Marching Forward to the Future
“We are all proud of our band, and we have reason to be. For though as yet not one year old, the organization is one which will reflect credit on the college anywhere, and its members may rest assured that their earned efforts are fully appreciated, both by the Corps and the Campus.”
1895 Olio, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas’ first yearbook
The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band’s marketing appeal was not lost on an eight-year-old Hunter Anderson the first time he saw the unit perform in 2008.
“My father, who was an Aggie like his father before him, wanted me to be old enough to remember the experience of my first visit to Kyle Field,” Anderson says today, a senior majoring in Human Resource Development at Texas A&M. “Dad likes to tell people my young eyes were locked on the field the entire time the band performed. From that point, I knew my ‘destiny’ was to someday become a part of the ranks and files moving and shifting on that field, serving as “Keepers of the Spirit.”
Today, Anderson cuts a striking six-foot, two-inch figure in his khaki-colored Corps of Cadet uniform. On an almost daily basis, you’ll see him in the halls of the Wehner Building, ground zero for Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, although Anderson is not majoring in business. On game day in this, his final year with the Aggie Band, a snare drum gets strapped to his waist and he marches on the hallowed ground of Kyle Field in a pair of “Aggie Senior Boots,” whose design and history is inexorably tied to that of the band itself, both having been “cobbled” together by an Austrian immigrant named Joseph Holick.
And as you’ll soon learn, both Holick and Anderson were gifted with an understanding of the “right-place, right time” nature of achieving success, both in business and life.
Not too many years after standing mesmerized by the exploits of the “Noble Men (and Women) of Kyle,” Hunter Anderson launched his quest to become a member of the Aggie Band. As a sixth grader, he signed up to play percussion at Creekside Intermediate School in League City, Texas. When Anderson and his family moved to the Frisco area of Dallas, he continue.his involvement in band there in both middle school and at Lone Star High School.
“As I grew up, my parents always wanted me to make my own big decisions in life,” Anderson says. “My dad’s career has centered on sales and management, and he’s passed along a lot of good advice for me to use.”
Business, unquestionably, runs through Anderson’s blood.
At 16, Anderson went looking for his first job. Like his immediate infatuation with the Texas A&M band, Anderson followed another favorable first impression to land gainful employment.
“After successful outcomes in school, my mother many times would take my sister and me out for sweet treats,” Anderson says. “It was on one of those trips that I was introduced to Bahama Bucks. I’d never had a serving of shaved ice before and I liked it a lot. I was also impressed with how the employees conducted themselves in serving customers. After that, I knew where I wanted to work. I applied there and got a job. I felt deeply compelled to strive for excellence and, within a year, I was a manager, supervising some 45 employees, all of whom were my age or older.”
The Band’s Beginnings
.Like Anderson, Joseph Holick’s youthful aspirations centered on music. Born in Moravia in 1868 (then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today a part of the Czech Republic), Holick’s parents thought his musical ambitions “frivolous” and sent him off to cobbler school in Vienna. He learned the trade, but at 16, he stowed away on an ocean liner bound for America to avoid a “sole-crushing” life. His new dream was to become a cowboy, which is how he wound up in the Central Texas town of Bryan.
Holick turned out to be less of a cowboy than he had hope, and eventually he was forced to fall back on his skills as a cobbler to land a job at a Bryan shoe shop. He worked as an assistant there for several years before a customer one day offered him an intriguing opportunity. That customer was Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the president of the nearby Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas. The offer was straightforward and obvious. Ross wanted Holick to move to campus to more conveniently service the footwear needs of his young charges. Holick took the job and impressed, not only with his cobbling skills, but also with his musical aptitude. He played the clarinet and his after-work serenades again piqued the interest of Ross, who offered to pay Holick an extra $65 a month to serve as bugler for the student batallion. No mind Holick had never played a bugle. He learned and soon his melodious calls rang across the campus multiple times a day.
Then, in 1894, with Ross’s blessing but with no financial backing from the president, Holick established the first AMC band. Thirteen young men, including Holick formed the ensemble which would eventually morph into today’s Texas A&M marching juggernaut.
(If you don’t know why they go by “Fightin’,” that name stems from the manner in which the band’s first drum major was chosen that very first year. Those interested in the position involved themselves in a schoolyard brawl and the last man standing–who was from California, as it turned out–was designated the unit’s field leader.)
