Strike Up the Band!

Drum major Maria Philips and drumline section leader Joe Honahue

Click to watch the Marching Owls play KSU's fight song during their first rehearsal KENNESAW,…

Georgia (Aug 18, 2015)

Click to watch the Marching Owls play KSU's fight song during their first rehearsal

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Aug. 19, 2015) — Another measure of Kennesaw State’s successful consolidation with Southern Polytechnic State University can be seen in the faces of the Marching Owls. Engineering students fill nearly a quarter of the 230 slots of the new marching band. The band practiced as a unit for the first time last week in the former BrandsMart building, which is located across from Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

“Thanks to the consolidation with Southern Poly, we were able to pick up more great musicians from our Marietta Campus,” said David Kehler, director of bands and professor of music. “In speaking to many of these students, their participation in the marching band is really helping them feel welcome and helping them become a part of our fabric as we consolidate our two institutions. We are thrilled they are interested in participating with our program this year.”

The ramp-up to assembling a formation of marching musicians flanked by more than three-dozen color guard members was a swift one. Once the football program got the green light from the Board of Regents, the hard work began in earnest.

“By spring, we had already purchased most of the instruments and uniforms, and we had finished hiring all the faculty and staff to support that organization,” said Kehler.

A major milestone occurred in January with the unveiling of the marching band’s new uniforms.

“There is nothing more iconic for a collegiate marching band than the uniform the members wear,” said Debra Traficante, the marching band director who was recruited last year from football and marching band powerhouse, the University of Oklahoma, to pull together a band from scratch.

Working with Fruhauf Uniforms, Inc., a major uniform company for the marching band industry, Traficante helped design the uniform for The Marching Owls.

“We wanted to make sure it met the following criteria: classic, collegiate, traditional and classy,” she said. “The entire process took about seven months to create the final look.”

The marching band logo, designed by Rickabaugh Graphics, features the owl wings of the Kennesaw State Athletics primary mark with the “KS” signature logo and the words “The Marching Owls.”

The band, which will perform several different halftime shows and a pregame show, will mix it up with lots of different “themes” during the season to keep fans entertained, according to Traficante.

“One of the things that makes college football so exciting is watching and hearing the marching band,” said KSU Athletics Director Vaughn Williams. “Football would not be football without them, and in many ways they can help encourage the fans to get behind our young team and rally them on to victory. These new uniforms are the icing on the cake!”

Just as with the football team, there were auditions for spots in the marching band beginning in late winter and spring with more than 500 students showing interest.

“About 90 percent of them are non-music majors,” said Traficante, “which is similar to most university marching bands. We hope to have every major in college represented in our program.”

Drum major Maria Phillips will lead the drumline and the hundreds-strong Marching Owls on the field for the first time this September, providing fans with the ultimate college football Game Day experience.

Most of the marching band’s more expensive instruments, like the 20 sousaphones, 32 trombones and assorted mellophones and baritones will be provided to the musicians.

One of the Marching Owls who has earned one of the 52 trumpet positions in the fall is junior Jessica Terry from Savannah, a former member of the University of Georgia’s Redcoat Marching Band who transferred to KSU last year. The music education major hopes to teach high school band and inspire the members of her own marching band one day.

“I love everything about being in the marching band,” she said. “I’m making friends for life, and I’m having so much fun.”

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive university with more than 32,000 students from 130 countries. In January 2015, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic State University consolidated to create one of the 50 largest public universities in the country. 

— By Robert S. Godlewski

Photo by David Caselli

Video by Jennifer Hafer



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit