For more than two decades, Tony Falcone, associate director of bands, has successfully worked alongside student leaders to ensure that the Cornhusker Marching Band rises to it being the Pride of all Nebraska. In addition to long hours leading the band, Falcone also serves as the conductor of the Symphonic Band, teaches a course in instrumental arranging and is active in the Glenn Korff School of Music’s Percussion Studio.
What originally drew you to this role?
Well in business lingo, my cheese was moved. I was originally hired as assistant director and percussion instructor with the marching band and was promoted to the present position following the departure of my colleague, who had been serving as director for another job.
Can you speak to the work that goes into prepping for a game?
The designers (Doug Bush, visual designer; Samantha Brown, color guard designer; and myself as music arranger) spend many hours designing the shows and writing the music, drill (formations and movement) and choreography. This work starts back in the spring way before the season. The students begin rehearsing 10 days before the first day of class with band camp, then during the semester in our class time, (marching band is a course for credit) 7 to 8:20 a.m. Monday through Friday. This sounds like a lot, but it’s only slightly more than 6.5 hours a week, which is less than many high school bands.
We learn a different halftime show for each home game which in a typical year is seven shows plus our pregame show that remains the same from week to week. So if there are consecutive games (we’ve already had three in a row this season) we only have those 6.5 hours to learn a completely new show with different music, drill and choreography. On top of that the students take great pride in performing everything from memory. You’ll never see any music on the field. I also have to shout out to our student leaders. They’re absolutely outstanding and we couldn’t do this without their leadership and dedication.
Describe what your game day routine looks like.
Westbrook Music Building opens for the students 6.5 hours before kickoff. The full band has a two-hour dress rehearsal in Memorial Stadium 5.5 hours before kickoff. They then have some time to grab a meal and change into their uniforms. Small groups from within the band play for the Unity Walk and tailgate events for the chancellor and. Then, 1.5 hours before kickoff the battery (drumline) has a public warm-up in front of Sheldon Museum of Art and the brass, woodwinds, color guard and twirlers warm-up inside Kimball Recital Hall. An hour before kickoff the band gives a concert of their halftime music in front of Kimball Recital Hall and then march down Stadium Drive to take their places for the pregame show. At the game’s conclusion we play our halftime music one more time from our seats in the stadium as the audience filters out, then march back to the music building, change out of our uniforms, clean-up the building and are dismissed about five hours after the game’s kickoff time. This makes for nearly a 12-hour day.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Watching the students achieve and grow together as a family as they do so. The joy in their faces as they succeed is my favorite thing.
Do you have any pre-game rituals you and the band do?
During our indoor warm-up time in Kimball Recital Hall the sections of the band take turns performing a “skit” for each other. This provides a light moment in a quiet environment for the students before we go out before the huge crowds with all the bright lights and noise.
Do you have any favorite memories from your time in this role or just with the university/Huskers in general?
It’s hard to identify single memories over a quarter century with this band. There have been individual performances that stand out, but I prefer to think of the whole of the experience working with thousands of these wonderful students.
Is there anything about the band or your work with the band that others may find fascinating?
Along with how much work they do and the dedication they show to their school I think many would be surprised at how outstanding they are academically. Many of our students carry multiple majors and minors, are Regents and Chancellors scholars, members of the Honors Program and earn spots on the deans’ lists. Every college is represented and there are typically more than 60 majors represented within the group. We have one student who’s a member of the Innocents Society, our median GPA is over 3.5 and we currently have 25 students carrying a 4.0.