The Marching Owls

Athletic band defined by diversity, academics

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 19, 2019) — Straight out of high school, Kennesaw State University student Charleston Fox set her mind on pursuing a degree in apparel and textiles. However, there was a catch: Whatever university she chose to attend needed to have a marching band.

She knew that with Kennesaw State introducing a football program in 2015, a marching band wouldn’t be far behind, and before long, she found herself in an introductory meeting with Debra Traficante, director of athletic bands, associate director of bands and associate professor of music.

“I, along with two of my friends, went to the meeting during our high school lunch break because we knew there was a chance we could march together,” said Fox, who leads the trumpet section. “At that meeting, Dr. Traficante talked about the marching style, the repertoire the ensemble would play and what band camp would be like. I knew that if I was coming to KSU, I had to audition and continue doing what I loved.”

Today, Fox is one of 256 members of the Marching Owls and holds the distinction of participating in the program every year since its inception. Though nearly one in five students in the Marching Owls represent the School of Music, every academic college at the University is present among them. In all, more than 70 degree programs are represented, making the ensemble one of the most diverse collection of students on campus.

“Our Marching Owls are perhaps best known for their spirit and performance on Saturdays, but they are also a true cross-section of the many opportunities we offer here at the University,” Traficante said. “It never ceases to amaze me with how dedicated they are to their craft and education, and they constantly lift each other as they strive to reach their full potential.”

Marching Owls, Homecoming 2019
The Marching Owls at Homecoming 2019

Like Fox, mechanical engineering student Dillon Caudell said the Marching Owls were a major factor in his college decision. He is among the 43 Zell Miller Scholarship recipients and 16 Eagle Scouts participating in this year’s program, which is the largest ensemble to date. In addition to pursuing his musical passions, he said the reputation of KSU’s engineering programs were originally what put the school on his radar.

“Since my first week at KSU, I’ve had a family and a friend group spanning nearly 200 people,” said Caudell, who performed during the first football game at SunTrust Park last year when KSU took on Jacksonville State. “I’ve enjoyed working with a group of passionate and dedicated students, who on top of their course load and jobs, have taken the time to improve one of the largest organizations at Kennesaw State.

Though she originally wanted to pursue environmental science, Emily Gunby said it was through the Marching Owls that she found her passion in music education. An Honors College student who was also accepted into the President’s Emerging Global Scholars (PEGS) program, she is one of 72 Dean’s and President’s List honorees in the ensemble.

This past summer, she participated in study abroad program in music history and jazz in Europe, in which she traveled to Germany and France. With the support of the Jewish National Fund, she has also visited Israel as part of the Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission and served as a volunteer in a Costa Rican hospital through the PEGS program.

What gives her the greatest sense of pride, however, is the ability to wear the Marching Owls logo around campus. Now in her fourth year with the band, she most enjoys taking part marching band exhibitions and competitions at Atlanta area high schools, hoping to inspire the next crop of Marching Owls.

“We all came to Kennesaw State for different reasons, but the Marching Owls connected us as a family and a community of students who all love what we do,” she said.

—Travis Highfield

Photography by Rob Witzel


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. 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, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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