The band Joseph Holick started stayed small in size until the mid 1920s, when, under bandmaster Colonel Richard J. Dunn, the ranks began to grow, first to more than a hundred, and later under Dunn, more than 250. Today’s Aggie Band numbers approximately 400 members, with 350 of those performing at halftime of Texas A&M football games.
Although Holick quickly left administration of the band to others, he remained a fixture on campus hand-crafting footwear until 1929, when he opened his own boot shop on College Main. Holick died in 1971 at the age of 103, but his family-owned company still provides Aggie Senior Boots to the Corps of Cadets.
A Circuitous Route
Aggie Band drum majors today are selected in a more civilized manner than in Holick’s time, as are members of the band as a whole. Candidates are required to have had both high school playing and marching band experience as well as pass an audition. Prospects play both a prepared piece of music and sight-read a march. Members of the band, obviously, must be in the Corps of Cadets. And to be in the Corps, one must be enrolled in the university.
“As I was preparing to graduate from high school,” Hunter Anderson says today, “there was only one college I was interested in attending, Unfortunately, I was not accepted to that school.”
Anderson’s high-school grade point average of 3.85 was well above the mark for automatic admission. Unfortunately, his SAT score wasn’t. Looking back, he admits he may have focused too much on his managerial duties at Bahama Bucks and not enough on preparing for the SAT. Thus, Anderson was forced to look elsewhere to begin his college studies. To achieve his dream, he opted to go the “Program for System Admission (PSA)” route, which, according to the Texas A&M Admissions website, “offers students the opportunity to enroll in a participating Texas A&M System school for one year with the intention of achieving guaranteed transfer admission to College Station upon successful completion of the program.”
“I originally began college at Texas A&M-Commerce intending to pursue a pre-med allied health major with hopes of one day becoming a geriatric neurologist,” Anderson says. “But, as I ventured more into where I saw that direction of my life headed, I felt a calling to do something else.”
Anderson turned his attention to hospitality management after he arrived at the flagship for his sophomore year, knowing he wanted to pursue a career that was “people-focused.” His hope was to become a part of the Mays Business School, but Mays does not participate in the PSA program, so he couldn’t make the direct transfer there from Commerce.
Anderson ultimately decided to major in human resource development in the Department of Educational Administration & Human Resource Development for its “focus on people and organizations.” But he is by no means a stranger in the Wehner Building halls of the Mays School.
“My interest in sales took the forefront of my life early on after my arrival at Texas A&M,” Anderson says. “I wanted a connection to the prestigious Mays Business School and found that place through my involvement with The Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute, a program that helps students become the best version of themselves. The Sales Institute has changed my life and helped me develop my interpersonal speaking skills, problem-solving mindset, and understanding of how important relationship-building is in business. I love what Mays stands for and the value it brings not only to current students but also to its graduates.”
As part of his involvement in the Sales Leadership Institute, Anderson has helped put together a program for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley. The “SALES Advantage Experience”–“SALES” as an acronym standing for “Start a Life Experiencing Success”–is a four-week course designed to help “Littles” gain an understanding of how “to step out of their shell and build sales skills that will positively impact the rest of their lives,” according to Anderson.
The Five E’s
Which brings us to another compelling question which Hunter Anderson is uniquely positioned to answer: How does the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band enhance the Texas A&M University brand?
Anderson suggests centering that discussion on an informal marketing offshoot of the more well-known “5E Instructional Model.”
We’ve all seen thousands of television commercials, countless full-page magazine ads, and been bombarded by online advertisements each time we browse the Internet. In the world of hospitality marketing, many of us have been wined and dined as a means of persuading us to do business with a specific company.
These marketing endeavors succeed in large part because they follow the Five E’s of Promotional Engagement.
Now, how does all that apply to the largest military marching band in the world?
Hunter Anderson explains.
“The Emotion and Empathy are obvious. There’s a reason football fans don’t leave their seats at halftime, even when we perform on the road. We work hard to prepare for game day. It’s a joy to be in the band, but it’s also a job and we take our work seriously. We owe are best as representatives of our school, its student body, and the Aggie Brand.
