Marching Jayhawks and Kansas football gamedays

There are only a few traditions that are more indispensable to campus sporting events than the Marching Jayhawks and the Pep Bands that bring music, color and entertainment to Kansas Jayhawks home events.

And because of that lineage, there are few areas of the gameday experience in football or basketball that garner more praise and, at times, feedback from loyal KU fans and supporters.

We decided to ask Matthew O. Smith, the Director of the Marching Jayhawks for his perspective on football gamedays, their role in the entertaining the fans and students and some of the challenges they face. Smith has been on faculty within the School of Music for nine years and is in frequent demand as a guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator, and has presented clinics and research in the United States and Germany.

We asked Smith for his perspective on the most frequently asked questions from fans. The questions and his answers are below.

Q: Why is the band position on the visiting side within Booth Memorial Stadium?
Smith: The band is currently seated in the northeast section of the stadium, where it sat for many years in the early 2000s. The placement of the band allows for the sound to travel toward the west stands (the press box side) and the home sideline. Our seating also enables us to interact with the student section of the stadium. We continually strive to improve and develop positive interaction between the band, students, and spirit squad to enhance with the overriding goal of positively enhancing the atmosphere on game day.

Q: Does that location provide challenges for sound distribution or is there a better location?
Smith: The architecture of our stadium is such that sound is easily -displaced, so it is difficult to hear the
band in various seating areas, particularly along the east stands.

Q: You mention fans on the east side of the stadium having a difficult time hearing the band, what does the band and athletics do to get them the more audio?
Smith: We amplify the band through additional speakers in the stadium that are directed towards the east side. These are positioned to better control any delays between the band sound and the speakers but is always a tricky balance, so there is not an echo in the stadium created between the live band audio the slightly delayed audio from the speakers.

Q: A really common question is, why isn’t the band amplified through the main stadium speakers near the video board?
Smith: Using the main stadium speakers would not be effective due to the significant delay between the band¹s live sound versus the amplification from the scoreboard speakers. We often converse with the sound operators to make adjustments based on our observations and feedback that we receive
during the game.

Q: Who makes the decisions on what you play and when you play? The band or athletics?
Smith: Both. The band enjoys a tremendous relationship with Kansas Athletics and Rock Chalk Video. We are involved in regular meetings throughout football and basketball seasons with the goal of providing the best game day experience for all involved.

Q: How do you define the balance between band and canned music?
Smith: We work with the team at Rock Chalk Video and Marketing to provide a balance between pre-recorded music and the band, striving to provide the best environment and motivation for various game situations.

Q: Does your playlist grow as the season goes along?
Smith: While the band has a large amount of traditional repertoire – fight songs, cheers, and stand tunes – we add to our list every year. Sometimes selections that work well on the field are used later in the stands and for our pep bands. With 4-6 different halftime shows each year, we hope that there is something for everybody’s taste.