Playing in the marching band at college football games has drummed up a lot of excitement for two Seymour graduates.
That experience is about to hit higher notes when they play during upcoming bowl games.
On Saturday, 2012 Seymour High School graduate Joshua Atkins will play trumpet with the Pride of Utah as the Utes take on Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl game.
Then on Dec. 31, Matthew Franke, a 2014 Seymour graduate, will travel with Boise State’s Keith Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band as the Broncos battle Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.
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“I am very happy for not only us as a band but for the football program, as well, to be going to a bowl game that will be aired across the country on ABC,” Atkins said. “The team hasn’t been to a bowl game in two years, and with us going to the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl game, Utah will be back in the national spotlight.”
Franke said it’s good to see Boise State back in a bowl game this year, especially with the departure of coach Chris Petersen, who led the team to several successful seasons.
“Since Petersen left for the University of Washington, this football team has had a rough spot,” Franke said. “It’s great to see our name back in the Top 25. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to support them on New Year’s Eve.”
This is Atkins’ first year at Utah after attending Vincennes University for his first two years of college. He lived in Salt Lake City from seventh grade to his sophomore year. He watched football games and planned to go to the University of Utah until he moved to Seymour.
At Vincennes, he was in the pep band and played during two junior college basketball Final Fours. He also competed in track and field and was an academic All-American his freshman year.
‘A good decision’
When he transferred to Utah, Atkins emailed Brian Sproul, the director of athletics bands, and asked about trying out for the pep band. Sproul turned Atkins’ attention toward marching band, and Atkins sent in an audition piece and landed a spot in the band and a scholarship.
“When band camp came in August, I knew right there on the first day it was a good decision,” Atkins said. “The way they do things on and off the field makes them one of the best and respected marching bands in the Pac 12.”
This year’s marching band has around 160 members, but Atkins expects it to be closer to 200 in the next few years. In his first year, he plays second trumpet.
The Pride of Utah played at all home football games and one road game along with taking a small pep band to two other road games.
“The home-game atmosphere is incredible,” Atkins said. “I have been to NBA playoff games for the Pacers and (Utah) Jazz and Indiana basketball games, and they don’t hold a candle to how loud Rice-Eccles Stadium gets when the game starts. You can’t hear the person right next to you. It’s loud.”
‘A good time’
On game days, the band starts six hours before kickoff with a rehearsal. Then they march around entertaining tailgaters, participate in the Ute Walk where the football players walk to the stadium and then do a pregame show.
As the band prepares for the bowl game, not too much has changed in terms of preparation.
“The biggest difference will be doing a lot of pep rallies the day before the game and doing a battle of the bands with Colorado State’s marching band,” he said.
On the day of the game, the band will do a tailgate event for Utah fans before performing a mini version of its pregame show on the field.
They will play in the stands during the game. The band will be on the field during halftime, with a show consisting of music from Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire, Bruno Mars and Cee Lo Green.
“I am really looking forward to just having a good time with my friends in the ensemble, especially the seniors who are graduating that have helped me a lot in learning how things are done here at the U this season,” Atkins said.
Franke also had a background with high school band and wanted to continue with it in college.
He decided to go with Boise Sate in late May. A cousin lives in Idaho and had promoted the school to him.
‘Weather sounds perfect’
Franke was recruited by the band director. He sent in recordings for his audition and earned a scholarship.
“Boise State was the only school I applied to that gave out any sort of marching band scholarship, so it was nice to know I had that option available,” he said.
The band consists of 165 members, and Franke plays first trombone in a section of 18 trombones. He also is a part of Kappa Kappa Psi, the honor/service fraternity for band members, by selection from the band director.
“Although the Blue Thunder is small for a Division I school, the quality and power of performance from this band is difficult to match,” he said.
The band played at all home games this season and one road game. The Blue Thunder did pregame and halftime field performances and played during timeouts and between plays.
“At our home games, the crowd is very energetic,” Franke said. “For a stadium of only 37,000 seats, the fans are some of the loudest in the region. If I were a visiting team’s player, I’d be terrified to have to play at Boise State’s stadium because of how loud the fan base is.”
The bowl game will be Franke’s first time in Arizona.
“I’m glad that the football team will be able to play their best and not have to worry about the extremely cold weather that we have (in Idaho) often,” he said. “It got down to 7 degrees earlier this season at a home game, so Phoenix weather sounds perfect.
“I’m beyond excited for the game because it’s one of the most significant bowl games, and I am a huge fan of traveling to hostile environments.”
‘Being in a big family’
Playing at the bowl game will be similar to a home game for the band. There’s a possibility it will get to march in the Fiesta Bowl parade.
“Most importantly, we will be performing at a neutral stadium,” Franke said. “This means the marching band is representing the school on a large stage. We must do everything we can to reflect Boise State positively.”
After the game, Atkins said the band may perform in pep rallies or do outside events in the Salt Lake City area. Some of the members also are in the basketball pep band.
Franke said he is in the basketball pep band at Boise State, and that has been another great experience.
Beyond this school year, both Atkins and Franke want to continue with marching band.
Atkins has one more year of schooling at Utah to finish his bachelor’s degree, and he hopes to go back to Vincennes to finish his associate degree.
“I am staying with (the band) because it is like being in a big family,” Atkins said. “Everyone is great at their instruments and works hard every day. Also, I love playing my trumpet every day; and next year, when I am one of our lead players, everyone that will watch the games will hear me on national television playing some really high notes on my trumpet.”
Through it all, Atkins also keeps his hometown in mind.
“I want to represent my town of Seymour the right way,” he said. “People from Seymour work hard every day to make ends meet, and I want to put the city on the map and make people of Seymour proud.”
Franke said marching band is time-consuming, but he hopes to be able to continue with it.
“One has to be able to devote 15 to 20 hours per week to the program while keeping grades up at the same time,” he said. “If I do continue, it would be mostly because I respect my school’s athletics and would do anything to promote and continue to support them. I love to be able to support my school’s team using my talents and still get to have a great band experience.”
What: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Who: Utah Utes (8-4) vs. Colorado State Rams (10-2)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas
What: Fiesta Bowl
Who: Boise State Broncos (11-2) vs. Arizona Wildcats (10-3)
When: 4 p.m. Dec. 31
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
“It got down to 7 degrees earlier this season at a home game, so Phoenix weather sounds perfect.”
Matthew Franke, a 2014 Seymour graduate and a member of the Boise State band, which will play at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona