Will the Golden Band from Tigerland blast the pregame show as usual at LSU's first home game Saturday? Are the band's numbers down following the controversy that rocked the unit earlier this year with the firing of band director Roy King?
Rest easy, Tiger fans. Despite speculation to the contrary on social media, the band will pump up the crowd with the usual pregame show before the Tigers battle Jacksonville State.
But the sound may not fill Death Valley quite as much as band numbers are down.
The band is limited to 325 members, with 50 of those slots allocated for 18 Golden Girls and 32 Colorguard members. This season, there are 305 members, says interim band director Denis Llinas.
Llinas, associate director of bands, was named to the interim job in April after LSU fired King, a graduate of LSU, a Tiger Band alumni and an 18-year veteran in the band's administration. King has filed a lawsuit against the university, and the suit is still pending in court.
Llinas had been assisting King with the band since 2012 and was in charge of the Bengal Brass pep band, which performs at men's and women's basketball games, volleyball games and gymnastic meets.
"We had some obstacles with the flooding and with some of the grade-point averages," Llinas says by way of explaining the lower number in the unit. "Tiger Band members are required to have at least a 2.0 grade-point average, and we had to eliminate those who didn't."
The recent flooding in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas presented its own set of problems.
"We told them to take care of their families first," Llinas says of having to postpone the first preseason practice that had been set for Aug. 14. "
Steve Koivisto, the band's instrument technician, lost everything in the flood, and Assistant Band Director Kelvin Jones had to help out family members who flooded.
"The flood definitely affected the band," Llinas says.
So what about the music?
Will the band play "Talkin' Out the Side of Your Neck," known simply as "Neck"? The song is popular, but is usually short-lived during the season because of the student section's profanity-laced chant that accompanies it.
"We'll wait and see," Llinas says. "That's always a question, but we want to create a positive atmosphere in Tiger Stadium and stay away from anything that would give it a negative image."
The full band will not be traveling to any away games during the regular season — they could go to post-season games — but the pep band helped the Tigers open their season against the University of Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay last weekend.Daniel Wendt, returning for his second year as drum major, is responsible for one big change in the band.
The 22-year-old graduate student in finance, who is from Denham Springs, and former Tiger Band member Garrett Kessling are founders of Tonal Innovation, which produces a music lyre called the eFlip. So instead of flipping small pages of music, band members will read from sheet music downloaded on to an iPhone or Smartphone.
"We're able to email the marching charts and music to an app on our drive, and the band can pick it up on the apps on their devices," says Jones. "And by doing this, we're saving thousands by not having to copy everything on paper. It's been one of our biggest time savers."
Tiger Band members are looking forward to different things in the new season. For Wendt, it's not only that the band is using his eFlip, but also that he completes the season without dropping the baton.
The drum major traditionally flips his long baton in the air during pregame, catching it right before the percussion section starts its fanfare.
"I dropped it once last year," Wendt says. "There's always this audible gasp in the crowd when I throw it, and when I missed it, there was this collective, 'Aw.'"
For trumpeter Cullen Sadler, the season brings thoughts of Alabama. Sadler, 23, is a fifth-year senior from Austin, Texas, majoring in mass communications.
"I'd like to think that this is the year that the Tigers will finally beat Alabama," he says. "I'd like it to happen before I leave."
And Robert Tobias, a 21-year-old music education senior from Troy, New York, can't wait for that first note in pregame. He plays cymbals, and the crash is the first sound the crowd hears in the fanfare.
"I had a relative living in Baton Rouge, so I decided to come to LSU," he says. "I'd never seen the pregame show before I performed in it. They told me how loud it would be, but you never know how really loud it is until you're in it.
"There's nothing like it, and I can't wait."