if we do not come out on top, the marching band’s submission is out there getting views and hopefully catching the eyes of the judges. We have an Instagram and a TikTok account now that has gotten some attention, so we are excited to see where this competition takes us.” 

Venant expressed that not only does the contest put the Bulldogs on the map, but it also lifts the marching band to a different level on campus. 

“This competition does put us out on the internet,” Venant said. “But it also gives us the drive to compete and succeed under the Butler name. It gives us a new role on campus.” 

Sophomore biology major Lily Upadhyay believes that not only will social media help the Bulldogs reach further audiences, but also affirm the hard work that the group put into every rehearsal. 

“I see this helping out the Butler name because this show is something different [than previous years],” Upadhyay said. “It came with new challenges like speed and staging. However, the band really put in so much effort into this show and everyone should feel very proud.” 

Johnson does not want to stop the journey after this year. She hopes it is something that we can compete in future years whether it is in competitions like this, or displaying our band as an exhibition band at high school competitions or national showcases. When asked what she would like to see from the band in the future, Johnson said she wants to be an important part of the Butler community, but she does not want to be a big band. 

“I think the competition is really good for us,” Johnson said. “It lights a fire under us because we are doing it for a purpose. Not just to compete, but to get our name out there and enter a new era for the Butler University Marching Band. I do not want to compete every year because it is a lot for our students to do on top of school.” 

The Butler University Marching Band has provided an outlet for so many students throughout the decades. The band has done so much for me in just the three months I have been with them. I have learned more about music, time management and how to make new friends, and it has given me an opportunity to write about the experiences of those who have been doing this longer than I have. 

Whether it is on the field, through a video submission or in the classroom, the marching band hopes to create a new culture for future members. Johnson and the marching band executive board hopes to do this one year at a time, starting with competing in the Metallica show.


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