Take a look at how loud life is for a University of Michigan marching band member

Lucas JacksonPhillips outside of Michigan’s stadium.
  • Meet Elliot Phillips, a freshman from Anderson, South Carolina, who travelled nearly 700 miles from his hometown to play the saxophone as part of the University of Michigan’s marching band.
  • The University of Michigan has one of the biggest college football scenes in the country with over 100,000 people showing up for games.
  • Michigan’s marching band is considered by some to be one of the best in the world.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Do you have what it takes to spend hours a day practicing – sweating it out on the gridiron, sometimes before dawn? No, we’re not talking about football – we’re talking about marching bands. The marching band at the University of Michigan College has more than 400 across 12 different sections. It is a big band – there are nearly 40 twirlers (as in batons) – alone. Most members spent years playing in their high school bands before trying out for Michigan

Elliot Phillips is one of those band members. A freshman from Anderson, South Carolina, Phillips picked up his bags and travelled 700 miles west after high school to play alto saxophone for the Michigan marching band. He and his bandmates spend around 20 days a month either practicing or appearing at games. Imagine having practice four days a week and also managing your coursework. It’s a lot.

Continue scrolling below to get a glimpse of how he manages it all.


Elliot Phillips is a freshman from Anderson, South Carolina, who plays alto saxophone for the University of Michigan’s marching band.

The University of MichiganPhillips performing during practice.

When Phillips leaves his dorm he lives a double life, splitting his time between classes and performing. The freshman says he likes to start most of his days out studying in Michigan’s Angell Hall Courtyard. Most students, Phillips says, simply refer to this as “The Fishbowl.”

Lucas JacksonPhillips studying in ‘The Fishbowl.’

Then Phillips, a computer science major, heads over to practice. Once he’s got a grasp over his sheet music, Phillips joins the other alto saxophone players to rehearse.

The University of MichiganAltos marching during rehearsal.

Phillips says he’s formed a tight bond with his fellow bandmates that extends beyond the rehearsal room.


The band practices eight hours a week, and an additional five hours on game days. Here, Phillips and his friends practice entries, a fast-paced high-step manoeuvre that the team performs when entering the field during pregames.

Elliot PhillipsPhillips practicing high step.

Just because you’re in the marching band doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be performing at every game. Members have to compete — via pre-game challenges — to see who’ll actually get on the field. The rest of the band? They’re benched.

Elliot Phillips.Band members performing challenges during practice.

On the morning before their game with Iowa University, Phillips joins the rest of the team for an early morning rehearsal before the sun rises.

The University of MichiganThe band rehearses on Ebdel field the morning before a game.

The band then moves inside to Revelli Hall. This deafeningly loud practice is conducted by the band’s director John Pasquale.

The University of MichiganThe marching band rehearses in Revelli Hall.

Then it’s time for the game. Phillips joins his friends and sits in Michigan’s stadium, which U of M students aptly refer to as, “The Big House.”

University of MichiganPhillips sitting with the band in, ‘The Big House.’

At halftime, the band performs one of their most iconic moves, “the Block M.”

The University of MichiganPhillips performing ‘The Block M’ at halftime.

Joined by his girlfriend Mya, Phillips shows off his spiffy marching band uniform.

Elliot PhillipsPhillips poses with his girlfriend in his marching band uniform.

Phillips and his friends remain at the stadium long after the fourth quarter ends to pose for a group photo and then head out to get some homework done.Because after all the practices and performances, there are still classes to pass.

The University of MichiganPhillips and his fellow band mates pose on the field once the crowd has filled out.

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