One festively noisy addition to The Rivalry, the Marching 97, ensures the stands are cheering on Lehigh’s football team during the Lehigh-Lafayette football game with the sounds of trumpets, drums, piccolos and more.
The band also performs its preshow and halftime shows, which involve weeks of coordination from the two students selected to plan it. This year, Sasha Rabeno, ‘24, and Marco Clark, ‘25, will lead the group.
“The Rivalry is very important to the Marching 97. We love it,” Clark said, who is the staff assistant for the band. “We bring a lot of spirit, or as the band calls it ‘psyche,’ especially to Rivalry Week.”
Many of the Marching 97 alumni return to march in the show, which drum major Jeremy Raecke, ‘24, said makes this field show extra special for the band members.
“We try to have 97 people in the performance. Right now we’ve got around 89 or 90, so we fill them with alumni,” Raecke said. “So that’s always really fun to get alumni to come back and march a whole show in uniform. We get them to come to the rehearsals, so those are the most exciting rehearsals for the lot.”
Clark said the halftime show will last around 11 minutes. The band will play for six minutes, which will be followed by “Marching Lehigh,” where the band marches to spell Lehigh in their formation.
He said halftime show takes careful planning, an example being that the music for the show was chosen last semester in April.
“Once we figured out the music, the next part is writing the drill, or the moves and the shapes that we make on the field,” Clark said. “We have to write that so it lines up with music and so we spell out certain things.”
He said the show planners map out the field on a big wooden board and use a wooden piece to mark each rank, which is eight people playing the same instrument.
Clark said, unlike most marching bands, the Marching 97 members move with their rank, so “everybody does the same move at the same time.”
The showwriters then use the wooden pieces to choreograph the set, creating different shapes on the field. Then, they figure out how many steps each move will take and time it out to make the movements look cohesive.
Once the choreography is complete, the writers create a slide show and present it to each rank leader. Clark said they then write out their moves and check for collisions.
Rabeno is the manager of the Marching 97. She said this year’s field plans will incorporate some fun imagery and elements.
“We’re doing a Beach Boys song,” Rabeno said. “We have a little guy who’s surfing on a surfboard. We try to have it be like an upbeat, peppy show.”
In addition to “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys, the band is also performing “Spain” by Chick Corea.
Raecke said “Spain” is a jazz fusion song, which allows the band to “up the ante” with that style of music.
This field show is also a chance for the marching band to try out more moves they don’t always use in their other shows.
“We have a lot of funky drill moves — more so because we enjoy doing fun stuff on the field — and moves that we don’t always get to do,” Clark said. “But not many people in the audience would really notice or expect those moves, so that’s more for us.”
He said while the choreography of the show changes every year, they have some traditions they always incorporate, like spelling out “Le-Laf” with the ranks or finding a way to “destroy” Lafayette College.
“This year we’re making a sword and the sword cuts through ‘Laf,’” Rabeno said.
Besides the field performance, Raecke said the Marching 97 also hosts “EcoFlame,” where the band parades around the Asa Packer campus and plays the Lehigh fight songs in and outside of classrooms, now the Thursday before every Rivalry game.
Practices, which run from 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the Goodman parking lot, began last week for the Le-Laf show.
“This is our big event,” Rabeno said. “We have a show for every game, but this is the most popular one. This is where we will have the biggest audience. It’s kind of at the culmination of the season, so usually LeLaf is where we try to do our best and put our best foot forward.”