Building pride with every step

While rehearsing the pregame drill, the Youngstown State University Marching Pride forms a “Y” on the Stambaugh Stadium field.

Students check their drill sheets and music as their muscle memory takes over, and they glide across the field while playing the YSU fight song.

The season’s preparation began with recruiting during spring semester, followed by choosing music, writing drills and, finally, band camp. Camp began a week before classes, starting as early as 9 a.m. and going until dusk.

Band camp is where the Marching Pride learns how to play as one band and one sound.

“The Marching Pride is like a battle cry,” said Bryan Darko, YSU senior.

“When I’m here, I’m representing not only myself, but the university as a whole.”

This is Darko’s sixth year as a member of the YSU Marching Pride, and third year as a member of the Pride’s leadership team in the saxophone section.

Exactly 130 students are participating this year. Brandt Payne, director of the Marching Pride, said all members are dedicated to the band. He said most of the students work full time on top of a full class schedule. Payne said most college marching bands have a financial incentive, but students at YSU return each year in devotion to the Marching Pride.

“A lot of it comes from love of the activity. They really love what they do,” he said. “The students that you see out here really make a big sacrifice.”

During the band’s regular rehearsal, Payne said he strives to bring out the best in his students. He knows their potential and won’t settle for average.

As head of the pack, Payne must take the good with the bad, as well as the hard work with the fun. He said it’s been worth it so far.

“When I drive home at night, I still can’t believe I get to do what I do,” Payne said.

He said he enjoys working with students and watching them grow into tomorrow’s leaders.

Sara Loney, a junior majoring in music education, stepped up this year as a drum major.

The drum majors assist Payne by helping students learn the music.

They lead drills and conduct during performances.

Loney said the position is nerve-racking because all eyes are on her. “If I make a mistake and the entire band is following me, which I hope they are, the whole thing just falls apart,” Loney said.

She said the nerves are worth the feeling of conducting the YSU fight song and having the entire band performing in front of her.

“It’s the fight song. It’s fun, and we sing it sometimes, so I’m up there conducting while thinking of the words,” Loney said. “I love YSU. I’m from this area, and it’s enjoyable to conduct it and promote YSU in that type of way.”

Loney said she has a general love of music that drives her to lead the band, but she marches because she loves YSU.

“This is not just a music major thing; this is a YSU thing,” Darko said.