Behind the scenes: How the UF marching band takes the field

This is the first of our series “The Road to Ireland” as we watch Gator Band prepare for their trip overseas.

While many University of Florida students soaked in the last days of summer, members of the Gator Marching Band were hard at work.

Memorizing music, learning drill, practicing new movements and making new friends are all part of the annual band camp at UF, but this spring the band is traveling to Ireland to participate in St. Patrick’s Day festivities including St. Patrick’s Festival Parade in Cork, 51st International Band Championship in Limerick and St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin.

To reduce the cost per student, the band has set up a trip fund through the UF Foundation.

Take an inside look at this process of how the marching band takes the field and is preparing for its overseas performances.

A man stands next to a giant drum outside a building.

All 425 members of the 2022 marching band are “welcomed home” to the Steinbrenner Band Hall to begin the check-in process. Playing the drum, Big Boom, is a game day tradition for the UF community. 

A man in an orange polo holds two thumbs up.

Associate Director of Bands Jay Watkins greets the crowd with “This is the year,” kicking off the week ahead. 

Two students sit at a table and check in a student.

Student leaders in the band help check in all the members, giving them a name tag and guiding them through the next steps and rest of the week. 

A student holds a measuring tape around his waist while another student reads the measurement.

Student leaders assist the members in measuring their bodies to be fitted for two pairs of pants, a jacket and a hat that will be checked out to them. 

A student measures another student's head with a measuring tape.

The measurements are put into a website that contains the uniform dimensions and tell the leaders what sized pieces would work for the members. 

A student gets zipped into a marching band jacket.

With buttons, snaps and zippers, the jacket is a two-person effort in taking on and off, building bonds between the members. 

A student sizes another student for a marching band jacket with another marching band jacket in the foreground.


A student at a table types on a computer while talking to someone standing up.

Instruments get checked out to students who play brass, percussion or piccolo. 

A locker room aisle where two students are looking at a trombone.

Student leaders show the members where the instrument was located with the combination for the locker, making sure the instrument was in working order for later that afternoon.

Students sit around a picnic table playing piccolos.

Friends catch up as they practice for their audition of playing the fight song, The Orange and Blue, and a few scales. 

A student plays trombone.


A man sits in a room with a computer.

Auditions are done by graduate assistants in the School of Music who will be teaching each instrument — or section — for the rest of the season.

A student auditions on a sousaphone with an instructor grading on a laptop.


A large group of students sit on the floor inside listening to two professors speak.

After all 425 members go through the check-in process, the band gathered together for the first time to meet Watkins, Assistant Director of Bands Chip Birkner and all of the graduate assistants who will teach the band members this year.

An conductor in the foreground waves her arms at a group of sitting musicians.

Sectionals, music rehearsal with just your instrument, are held every day of camp to work on music, movements when playing in the stands of the stadium and getting to know each other. 

A group of snare drummers play in a circle.

These sectional rehearsals occur in and around various music buildings around campus. 

A drum major conducts a band sitting in a band hall.

Full band rehearsal happens every day after sectionals to practice the music the members just learned.

A student plays a trumpet outside.

The practice field is where they put all that music rehearsal into action by learning the movements and drill to go along with it for game day. 

A color guard runs across a football field.

Florida Visual Ensemble and the Gatorette’s work on choreography is shown in the field rehearsal of the pre-game show that occurs before kickoff on game days.

A student holding a mellophone looks at her phone on a football field.

Each member is given coordinates for each shape created on the field in an app on their phones. 

A student steps off a yard line on a football field while holding a mellophone.

Members will then mark off where their new coordinate is based on landmarks such as the sideline or yard lines. Knowing where the new set is, they will go back to the previous spot and march directly to the marked off new spot. 

A student plays the clarinet with a phone attached to it that shows sheet music.

Band members use sheet music on their phones to learn what notes and rhythms go with each field set. 

A line of baton twirlers with a marching band in the background.


Not every drill set gets marched to. Like in the Gators spell-out in the pregame show, members run to their next set having to know exactly where to be in seconds. 

Three men talk in a circle.

Special guests like Head Men’s Basketball Coach Todd Golden and Football Coach Billy Napier make appearances to tell of their support and excitement of the season to come.

Six men pose for a photo.

The new Voice of the Gator Nation Sean Kelley, pictured left, and Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, pictured right, come to hear the band before the season opener. 

A marching band sits on a football field and listens to a professor.

Each field rehearsal ends with a meeting to discuss what is to come, how well the group did that day and, of course, a "Go Gators." 

Blake Trauschke October 5, 2022