Herd of Thunder Marching Band Reaches New Heights

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The USF Herd of Thunder Marching Band continues to capture the spirit of the University of South Florida as it enters its 18th season. The Band's current lineup of 373 volunteer members, the largest in USF history, brings massive sound to the field of Raymond James Stadium. The growth of the Herd of Thunder makes the Band more ready than ever to perform as some of the most visible members of the University.

Dr. Matthew McCutchen, Associate Director of Bands and Director of Athletic Bands at USF, has led the Band since 2009. He has witnessed the Band's impressive growth from 220 members in 2009 to 373 in 2016. With this growth comes many changes, though key elements of the Band remain intact.

"We march better than we did then ... We've got our fundamentals down better than we did," said McCutchen. "But the heart and the attitude of students has been good here for many, many years."

McCutchen is passionate about creating a marching band that serves the University well. While he recognizes the value of marching band competitions in high schools, he knows that the function of a college marching band is not to defeat other bands in competitions.

"We have zero interest in that," said McCutchen. "Our aim is to entertain our fans, to represent the University, and to support our teams. And, we are trying to have a good time."

McCutchen attributes the success of the Band to the committed leaders of the College of The Arts. Assistant Director of Bands Bryan Braue and Herd of Thunder Administrator Jason Bombaugh take on the logistics of the Herd of Thunder. Together, they make short work of ensuring transportation, meals, and uniforms for the Band.

"The band would not be what it is without those two guys," said McCutchen.

The typical game day for this year's Band is a massive operation. Game day involves feeding and hydrating a group of over 370 Band members. Students and instruments fill seven buses and depart for Raymond James Stadium. At the game, temperatures reaching over 90 degrees Fahrenheit mean that the Band members must drink nearly 1,500 bottles of water throughout the day to keep hydrated.

Also important to the Band's operations are Director of Bands John C. Carmichael, Drum Line Director Kevin von Kampen, Color Guard Director Jamie Dyer, Color Guard Technician Elizabeth Bannon, Drill Designer Stephen Alia, and The Voice of the Herd of Thunder, Beau Edwardson.

McCutchen gives special thanks to USF Athletics for their unrelenting support.

"Our Athletics administration has made it very clear that they value us and that they want us at the games," said McCutchen. "That is not always the case, but that is the case here."

Faculty and staff are not the only ones who keep the band going. Students, Graduate Assistants, and the National Honorary Band Fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi are central to the Band's operations. They help by setting up rehearsals, managing sheet music, taking photos, recruiting new members, and more.

"There are lots who pitch in and make this work," said McCutchen. "It's a huge effort."

And this huge effort pays off. The hard work of the Band has an impressive impact on the spirit of the University. The Herd of Thunder inspires Bull Pride during performances at USF home football games and all bowl games. Additionally, the Herd of Thunder has recently begun expanding their involvement with USF students by playing outside the Fresh Food Company dining hall on select Friday nights.

The Band also represents the university through performances at other highly visible public events. The scaled-down show band, "Horns Up," performed at the 2012 Republican National Convention and on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The Herd of Thunder made its international debut in 2012 by representing USF and the United States as the honor band for the New Year's Day Parade in London, England.

The Herd of Thunder is expanding its international presence with the acceptance of an invitation to perform in the 2017 New Year's Day parade in Rome, Italy. Apart from parading through the heart of Rome, the Herd of Thunder will also perform in St. Peter's Square, a Roman cathedral, and the town of Frascati. To learn more about the Herd of Thunder's upcoming trip to Rome, see the Band's story on University Beat.

While the contributions of Marching Band members as entertainers and ambassadors of the University are apparent, the positive impact of the marching band on its student members should not go unnoticed. The friendships made alongside music are a key reason why students are drawn to the Herd of Thunder. For first-year Music Education major Mitchell Lattimer, the Band is already a significant part of his USF experience.

"I really don't know what I would be doing right now if I wasn't in HOT Band," said Lattimer. "..It just makes it that much easier to talk to people, to just get around when you have your own groups of friends before the first day even starts. It really makes everything easier."

With each game day, the members of the Herd of Thunder Marching Band hit the field with brand new material and an unparalleled sense of power. Fans, athletes, and players alike enjoy the energy of the music and feel a profound sense of pride in their school. The Herd of Thunder Marching Band is truly the heart and soul of University spirit.

"This is about us," said McCutchen. "... It's about being a part of something bigger than yourself. I think that is a pretty unique thing to do."

USF HOT Band

USF HOT Band


Herd of Thunder Marching Band members show their Bull pride as the USF Bulls play the East Carolina Pirates at Raymond James Stadium on October 8, 2016. Photo by Bryce Womeldurf.