‘Brand new season, brand new groove:’ Shocker Sound Machine enters second year


Eduardo Castillo

Sean Matson (left) and Katelyn Koch try on Shocker Sound Machine uniforms. Though she’s not a music major, Koch says it’s nice to continue playing her instrument after high school.

It’s been almost a year since the Shocker Sound Machine’s first public performance, and the marching band is looking to improve and expand in its second year.

The Sound Machine played four basketball games in its debut season, along with several pep rallies and special events. This year Lucas Hulett, assistant director of bands, said they hope to keep up that pace.

“My hope is to do two separate shows this year, or two completely different shows,” Hulett said.

He said Shocker Sound Machine tries to maintain a public face on campus, filling university requests to play pep rallies and special events.

“I think one thing that put us in good light last year was being able to fill pep rallies,” Hulett said.

But Hulett said he doesn’t want to limit Shocker Sound Machine to performing only on campus.

“We are looking to expand into the high school competition space as an exhibition unit — using it as a recruitment tool,” Hulett said. “We’re open to all performance opportunities. If we can work it in there, and it works in our style, I’m looking to fill as many of those as possible.”

Timothy Shade, director of bands, said the School of Music was losing students before introducing Shocker Sound Machine. There’s been growth recently, Shade said, but he doesn’t believe it’s directly tied to the addition of the marching band.

Eduardo Castillo
Timothy Shades, Director of bands at WSU speaks about the progress of the Shocker Sound Machine during an interview. This is the band’s second year on campus.

Before Shocker Sound Machine, the only athletics band was Shocker Sound, which plays at all home basketball games. Shocker Sound was primarily run by graduate students, but Hulett now oversees both bands.

Another change that came with the marching band was the addition of a mandatory one-credit hour course, which was implemented this fall.

“In the past, they just sort of participated — it was extracurricular,” Shade said. “Now we’re making it cocurricular, so that’s sort of been part of one of the hurdles.”

The class was one of several ideas aimed at increasing band enrollment.

“At first, we wanted enrollment to grow,” Shade said. “The way to do that was to incentivize it financially, but when we didn’t get any more money, we couldn’t incentivize it financially.”

He said adding the class means members of Shocker Sound Machine can now receive compensation for their time — even if they’re not a part of Shocker Sound.

“The students now have that class to enroll in, and if they are good enough, we are going to use them in the basketball band, plus they get that stipend,” Shade said.

The make-up of the Machine

Also coming with the new semester is a shift in the type of students that make up Shocker Sound Machine.

Hulett said the rate of non-music majors in the band is between 65 and 70%, which he said is much higher than last year.

Increasing non-major involvement was one goal the School of Music set for Shocker Sound Machine.

“I’m a huge proponent for non-majors, just because there is a lot of passion involved in wanting to continue their instrument,” Hulett said.

Katelyn Koch, a sophomore theater major, is a great example.

“I was a four-year letterman in my band,” Koch said. “I did color guard, but I’ve always played an instrument. Really, I just wanted to keep playing.”

As Shocker Sound Machine continues to grow and mature, Shade said he expects to see more and more from the group each year.

“We had our testing phase last year, and things kind of got off the ground,” he said. “We got all of our new equipment and sort of tested out how our relationship with athletics was going to go.”

Shade and Hulett agreed that athletics has been supportive and happy with Shocker Sound Machine’s work so far.

“I think it sets a lot of the administration at ease to have a recurring face as a part of this program,” Hulett said. “Moving this entire thing from a primarily grad student-run organization to having faculty oversight makes athletics very comfortable.”

Koch said she also expects great things this year.

“Come out and support us,” Koch said. “Definitely last year, we know we had some growing pains, but it’s a brand-new season — brand-new groove. We hope to really show our stuff this year.