The University of California Marching Band performed at the Super Bowl halftime show for the first time Sunday.
In December, the halftime show production team contacted Cal Band director Robert Calonico about performing during the show, according to last year’s senior manager Alex Dominitz. Dominitz, who plays the clarinet, sent a survey to the band members to gauge interest, which garnered an overwhelmingly positive response.
One hundred ninety-five out of about 220 members decided to perform at the 50th Super Bowl for their largest audience yet, aware that the rehearsal period would be extremely rigorous, Dominitz said.
The production team wanted to utilize Bay Area talent, choosing the Berkeley campus’s marching band because of its traditional and well-organized style, according to Alyssa Ransom, Cal Band’s public relations director and alto saxophone player. The game was held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Outgoing student director and piccolo player Ross Greer said most band member slots for Cal Band performances do not fill up quickly. For the halftime show, however, this was not an issue.
“I was actually eating lunch with some other people in the band, and we were all freaking out about playing in the Super Bowl,” said student director and mellophone player Stephen Ramaley. “It’s such a huge performance. It’s watched by millions of people all over the world.”
Last year’s Super Bowl amassed more than 114 million viewers — the highest viewership in Super Bowl history.
“We were incredibly shocked to be invited to such an amazing event that is broadcasted worldwide,” Ransom said.
While Super Bowl halftime shows began with primarily college marching bands performing, in recent years, they have become a spectacle for major musical headliners.
Cal Band rehearsed for seven days for the show — from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. — in a span of two weeks prior to the event, where they played alongside Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars, among other artists.
“As a fourth-year about to graduate in the spring, this is just the culminating point of what has been four years here,” said Nathan Theobald, a senior in Cal Band.
According to Dominitz, during a rehearsal, Chris Martin — the lead vocalist of Coldplay — thanked Cal Band for being there. In addition to playing at the halftime show, Cal Band prerecorded background instrumental music and vocals for Coldplay’s halftime performance.
Aside from performing at campus football games, Cal Band has played at the San Francisco Giants’ World Series parade, the Armed Forces Bowl and Oakland Raiders games.
“We put our hearts out on the field,” Ransom said. “Even though this is going to be broadcasted, it’s going to have the same amount of passion.”
After taking their finals, Cal Band members will travel to Asia in May to perform UC Berkeley songs and billboard hits in Beijing and Tokyo, among other cities.
“This is definitely something we will remember for the rest of our lives,” Greer said.
Contact Jason Tran at [email protected].