Interview with LSU Drum Major, Landon Chambliss

Landon Chambliss, a 2018 graduate of Saint Paul’s, has recently earned the title of Drum Major for the Golden Band from Tigerland (LSU’s band), and The Paper Wolf had the incredible opportunity to delve into his experience and motives.

Question: What instrument did you play while at Saint Paul’s?

Answer: While I was at Saint Paul’s and at LSU, I played the trumpet. And, at Saint Paul’s, I was the Trumpet Section Leader, as well as a part of the Super Six. In addition to playing the trumpet at LSU, I was the equipment manager.

Question: How did your time in the Saint Paul’s Marching Wolves drive you to join the LSU Tiger Band?

Answer: The Marching Wolves inspired me because of the level of performance we had. I was attracted by the large crowds at Mardi Gras. I wanted to chase that dream again by getting to play in front of 100,000 people in Death Valley.

Question: Which Saint Paul’s drum major duo most inspired you?

Answer: I’d have to say the duo of Lane Sumrall and Dustin Simoneaux inspired me the most; that was my freshman year. Just seeing how well they worked together and interacted with the program was my first introduction to being a leader.

Question: What was your favorite memory from being in the Marching Wolves?

Answer: Well my favorite part of being in the band was being able to perform in front of countless people with my friends. But, a specific moment was when we went into the Superdome for the Endymion Extravaganza. Seeing all the people cheer us on gave us the final push to finish marching strong.”

Question: What motivated you to try out for drum major at LSU?

Answer: So I wanted to audition for two reasons. At my first LSU game, which happened to be the one Leonard Fournette went [hard…]. I remember being at Victory Hill with my dad, and I kept asking him, ‘Why are we here?’ He told me just to wait a little bit. Then, I saw this person dressed in all white with sequins and a big feathered hat come over that hill, followed by the band. I told myself I would become that person, and here I am. Second, I love the LSU band program. I wanted to devote my time to the program and make it the best possible. I also wanted to always be there for my fellow bandmates.

Question: What is the process to become the LSU drum major?

Answer: It’s a long process. Your audition starts at band camp as soon as you walk in the doors. The directors are looking for people with good personalities, leadership skills, and overall vibes. Toward the end of the fall semester, the process officially starts. The first step is to submit your application with your resume. From there, the directors ask the band for feedback [on the applicants]. If the feedback is positive, you’ll be invited to try out. The first part of auditions is mace work. It’s been the same for fifty years. You give the necessary field commands, do the mace moves, then throw the mace and go into a salute. That’s only the first day. Also, the directors cut multiple applicants throughout each day. Day two is teaching. Band members volunteer as students and you are tasked to teach them various marching fundamentals. Day three, my favorite, is the conducting. At this point, you’re considered a finalist and you get to conduct the entire Tiger Band. I was given a piece and a few days to perfect it. On the same day, you’ll be tasked to sightread a piece while conducting the band. The final thing is an interview with the directors. They ask you very thought-provoking questions about things like your leadership technique, what went well during the last year, and, probably the hardest one, who would make the best fit if you weren’t chosen. That’s the end of the process. The directors will then consult and pick who will be in what position. It can take anywhere from one day to a month and a half like it did for me.

Question: How many people did you compete against?

Answer: Including me, there were three people. It varies every year, and it all goes back to step one: putting your name out there.

Question: How early did you start preparing for the year? What did this entail?

Answer: I started preparing the day I got announced. I practiced mace skills, conducting, step spacing, and researched leadership tactics.

Question: What does the uniform mean to you?

Answer: It means a lot to me. It shows me that, through hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything.

Question: How did you feel leading the LSU Tiger Band Auxillary Leadership Camp (TALC)? How did helping to shape the new Saint Paul’s drum majors impact you?

Answer: It was definitely a learning experience. That was my first official job as a drum major. It was a nice test run to see what I could encounter. It also gave me the chance to meet other drum majors. It was a good ‘putting your toe in the water experience. As for helping the Saint Paul’s drum majors, It was definitely an honor. To be able to teach y’all and hang out with y’all. Here I was in this position getting to teach these two young men to be good leaders in the program I credit all my success to. It was a good chance to give back.

Question: What does a typical Tiger Band practice look like?

Answer: Typically, our practice is Tuesday through Friday 2:30-5:20 p.m. We start out in sectionals. Section leaders take their sections and learn new songs we may play. From there we do pregame. We refine what we play as well as the movements. Then we practice the halftime show. We have a new show for every home game. We practice it, slowly put the music to it, and, by the end of the week, we have it under our fingers.

Question: What does your Saturday pre-game look like?

Answer: On Saturday, we have morning rehearsal. We practice show tunes and any songs we might pull at the game. We also practice pregame until it’s spotless. Then we make sure halftime is perfect. After we line up in the Greek amphitheater, we march, then run down Victory Hill. After, we go into the PMAC [Pete Maravich Assembly Center], which is the basketball arena. Then we march into the stadium and perform pregame. Then the game begins. We are always the last in the stadium. Sometimes, our days start at 6:00 a.m. and end at 10:00 p.m.

Question: What was your most embarrassing moment?

Answer: So far it has to be when I dropped the mace in the Superdome for our opener against Florida. It’s everyone’s fear as an LSU drum major, and I did it.

Question: What was the preparation for the combined show between Southern University and LSU? How did it feel working alongside such an amazing college band?

Answer: The prep started for this when I was announced as drum major. We were bouncing ideas when we saw Southern would play us. We got in touch with the “Human Jukebox” and just had fun with it. Once we got the music, a couple weeks before the game, we got to work. At our Saturday rehearsal the day of the game, we practiced with Southern, and it was wild. It was such an honor to work with them. It had never been done before. I think our performance was a capstone of being able to bring the community together, especially after a time of strain.


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