Freshman brings energy, enthusiasm to new marching band


Andrew Montaño

Jack Tobias (middle) plays the trombone during rehearsal in Koch Arena for the Wichita State marching band on Sept. 20, 2018.

When Jack Tobias graduated from Wichita East High School this past spring, staying home for college didn’t seem like a viable option. That’s because, since 1986, WSU hasn’t had a marching band.

Tobias planned to march at Kansas State, but those plans abruptly changed when, in late July, WSU announced the revival of a marching band — a “high energy, high-octane” brass, saxophone, and percussion ensemble called the Shocker Sound Machine.

“I figured, why would I pay a ton of money to go to K-State now that we have a marching band here?” Tobias said. “I was super hyped about that.”

The Shocker Sound Machine will play halftime shows at four men’s and four women’s basketball games this season.

A music major studying composition, Tobias is taking just one core class his first semester. The rest is music.

“I’m more centered around music than I’ve ever been,” Tobias said.

The marching band, an extension of the Shocker Sound basketball band, is currently an extracurricular activity. Next year, it will become a one-credit-hour course.

Tobias said being a part of the marching band from its inception is a special opportunity.

“It’s actually kind of unique, because while there’s people older than me that have been in Shocker Sound before . .  . the fact that we’re all new to something makes it different, because Sound Machine is going to be a lot of choreography and not many of us are dancers,” Tobias said.

Assistant Director of Bands Lucas Hulett said that, because of the spatial limitations of Charles Koch Arena, the Sound Machine will focus more on “flash and flare” than regimented marching.

“This is going to be less of a traditional marching band and more of like, an in-your-face show band,” Hulett said.

“We’re going to be very dance-centered this coming year.”

Fortunately for Tobias, he has some experience in that department.

“I did dance for a couple of years when I was eight — between eight and 10 — because my sister did ballet, and my parents were like, ‘Yeah, you’re doing it too,’” Tobias said. “And I disliked it, but it got me better.”

Tobias said he already feels at home in the band and that there is a sense of kinship in his section.

“I like my section a lot,” Tobias said. “Trombones are fun people. It’s us and the baritones and euphoniums.”

Baritone section leader Harrison Koppenhaver is a senior studying music education. He said he’s been thoroughly impressed with Tobias’s enthusiastic approach to music.

“He brings a lot of energy to the ensemble and an enthusiasm that I haven’t seen in this ensemble for a while,” Koppenhaver said.

“It makes it easier for me to go to those late-night rehearsals knowing that there are going to be people like Jack (Tobias) in the section that will bring that energy, regardless of it being, you know, seven o’clock on a Monday night when we’re all tired,” Koppenhaver said.

Tobias said the band nurtures a sense of unity.

“It’s really a positive environment because we’re all one team,” Tobias said.

Hulett said freshman enthusiasm is what will build the program.

“What makes an organization like this grow is those freshman numbers,” Hulett said. “Like, if the young people want it — as much as I love all my veterans — those young guys are what’s going to go beyond.”

Hulett said he sees the Sound Machine as a powerful recruiting tool for the band, which currently has 65-70 members.

“I think, in a year, it’ll be the biggest Shocker Sound has ever been,” Hulett said.

“Next year, we could easily be 100.”

He said the marching band’s first performance will likely be in December.

As an aspiring music educator, Koppenhaver said he hopes to impart young members in his section with a lesson.

“I want to pass on to them to never lose that incentive to have fun,” Koppenhaver said. “Yes, it’s marching band and there are times where we need to be serious because there’s a lot of work to be done . . . but don’t lose what makes this ensemble fun and what makes it special to you.”