“The whole construct of marching band performances at college and high school football games is to provide Entertainment during the break at halftime. The first college marching band was established in 1845 at Notre Dame. They also made the first band appearance on a football field when Notre Dame struck up a football team in 1887. What we, the Aggie Band, do now, the precision military-style marching, is what almost all bands did many years ago. People don’t see that style much any more, but when they do–whether or not they are Aggie faithful–they love it, and we can feel that love all the way down on the field.
“It might seem that Education would be a stretch in discussions about how the Aggie Band impacts the Texas A&M brand, but our style, our dress, our whole demeanor–musically as well as otherwise–harkens back to the origins of our school. I’m proud that people call us ‘patriotic’ and see us as an embodiment of the Aggie Core Values of Respect, Loyalty, Integrity, Excellence, Selfless Service, and Leadership.
“As for Excitement, nothing beats a football Saturday in Aggieland.
“The band starts game day early with a full practice running through the drill–our halftime performance–a couple times to ensure perfection. We then participate in “Outfit BBQ,” the Corps’ version of ‘tailgating’ if the game is at night. Otherwise, we get started about three hours before kickoff with a ‘step-off’ on the Corps Quad. A portion of the band we call the Spirit Band then meets in front of the “Saw-Varsity-Horns-Off“ statue on the east side of Kyle Field to march the team into the stadium once they arrive on site via their chartered buses.
“Then, the entire band reconvenes on the Quad and steps off two hours before kickoff. From there, thousands of fans line the streets as we march to the stadium. One of the coolest experiences I have as a snare drummer is forming the pathway through which the team takes the field just before kickoff. The blast of fireworks going off followed by the clouds of smoke is awesome! And then at halftime, the crowd revs up with those unforgettable words, ‘"Now forming at the North End of Kyle Field, the nationally famous Fightn' Texas Aggie Band.’
“Even though I’ve been on the field to hear that announcement for three seasons now, just the thought of those words still gives me goose bumps!
“And that’s how the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band provides Engagement, which in my mind enhances the Texas A&M brand.”
“Here is an organization that brings prestige to A&M wherever it goes. The A&M band is well known over the entire country, has won more than its share of trophies and has never failed to bring back honors. One of the most valuable features of the band is its ability to act as goodwill ambassadors. In this capacity, it can either initiate or further cement friendly relations between A&M and other colleges in Texas and in the Southwest. It is the athletic department's best friend. It is a living force in the life of the campus.”
1933 Longhorn, the Texas A&M yearbook
Leading By Example
So what will the experience of being in the Aggie Band mean to Anderson after he graduates?
“I would love to start off my career in sales. I solidified my passion for sales this past summer by interning in the Lubricants Sales Development Program at Chevron, where I learned how to shift the conversation away from price and focus more on the value products and services bring to potential customers. Next semester, I plan to work in sales in Fort Worth at a financial services company.
“Later in life, I have a vision of building a company that provides and creates personal and customizable experiences for people. My ultimate goal is to become the next Zig Ziglar and help people get motivated to become the best version of themselves. The Mays Business School has helped me accomplish that. I’ve learned that the one of the best ways to give of yourself is to help build others up for success!”
All of that is within Anderson’s grasp. In meeting him, one is struck by his charm and manner. A good use of his talents and skills right now, before he graduates, might be to involve him in the “NIL” training of Texas A&M athletes. Rules now enable athletes, particularly football and basketball players to be paid for their “(N)ame,” ‘(I)mage,” and “(L)ikeness.” In fact, Hunter Anderson has already struck his own NIL deal of sorts with the upscale College Station restaurant, Christopher’s World Grille, where he works as a serving assistant, but spends most of his time engaging with customers in the lounge area
“I try to make guests feel welcome and comfortable,” Anderson says of the empathy and emotion he uses to forge customer satisfaction. “I truly enjoy people, getting to know them, and learning about them. A lot of what I’ve learned from the Sales Leadership Institute I’m able to apply in my work at Christopher’s. And when people find out I’m a member of the Aggie Band, well, there’s lot of conversation that naturally flows from that.”
Hunter Anderson will be graduating soon, embarking on the next chapter of his life. As he begins his career, he will be a welcome addition to another world-famous group imbued with the “Spirit of Aggieland.”
The Aggie Network will welcome him with open arms!