Helping to lead the band
Fans of the Marching Owl Band, aka the MOB, might think the ensemble’s clever halftime routines just happen. Sophomore chemical engineering major Bailey Covell knows that’s not true. That’s because she is the MOB’s executive producer.
“My main job is show writing,” she explained. “About two weeks out, a group of us Mobsters get together and brainstorms ideas. I write up the script and we finalize it as we get closer to the game and the halftime show.”
The MOB plays at all Rice home football games and the annual contest against the University of Houston, and also commits to one road game each year. This year, the band travels to San Antonio to cheer on the team against the University of Texas at San Antonio Road Runners on October 21. The band also plays at basketball games and other Rice functions throughout the year. Unlike many college band halftime shows, where routines are often the same, the MOB changes its routine for each game, often incorporating something unique to the opponent school or a particular Rice tradition.
“We recently did a show that was about the changes the athletic department had made to the logos and getting a new Sammy,” she said. “So, we did this show about the old Sammy retiring to Florida — and we were playing Florida International University. It was fun.”
Covell has played in bands for the past nine years. In middle school and high school, she was a percussionist. She still plays percussion for the MOB, usually snare or bass drums, in addition to the leadership role, which she just took on this year. She had to interview for the executive producer position and she was excited when she got it. She’s learned, however, in a very short time, that leadership has its challenges.
“Our University of Houston game was complicated, because things kept changing,” she explained. “There were a lot of logistics involved and the school leadership would make a decision and then switch it up. We went from doing a show of our own at the game to playing ‘Amazing Grace’ with the University of Houston band as a tribute to Hurricane Harvey survivors and first responders. But it fell to me to communicate those decisions to the rest of the band.”
Covell said that she sees her behind-the-scenes role as being a face and a contact for band members, someone they can come to with questions or concerns. The MOB has three rehearsals each week, including section rehearsals and the Thursday formation rehearsal, where the entire band goes over the upcoming routine. Being executive producer has taught Covell a lot about how to manage her time, between working with the MOB, her engineering studies and her research in the lab of Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology Daniel Wagner, where she is studying zebra fish; she hopes one day to work in tissue engineering.
“This has forced me to really focus on what needs to get done and when,” she said. “I’ve learned to schedule time to write the scripts. It might seem counterintuitive to schedule something creative like that, but I find when I block off time in the day to do the writing, the creativity follows.”