University of Wisconsin–Madison
The UW-Madison Marching Band performs during the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA, on Jan. 2, 2012.

Badger Band marching to the Rose Bowl

The day after the Badgers found out they’d be going to the Rose Bowl, Corey Pompey packed his bags and headed for Pasadena. He had work to do.

“It is such a big event with many moving parts,” Pompey says. “Planning starts immediately.”

The Rose Bowl isn’t a bad way to end his first football season as director of athletic bands and associate director of bands. Previously, he served as the director of athletic bands and associate director of bands for the University of Nevada, Reno., and as assistant director of bands at Penn State University.

Fittingly, he got the Rose Bowl news while attending a concert at the new Hamel Music Center. While preparations continue, Pompey took a few moments to look back at his first football season and look ahead to sunny California.

When you accepted the position of band director, had you thought about the possibility of the Rose Bowl so soon?

I knew about the incredibly successful football program, so I expected post-season travel. Of course, I always hope to win every game eventually leading to a national championship. Beyond that, I did not give much thought to going to the Rose Bowl. I did not think much about it in the beginning because I was concerned about the day-to-day operations of this band program.

What was the first game at Camp Randall like? Did it live up to the hype? (And did you “Jump Around?”)

I shall never forget the feeling from that first game in Camp Randall. Everyone was so welcoming and the band performed lights out. I took two or three hops or so, but it would be an exaggeration to say that I jumped around.

How does that first home game compare to the last home game? Are you feeling more like it’s home? (And have you gotten better at “Jump(ing) Around?”)

I’m not sure that I can adequately articulate the feelings from those two games. Perhaps, I felt a little unsettled during the first game wondering what to expect. The last game was more of a sense of relief that we had completed the regular season in Camp Randall. I spend more time observing everyone jumping around than I do participating myself. I find great joy in watching everyone else have a great time.

Director Corey Pompey conducts as the UW Marching Band performs their halftime show at Camp Randall Stadium.
Preferring not to use a baton, new director Corey Pompey conducts with his own brand of intensity as the UW Marching Band performs their halftime show at Camp Randall Stadium.

What have been some of the highlights for you?

The highlight is the students themselves. I really enjoy working with them. They are a wonderful group of people. The B1G Championship Game was a big moment for us. Badger Bash and games in Camp Randall are always a highlight. There are too many to name.

No pressure, but nearly 18 million people watched the Rose Bowl last year. How do you prepare knowing so many people are watching? What do you tell the students to balance out the butterflies?

We prepare just like we would for anything else. Even though this is a high-profile event, excellence is always our goal regardless of the viewership. If students have butterflies, I ask them to rely on their training. Preparation usually helps. There is no magic formula for getting over nervousness. One has to acknowledge the butterflies and work through them.

How does the preparation for a halftime show differ from preparation for a parade?

Parades require a greater amount of endurance and conditioning than the typical halftime show, so we try to approximate parade conditions as best we can. It’s nearly impossible to do because the parade is so long. We encourage band members to exercise outside of rehearsal. Halftime shows and parades require different maneuvers, so those must be rehearsed.

UW Marching Band trombone players
Trombone players perform during the 5th quarter at Camp Randall Stadium.
UW Marching Band performs during the Badger Bash celebration
UW Marching Band performs during the Badger Bash celebration.

There’s a 40-degree difference in the temperature forecast for game day, with a high of 28 in Madison and a high of 68 in Pasadena. What’s the perfect temperature to perform? What are the challenges of cold vs. heat?

Room temperature is ideal for performing. The instruments are designed for optimal performance under these conditions. Extreme temperatures in either direction pose considerable challenges. The instruments respond differently in cold and hot weather. Intonation is adversely impacted by wide variations in the weather. We are always concerned about the instruments freezing in the extreme cold. Hydration is always important, but it is critical in extreme heat. During the extreme cold, layers are important. We are constantly making adjustments to make the best out of whatever weather comes our way.

I’m sure you don’t want to reveal too much but do you have anything special in mind? Tell us everything — or at least as much as you can share.

We hope to bring back one of our most popular shows from this past season!