Engineering Students Have Rhythm

The Kansas State University Marching Band, knownBen Murdock, drum major and engineering student as the Pride of Wildcat Land, has always seen its fair share of students from the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering among its ranks. This year, a pair of engineering seniors are helping lead the band.

Gillian Falcon, drum major and senior in chemical engineering and biological systems engineering, and Ben Murdock, senior in mechanical engineering and assistant drum major, strive to balance a heavy academic schedule with the time commitment required for their band leadership positions. We asked them a variety of questions about life as a student leader in the K-State marching band. Below are their answers in their own words.

What are some of the biggest challenges taking on a leadership role within the marching band?

“Some of the biggest challenges of being head drum major are associated with giving proper time to both the band and my coursework. I have to be prepared to conduct the shows, be
ready for performances, and often set aside classwork stresses to give my full attention to the band. Senior year in engineering also has its struggles as the assignments get longer and more
challenging. But watching the band from the podium make improvements or hit a set that has been challenging is one of the greatest rewards I have ever gotten to experience.” - Falcon

“One of the biggest challenges I am working on is making a personal connection with each member of the band. With more than 400 members, this is a very daunting task to undertake, but something I value. With members of all ages, building trust and personal accountability with
everybody is challenging, but necessary.” - Murdock

What are some of the perks of taking on a leadership role within the marching band?

“One of the greatest perks of being the head drum major is getting to lead such an amazing group of people who are full of energy, excitement and passion for both the band and this university.
I am a better person for getting to know all of these people, and I am honored they look to me for guidance.” - Falcon

“I love giving back to something that means so much to me. The Pride was my first experience as a student, and it holds a very special place in my heart. There are also scholarships for the leadership team, which makes band feasible for many students in their later years at K-State.” - Murdock

What does the weekly time commitment look like for these roles?

“On a typical game week, I spend about 29 hours doing band activities before Saturday. This includes a meeting Sunday afternoon, full two-hour rehearsals Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, sectionals on Wednesday night and the Pub Crawl band Friday night. On game days, we typically spend 12 hours getting ready, rehearsing at The Bill, performing pep bands and then playing at the actual game.” - Murdock

Gillian Falcon, drum major and engineering student

Are you involved in other engineering or K-State clubs or extracurriculars?

“I am involved in the K-State chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE) and serve as the chair of the open house committee. Additionally, I am the treasurer for the band service sorority, Tau Beta Sigma. This role is in charge of all of the merchandise for the marching band, planning a formal luncheon and helping apply for SGA funding for visiting performers.”
- Falcon

How will your experiences in the marching band help you in your career?

“I love my time in the college, but marching band is where I learn to be a better person. I learn how to communicate with people from different backgrounds in high-stress environments, push myself through mental blocks in the heat and cold, and hold myself to be personally accountable.” - Murdock

How do you balance your coursework with the demands of the band and other extracurricular activities?

“Time management is key. I rely heavily on my planner and stick to a strict schedule. Even with all of this time management and sticking to a strict schedule, there are times I have to change my schedule because the band runs long or an assignment takes extra time. This often means losing sleep to finish all of my coursework, but that is a price I’m willing to pay to participate in the activities I love so much.” - Falcon

What is the best part about being a member of the marching band? Best part of helping lead it?

“The best part about being a member of the marching band is being able to go on the field every Saturday and perform for the best fans in the country in an amazing atmosphere. Aside from performances, the friendships that I have made through this program will last for years to come and have made my college experience so much richer.” - Falcon

“I love being the center of the energy in the stadium and hyping up the student section, especially being back in section 26. Running through the tunnel at the beginning of pregame is a memory I
will never forget — there is something special about running into a performance for 50,000 fans. Now that I help lead The Pride, I love watching our shows come together on the field. I have one
of the best seats in the house during halftime! Most importantly, I deeply cherish seeing how I can make a positive impact on each of our member’s experience at K-State.” - Murdock

What are you plans after graduation?

“I would love to work in the environmental sector as a consultant. However, I am still actively searching for positions and considering graduate school.” - Falcon

“Currently I am pursuing graduate school options focused on aerospace with plans to work in the space industry post-graduate school.” - Murdock

Watch Gillian and Ben in Action