Faye Phillips has never played the tuba, trombone or trumpet, and she’s never marched down Victory Hill with instrument in hand. But lack of musical background didn’t stop her from being a part of a book celebrating LSU’s marching band.
“The Golden Band from Tigerland,” written by Phillips and Tom Continé, was published this fall by LSU Press. Continé, an LSU band alumnus and educator, was the primary writer.
Phillips retired as associate dean of libraries for special collections at LSU and former archivist for several institutions. She found many of the older photos that bring the band’s early years to life.
“I’m totally unmusical, and the more that Tom tried to explain to me how band members learned to march, the more confused I became. But he didn’t give up on me,” Phillips said. “No, I’m not musical, but I know tons of things about LSU history, and I’m a researcher and an archivist, so when it comes to fact-checking, I’m as good at that as Tom in at directing the band.”
The book is lavishly illustrated, both with archival photos and more current ones taken by photographer Rachel Saltzberg. Phillips and Continé selected more than 150 images and other illustrations that depict the band, its directors and the Golden Girls, the band’s dancing contingent created in 1959 by band director Thomas N. Tyra. The Golden Girls were originally called the Ballet Corps before getting their lasting name in 1965.
“It’s beautiful,” Phillips said. “The LSU Press took the work that Tom and I did and made it into a work of art. C.C. Lockwood, he’s the best photographer in the world, and when he saw this book the other night, he was bragging on it. To receive a compliment on a book of photographs from C.C. Lockwood, I think, is high praise.”
The book tells the band’s story in chronological fashion, from its organization in 1893, through Gov. Huey Long’s days of hiring and firing directors and marching at the front of the band in parades, to the present day.
For Phillips, work on the book increased the admiration she developed for the band members while she worked in LSU libraries.
“I had no idea how difficult it is to be in the band,” she said. “You’ve got to be an athlete yourself. They come here two weeks before fall semester starts, and you know how hot it is. They’re in band … camp all day long. It’s more like boot camp. They’re out there practicing in the hot sun. I don’t know how they do it.
“It’s like the athletes. They’ve got to understand mathematics. They’ve got to understand music. They’ve got to understand the diagrams and the plays. All of this they have to put together while marching and playing an instrument," Phillips said. "It’s fascinating. Plus, just dedication: That’s the thing I don’t think I fully appreciated about these students.”