The Rise of the Marching Owls


KENNESAW, Ga. – At Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Sept. 12, 2015, Kennesaw State University introduced its first marching band in hopes of a great beginning to a new tradition.

Under the direction of band director Dr. Debra Traficante, the fresh, chorus style band is a compliment to the new football team that has the city of Kennesaw in an uproar.

Traficante aimed to obtain students of previous band experience to make up the band. With 220 members, the KSU Marching Owls are aiming to mark new sounds in Cobb County band history. The band looks to see how it can set itself aside from other bands.

Traficante serves as Kennesaw State University’s Director of Athletic Bands and Assistant Professor of Music. She is not only the director of KSU’s new marching band but as well as the KSU Basketball Pep Band. She brings experience and a determined mindset for creating a unique style for the band.

“The rich band history is a dream to work in,” Traficante said. “And when I saw the position open, and the area of the country that it is in [Cobb County], I thought it would be a great opportunity to return to the part of the country and build something from scratch with a ton a talent surrounding us.”

Traficante has years of experience of directing bands and music ensemble. She taught for eight years at the University of Oklahoma prior to her position at KSU. Transitioning to director of a new band, Traficante had to prepare herself.

“Preparing the students goes well before I got here for it starts with their high school experiences and the tradition of excellence in the state and regional programs that make up our band population,” Traficante said. “As for my own preparation, this is my 16th year as a music educator. All of that informs every decision I’ve made for the program and will continue to make for the program.”

On the field, the band is led by Drum Major Maria Phillips. She is enjoying the time as the first leader for KSU band of the inaugural season. She admits to developing a bond with her band members: “I enjoy rooting for my favorite team with my favorite people,” she said.


Maria Phillips, Band Drum major at Kennesaw States, snaps a selfie with her team. (Photo by Maria Phillips)

The sound of the Marching Owls has pleased many, including alumni Adrian Michaels.

“I graduated from Kennesaw State in 1998, back when girls’ soccer team and the men’s basketball team were the only things to brag about,” Michaels said. “Now the school has a thriving football team and a band that is very coordinated and in-sync.”

Michaels’ niece is a junior color guard in Redan High School marching band of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

“After hearing about the new Marching Owls, it would be a good fit for my niece, especially with her having the experience of being in a marching band,” Michaels said.

Michaels’ niece would have to adjust to the tradition that Traficante is implementing; she aims to make Kennesaw State’s marching band a more “show band” style Adjusting to a different style may be challenging, according to Traficante. It is challenging creating a sub-culture in an already existing culture.

“Band students understand band,” Traficante said. “Getting others outside of our ‘world’ to understand what this is and what it’s going to be without a physical product in place to represent what that is would be challenging.”

Traficante will also be conducting the KSU Concert Band in which she will teach beginning instrumental conducting, wind band literature, and marching band technique courses. She will also be advising Music Education students.

With the help of Traficante, KSU’s music program can look forward to advancements. She looks to more growth, more students, more excitement, and a long successful tradition with the Marching Owls.

“When you start a program from its inception, you are doing a disservice to the group to think about year one,” Traficante said, “You have to think about year 10, 20, 50-plus when you make decisions to start something this large. That’s how I’ve made decisions and continue to make decisions for the program — with longevity and many exciting years to come.”


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