Q&A with USC's Band Director: Dr. Rebecca PhillipsWritten by Jeffrey Campbell
Q: What was your initial reaction when you were offered the position as USC’s band director?
A: I didn’t see it coming. Someone else was already filling the position at the time, so it was a surprise to be approached. It’s a big task and time commitment. I really care about the students and the time they put into this. I was happy to take on the challenge and be part of a change.
Q: How has your prior band experience prepared you for this job?
A: LSU is an SEC school, so it has a similar football environment. Their band program has been very successful and I want to implement some of those ideas at USC. At USF, the program was brand new, so they were building all new traditions. That helped me prepare to build upon the established and loved traditions at the University of South Carolina.
Q: What are your plans to help improve the band’s image?
A: I want to make sure that people view our music as good and fun, and we’ve been successful so far. We’ve increased the band’s level of performance by participating in as many activities as we possibly can. Creating an environment at games that students like and want to stay involved in helps create a positive image of the band.
Q: Is your personality incorporated in the band?
A: A little bit. In this case, personality is added more in the learning process than the final product. It’s important to me that the members are enjoying themselves during rehearsals. As far as the halftime shows are concerned, it’s all about the pacing—can we keep the audience interested in what we’re doing for the time we’re on the field?
Q: How do you get to know the members of your band?
A: I learn their personalities between games and rehearsals. Many of them end up in my concert band, and it’s interesting to see them in a different environment. A lot of these kids are not music majors, so I wouldn’t see them if it wasn’t for the marching band, which is really cool. I love hearing about what they’re doing with their majors and what they like about USC.
Q: How did you first get involved in music?
A: I’ve been around it since I was a child. I started playing the trombone and piano when I was young. My grandfather was in a Navy band that was assigned to the president. They performed at White House events, Arlington Cemetery, inaugurations and a lot of other events like that. My father and uncle performed in that same group and my grandmother was a concert pianist and opera singer in Chicago.
Q: Who is your favorite musician?
A: A lot of musicians I like are composers, particularly Mahler (a German symphony writer). More current groups that I like have wind instruments and brass lines. Chicago and Tower of Power are great. These guys actually play; everything’s so electronic these days. I feel like it’s almost fake.
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