Marching Owls fire up Homecoming 2016

Madesyn Rice, feature twirler
The Marching Owls with feature twirler Madesyn Rice and drum major Maria “Mimi” Phillips.

Feature twirler adds new dimension to half-time shows

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 10, 2016) — When Kennesaw State University’s “Marching Owls” take to the field for Homecoming 2016 this Saturday there also will be a new dimension to the marching formations, with the addition of nationally ranked, feature twirler Madesyn Rice. 

“We’re planning a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show for halftime, where we will pay tribute to recording artists who have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” said Debra Traficante, director of athletic bands and associate director of university bands. “It’s one of six shows we are doing this season.” 

Highlights from the show that Traficante thinks will be sure to please not only alumni but current students will include the Beatles’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ Heart’s ‘Crazy on You’ and Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Welcome to the Jungle.’ 

“We figure for all our alumni coming into town for the big game, they would appreciate it,” she said, “along with our students.” 

This season marks the 230-member band’s second year in existence with Maria “Mimi” Phillips, of St. Marys, a senior music education major, returning as drum major. 

“Our goal is to grow to 300 members ultimately, which includes almost three dozen colorguard members who perform intricate flag routines,” Traficante said, “and that will take five to 10 years.” She explained that the national average is for the band to represent about one percent of the school’s student population. 

“I’m proud to say we have every one of our colleges represented in the band, with only about 15 percent being music majors. So many of them are working on engineering degrees, such as computer engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, mechanical and mechatronic engineering, software, you name it. In all, we have almost 50 students from our Marietta Campus, which is a good increase from last year.” 

And, for the first time, the band has a feature twirler in Rice, who won the NBTA Nationals 2015 Senior Beg. Pageant, as well as the NBTA Nationals 2015 Nov. World Open Two-Baton Champion. Rice, a freshman from Elberton, plans to pursue a degree in psychology at Kennesaw State.

“Madesyn auditioned from among a large group and won the feature twirler position,” said Traficante. “There was a lot of competition because there is a big pool of twirlers in Georgia, in fact in this part of the country.” 

Rice, who does her own choreography, which includes performing with fire batons, is integrated into all the formations on the field. Sometimes she is the central focus, while at other times she helps direct the crowd’s attention to soloists. 

“Most people don’t realize how much time and effort twirling takes and how hard most of the tricks are,” Rice said. “But I have so much fun during practice and at the games, working hard and getting ready to perform. Everyone has been so welcoming, and I’ve already made so many friends in the band along the way.”

During football season, the band rehearses each Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 5 – 7 p.m. at 3305 Busbee Drive, and these rehearsals are open to the public. On Saturdays when the Fighting Owls play at home, the band begins rehearsal six hours prior to kickoff. 


Marching Owls Facts and Stats

·      85% are majoring in something other than music.

·      Sousaphones are the largest instruments and weigh close to 25 pounds.

·      The most difficult instrument to play is the mellophone, which is similar to the French horn. There are 16 of these horns.

·      The band practices two hours on rehearsal days on a specially laid out practice area.

·      On game day, the band starts practice five hours before kickoff. The band plays nearly continuously during the game, making for a 10-12 hour-day when the last note is played.

·      The wool/cotton blend uniform weighs several pounds and includes the plume in the shako (hat), jacket and pants, gloves, socks and shoes. Uniforms are dry cleaned after every game.

·      Halftime shows contain approximately 25 pages of drills and represents 192,000 marching steps.

·      Exercise studies show a marching band member’s heart rate is higher than a football player’s, and a typical drumline member works as hard as a football player during a game.

Keep up with the Kennesaw State Marching Band by following “The Marching Owls” on Twitter @KSUMarchingOwls and @ksumarchingowls on Instagram or by liking Kennesaw State Marching Band on Facebook. 

— Robert S. Godlewski

Photos by Lauren Lopez de Azua 


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