State marches on Washington

Photo courtesy of Meg Buscema

Georgia State’s marching band’s reaction to the news courtesy of Steven Swigart.



The Georgia State marching band is undoubtedly still in its infancy. Yet, at three years old, they have already garnered much attention and recognition.

“In our brief history, we’ve had some exciting things happen,” said Dr. Chester Phillips, assistant professor of music and director of athletic bands at Georgia State.

The Southern Division of College Band Directors National Association chose them as one of the top five bands of the South in 2012. They have led the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in the Christmas Parade for three years.

They also made an appearance in a scene of 2012’s “The Watch” starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. Of course, these are just a few of many accomplishments.

Dr. Phillips and the marching band are preparing for their performance in the Presidential Inaugural Parade on the 21st of this month, sometimes rehearsing up to three hours a day.

“We’ll do one rehearsal Tuesday night and then we leave Friday morning to go to D.C.,” he explained.

Although anxiety is expected, some members of the marching band are more excited than anything, including Kelsey Owen, senior and one of the Drum Majors.

“Not everyone gets a chance to witness a Presidential Inauguration in their lifetime,” the psychology major said. “The fact that I get to experience that with some of my closest friends and fellow band members while representing Georgia State is extremely exciting.”

Fellow band member Siddharth Kelavkar, who the band calls “Sid,” echoes Owen’s enthusiasm.

“I have always had so many amazing opportunities because of marching band,” trombone player Kelavkar said. “This was just the cherry on the cake.”

As for their song of choice, the marching band collectively decided on “Living in America,” by Georgia-native and ‘Godfather-of-Soul’ James Brown.

“We thought it had somewhat of a patriotic feel to it while still being hip and modern,” Phillips said. “I mean he’s not completely modern, but still in the pop and kind of R&B/Hip-Hop genre.”

Although the band celebrates its first major feat of the New Year, some of them still recall their anticipation as they anxiously awaited word on being accepted or declined.

“Well, as confident as we are in the band, and the success that the students have had, our nerves were a little on edge,” Phillips said. He said the band was told announcements would be made either at the end of November or the beginning of December.

“And then the next week of December passed and we hadn’t heard anything [and] we were getting antsy, I’d say. Maybe not nervous; we were just getting antsy,” he said.

Owen recalls similar feelings of the waiting process.

“Honestly, because it took so long to receive word on whether or not we were accepted, we all thought the bid went to another Georgia group.” Still, Owen said she remained confident in the band despite the waiting period.

Kelevkar said he didn’t really mind the extended waiting period. “The waiting process wasn’t too nerve-racking, but it was nice to be chosen.”

As for what’s next on their plate of success, Phillips said they are already beginning to plan next fall’s lineup of music. He, along with the marching band, are focusing on the excitement of the upcoming Presidential Inauguration.

“We’re going to enjoy this moment while we can,” Phillips said.

Members of the marching band for their third year, like Kelevkar and Owen, wear their pride for Georgia State as well as its marching band proudly on their sleeves.

“This band is going to become an integral part of the image of the university over the coming years,” Owen said. “I can’t wait to see where the talent of my fellow band members and the size of the band will take us in the future.”

Kelevkar agreed by saying “Dr. Phillips has instilled that [pride] in all of [us]…and this only shows that he is doing a fantastic job.”

Phillips said the very first thing he will say during rehearsals is how proud he is of all the band members. “Our commitment to our motto is what’s gotten us to this honor [of participating in the Presidential Inauguration],” Phillips said. “And that’s what’s going to be what gets us through it successfully.”