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The University of Southern California Trojan Band 'The Spirit of Troy': College Football Dawgs' Marching Band Deep Dive




Spirit of Troy Baseline Notes

  • Founded: 1912

  • Size: ~300 but size varies greatly between seasons

  • Director: Jacob Vogal

  • Marching style: High Step 

  • Fight Song: “Fight On”


Band Background

The USC marching band, also known as “The Spirit of Troy” is a very well-versed band that has had a large amount of accolades, including a Grammy in 1966, 2 Platinum Records, and countless ties to entertainment including being a part of Forrest Gump, The Tonight Show, America’s Got Talent, and so on. It is no lie that on paper the Spirit of Troy is one of the most well-renowned bands in the nation, but does that correlate to on the field or is it just that Hollywood magic helping them look better than they are?





Scale

The Bandalyst scale is composed of 4 portions: Pregame, Halftime, Stand Tunes and Biggest Traditions. Each portion will be broken down and scored on a scale from 0 to 25, giving a final combined score of at most 100.



Pregame

The Spirit of Troy begins their pregame performance a bit unorthodoxly as instead of beginning at one end zone and making a company block like now fellow Big 10 member Bands such as the University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band, or Michigan State Spartan Marching Band, they begin at the home sideline and slowly make their way up the field, covering it fully with bandsmen while playing the Trojan Fanfare. While in theory, this sounds like it might be quicker than the traditional tunnel entrance out of the likes of Ohio State’s Marching Band, it actually takes longer to get all 300+ members onto the field and ends up feeling like it drags on. I will say however that they do make up for it by bringing the fan engagement of instantly starting with the music right as the Drum Major stabs the field. The main formations that the band makes during pregame is the USC spell out along with the Trojan spell out which, like the pregame entrance, feel like they drag on with how slow the tempo is along with the drill feeling a lot more convoluted than it has to be. Overall, while I do like the amount of fan engagement that they have, it feels like the rest of their pregame as a whole is lacking.


Pregame Score: 15/25





Halftime

Halftime, compared to Pregame, for the Spirit of Troy is like night and day. There have been multiple amazing halftimes that show how the director, Dr. Vogal, knows his audience and brings them something they enjoy. Multiple recent halftimes include Video Games, Taylor Swift, Disney, Star Wars, and so on. The band combines fun drills along with fun arrangements of popular songs to get the crowd engaged which feels like the opposite of their Pregame.


Halftime Score: 22/25





Stand Tunes

Oh boy stand tunes, or should I just say, stand TUNE. The Spirit of Troy while in the stands, may play a couple of tunes outside of it, but 99% of the time when they go to play something, it is going to be their fight song, Fight On. It’s gotten to the point where other university bands such as the Washington Husky Band, the Cal Band, and UCLA Bruin Marching Band, have started bringing big whiteboards to tally how many times the Spirit of Troy plays Fight On, the record from this previous season being during the Washington game, when the Husky Band recorded a staggering 49 times! I get that it is the fight song, but please, have more variety. Other bands have multiple specific songs for defense, offense, and even special teams, which compared to playing the same song after every play, makes the Spirit of Troy feel very boring while in the stands.


Stand Tune Score: 13/25


Biggest Tradition

For their traditions I really found two large ones, those being the Stabbing of the Field, and their rendition of the playing of Fleetwood Mac’s hit song “Tusk”. Their possibly largest, stabbing the field, happens right before each pregame when the drum major marches onto the field straight to the center logo, commands the band with their sword, and then plants the sword onto the turf signaling for the band to begin marching. I do feel that this tradition, while similar to ones like Auburn or Florida State’s drum majors stabbing the field with their batons, has its own Trojan spin and also showcases the personality of the band, especially during an away game. The band has long been known as being full of arrogance, being shown as they wear sunglasses no matter what the time is, along with them showing their band's perceived dominance right at the beginning as their drum major goes to the opposing team's center logo, and stabs it. The personality of the band is also shown with their other large tradition of “Tusk” where the band adds the chant of “U-C-L-A Sucks!” during the main melody breakdown, taking a shot to their hometown rival of UCLA and in turn showing off their arrogance which while many may dislike, gives the band as a whole a signature personality which few others can emulate which I can’t say I dislike.


Biggest Tradition Score: 20/25





Conclusion and Final Score

There are many things I do like about the University of Southern California’s Spirit of Troy, but there are also just multiple parts that I feel hold it back from the greatness that it perceives upon itself. I feel that a few small changes of an updated pregame, and more stand tunes would greatly improve the band I feel. I do feel that USC does have a good band, don't get me wrong, it has its own personality and style which I do love, just some small things that can be improved upon.


Final Score: 70/100


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