Kentucky group members discuss “Call to the Post” challenge

Nate Stombaugh performs

Nate Stombaugh performs “Call to the Post” before a home football game in Kentucky this season at Kroger Field. Stombaugh, a music education student in the UK, said there is a delay of around two seconds between when he plays the song and when he hears the music coming out of the stadium speakers.

United Kingdom Athletics

In the minutes leading up to one of Kentucky’s most anticipated football games at Kroger Field this season – a Saturday night prime-time game in early October against LSU – a sold-out crowd fell silent.

Junior Nate Stombaugh, third year member of the Wildcat Marching Band, took his position in the corner of an end zone in front of the UK student section, raised his trumpet to his lips and helped send out 61,690 people from silence to hysteria. .

Stombaugh and some of his fellow trumpeters from the Wildcat Marching Band play a vital role in the UK match day sporting experience by playing ‘Call to the Post’ before home games.

The song has its origins in the military as a signal for military personnel to prepare, but it is also widely known to be played on racetracks dating back to the 1860s, alerting people that the next race will start in about 10 minutes. .

At sporting events in the UK, the aim is pretty much the same.

‘Call to the Post’ is carried out before home football matches, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball matches in the UK.

Before football games, the song is performed by a trumpeter from the Wildcat Marching Band immediately after the marching band’s pre-game performance on the field. This “Call to the Post” performer is chosen by band staff after an audition process, according to Shayna Stahl, who is in her first year in the UK as director of sports groups and deputy group director.

“It’s a nod to the rich equestrian traditions here in Lexington and across Kentucky,” said Stahl, who added that playing “Call to the Post” before home football games has been a tradition in Kentucky. for over 25 years.

Three members of the Wildcat Marching Band who performed “Call to the Post” ahead of home football games this season are Karl Oswald, Tess Wampler and Stombaugh.

Oswald is in his first year with the marching band and is a minor trumpet in the UK. As an out-of-state Missouri student, he said he didn’t know of any game day traditions related to the marching band or the role it would play in the game day experience for so many people. .

“It was a really fun learning experience getting to know the culture and history of Kentucky through the prism of this musical side of things,” Oswald said.

Wampler is also in his first year in the marching band and is a trumpet major in Kentucky. Wampler has lived in Lexington his entire life and attended Lafayette High School in the city, but had never attended a home football game in the UK before this season.

She had no idea that playing “Call to the Post” before the games was an option, but said she wanted to have as many playing opportunities as possible and was not about to. let this pass.

Wampler said his father worked with horses and had his own racing union, so being able to perform the song has special meaning for his family.

“It’s a really crazy experience, it’s like the only part of the game where he’s completely silent in the stands,” Wampler said. “Every time the whole student section starts clapping, you’re like, ‘Wow, I really did that. It’s a really amazing feeling.

Tess Wampler.jpg
Tess Wampler, a member of the Wildcat Marching Band, performs “Call to the Post” before a Kentucky home football game this season at Kroger Field. Wampler studied trumpet in the UK and is in his first year with the marching band. David McRae United Kingdom Athletics

Stombaugh is a junior in the UK and is a music education student who is now in his third year with the Wildcat Marching Band. He is Section Head this year for the Trumpet Section and played his first ‘Call to the Post’ in November 2019 ahead of a UK men’s basketball home game at Rupp Arena against Evansville.

“If you remember what happened there, it is not a good memory for me personally. … I played ‘Call to the Post’, pulled it off and did it really well, then that basketball game comes along and we lost, ”said Stombaugh, referring to the superb loss at home. Kentucky 67-64 against the Purple Aces two years ago.

Performance anxiety

This season at Kroger Field, UK, is 5-1 with a home game remaining on Saturday against New Mexico State, a game in which Kentucky is favored by 36 points.

That stellar home record includes a 42-21 victory over LSU that followed Stombaugh’s “Call to the Post” performance.

“The crowd was so loud that week. I have a friend who works in production and he had a decibel meter with him and he read it at 104 decibels on the field because of the crowd noise, ”Stombaugh said of the LSU game.

Regarding the actual playing of “Call to the Post,” Stombaugh said the song itself wasn’t hard to play, but the real job is to focus on playing in front of such a large crowd.

Since everything that needs to be done in front of 60,000 or more people – whether it’s playing the trumpet or chasing a course – building muscle memory and training to become comfortable is essential, this which is pointed out to students by British trumpet teacher Jason Dovel.

“One of the best ways to get over performance anxiety fast is just to know what you’re going to do, to know your trade,” Stombaugh said. “I could chip a note here or there, but I know I can get up here and not completely jostle it… really, that sounds hard, but at some point you just have to get over it and do it.

Stombaugh said one of the reasons he develops “tunnel vision” when performing the song before football games is that the speakers at Kroger Field are about 150 yards from where he is. is on the ground.

This causes a delay of about two seconds between when a note is played and when it is heard from the speakers.

“I almost thought of it like blinders on a horse,” Wampler said of how she stays focused. “I just like to put my blinders on and focus on that mic right there.

One of the distinct elements of “Call to the Post” is that it does not use any of the trumpet valves, so all notes are played on open partials.

“You have to hit all the pitches just by manipulating your tune, but the other aspect is the double tongue … for some trumpeters, including me, it’s actually quite difficult because of the way the anatomy of my tongue is, ”Stombaugh explained. “Most good, solid high school trumpeters should be able, at the very least, to do basic double tongues, and most college trumpeters should be able to … it’s not like a mind-blowing technique.”

“The hardest part has to be his individuality,” Oswald said of “Call to the Post”. “Everyone understands it and does it a little differently. So for me to learn that it was a whole different process than what (Stombaugh) probably had to go through.

Karl Oswald.jpg
Karl Oswald performs “Call to the Post” ahead of a UK home football match this season at Kroger Field. Oswald, who is a minor trumpeter in the UK, is from Missouri and said he enjoyed learning about Kentucky culture and history through the musical lens of the Wildcat Marching Band. David McRae United Kingdom Athletics

Some of the dominant emotions experienced by Oswald, Stombaugh, and Wampler while performing “Call to the Post” are adrenaline and fear.

It can be disorienting at times, but the mixture always results in exultation at the end of the song.

“It’s just a really good, satisfying feeling to know, ‘Hey, I just did that. I went out and I did. It’s done now, ”Oswald said. “That’s how I felt after that very first. A little relief, a little excitement that, ‘Hey, I got it right. They applaud because I did that.

“If we’re being honest, this is probably the biggest audience none of us have ever played solo for,” Stombaugh added. “There aren’t a lot of other places where you can play alone in front of 60,000 people, so it’s a really cool experience to do that.”

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Cameron Drummond works as a sports reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader focusing on the University of Kentucky women’s basketball program, in addition to other college, high school and professional sports in the area. Drummond is a first generation American who was born and raised in Texas, before graduating from Indiana University in 2020. He is fluent in Spanish and previously worked as a community reporter for the Austin American newspaper- Statesman in Austin, Texas.

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