Whenever you attend any UH football or basketball game, you’re likely going to hear the sounds of the “Spirit of Houston.”
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just a marching band. The Spirit of Houston includes everyone from the band, cheer and dance teams, culminating for an experience like no other.
Every member of the organization is always on their feet, and are usually the loudest people at every game.
The people that facilitate this organization are known as the drum majors, who direct and lead rehearsals, and act as a liaison between students and faculty.
Charles Burnap is one of them. He’s a senior studying music education and joins three other drum majors in leading the band portion of the Spirit of Houston.
Burnap, Hannah Scott, Peter Winski and Matt Hogan all spent this last year learning to adapt to maintaining the livelihood of the Spirit of Houston amid the pandemic. Specifically, their rehearsals changed in a new way.
“It used to be we would have a full band rehearsal every day, or every three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” said Burnap. “Since the pandemic, it has changed to splitting the band in half. So half the band comes on Mondays, half the band comes on Wednesdays, and then the full band on Fridays.”
Rehearsals are a big part of the Spirit of Houston experience, since that’s what usually brings the organization together to create a close chemistry, but now, they only see each other at games and on Fridays.
When he joined the organization in 2017, he knew he wanted to be a leader eventually. After two years with the Spirit of Houston, he thought he would apply as a section leader, but found the drum major position was very similar.
“Drum majors are typically expected to be people that are going to be there earlier than everybody else in later than everybody else as well,” Burnap said. “So our commitment is much larger than just a typical member.”
On game days, as he stands in front of 300 band members from the Spirit of Houston, Burnap feels honored to be a leader in the organization.
“It’s crazy to just hear how powerful the band is. And then, you know, whenever we play “Womp Womp”, and the whole student section is getting into it, it just feels like it’s just an incredible honor to be a part of that organization to be just to be able to stand in front of everybody,” Burnap said.
Game days are a whole day affair. “Typically, we get there about two to three hours before the game starts. We also have service fraternities that are associated and they get there early as well,” Burnap said.
“The games typically go probably three to four hours and we’re the first people there and last people leave,” Burnap added. “And so at the end of every rehearsal and every football game, or sports game, we all sing the alma mater together. And it’s a really special experience. No matter if we win or lose. We always end by singing together.”
Regardless of the pandemic, Burnap and his bandmates did everything they could to make sure that the virus didn’t stop them from expressing their love for music.
“While the world felt like it was falling apart, we would just come and work on the fight song. And it felt like some degree of normalcy.” Burnap said. “Which even in itself, something being normal during all of this felt like something crazy. And so that was just such a rewarding experience.”
File photo/The Cougar