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Civil Engineering Student Found Structure in Band

Matthew Keisling marching with the Pride of the Southland Band.Civil engineering is why Matthew Keisling chose UT, but to have a chance to be a member of a band with a 150-year tradition sealed the deal.

Keisling was going to quit band after high school, but someone talked him into auditioning for a spot playing his trumpet in UT’s Pride of the Southland Band. Now, as a senior whose college career has been shaped by the experience of playing for one of the most prestigious marching bands in the nation, he reflected on the memories he’s made.

“There are three of us senior trumpet players who are engineering students,” Keisling said. “We get to talk about our senior design classes, and that’s kind of cool. They have become my closest friends.”

Keisling attended every football game in his four years at UT, which included hours upon hours of practice. This meant that he could not participate in the engineering extracurricular activities, such as the ASCE conference, but band still forged in him a discipline that he can take with him when he joins the workforce.

One discipline is showing up early… really early. This gives band members a chance to warm up and make sure everyone knows their moves in the performance.

As a member of Pride, if you’re not an hour or two early for practice, you’re at risk of messing up. There’s a fear of not being there, or not being prepared.”

—Matthew Keisling

And that’s just for practice. On game days, it’s even earlier. For a 4 p.m. game, Keisling says they had to show up at the practice field at 8:30 a.m. There is also a lot of memorization, a skill that helps build mental discipline.

“We have to memorize songs for the home games, the visitor fight songs, and all of our motions,” he said. “During the fall semester, there’s a lot of work.”

He says that being able to leave practice at practice is the best way to approach band.

“We have practice until 5:30, and I’m a commuter, so I don’t get home until about 6 o’clock,” he said. “But after band it’s strictly homework from 7 to 10 p.m.”

For the freshmen engineering majors coming into band, it can be a great way to make strong social bonds and get mentorship.

It’s great for them because you don’t have any senior engineering friends when you’re just taking classes. But when you’re in Pride there is usually somebody who can help you out and guide you. I know a freshman in band who is switching over to civil engineering, and I’ll be able to mentor him. This is a connection he wouldn’t have had if we weren’t in band together.”

—Matthew Keisling

Keisling said he remembers being a freshmen and sophomore in band and he knew a senior and junior in engineering.

“I’m able to return the favor now.”

Keisling, whose concentrations are transportation and construction, has interned two summers at the Tennessee Department of Transportation. One of his friends in band has a mom who works at TDOT, and that connection helped him find the internship.

“I really liked it and went back again this year to just try to do better,” he said.

Band requires discipline and mental focus, but Keisling encourages anyone with an interest to go for it.

“The hardest part is just getting used to it,” he said. “They say that engineering majors are among the most well-represented on band of the non-music majors.”

That gives him pride.