USC Trojan Marching Band walks tall on March Fourth, the day that celebrates the marching arts

Under the leadership of Jacob Vogel, the Trojan Marching Band is creating unforgettable memories and breathing new life into revered Trojan traditions.

March 03, 2023 Brett Padelford

Tomorrow, marching band fans throughout the country will take to social media to celebrate March Fourth, the day dedicated to celebrating the marching arts. Started in 2017 by Drum Corps International, this punny day promotes the marching music art form and increases awareness for music education in schools.

Like other college marching bands, the USC Trojan Marching Band offers its students the opportunity to perform music in front of thousands of fans at stadiums across the country but, unlike other organizations, it’s often off the football field where once-in-a-lifetime memories are made.

In the past month alone, band member Jacobo Herrera — the band’s drum major and student general manager — has made two indelible memories. At the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 5, he starred on national television with Heisman-winning USC quarterback Caleb Williams after rapper Wiz Khalifa performed during the midsession break.

I was a foot away from Wiz Khalifa for his entire performance. I passed the sword to Caleb Williams to light the torch.

Jacobo Herrera, drum major

“I was a foot away from Wiz Khalifa for his entire performance,” Herrera said. “I passed the sword to Caleb Williams to light the [Coliseum] torch. If I wasn’t in the band, I would not imagine myself being that close to someone like that.”

On Feb. 8, Herrera was downtown at Arena for the Lakers game where LeBron James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA scoring record. Herrera plays trumpet in the Los Angeles Laker Band, an offshoot of the Trojan Marching Band that performs at every Lakers home game. He has the chance to see basketball history being made and firsthand exposure to his chosen field.

Providing valuable experience beyond performing with the band

Herrera studies music industry at the USC Thornton School of Music and works directly in the business through the marching band. The band provides valuable job experience and opportunities for networking.

“I really like to look at the venue side of things,” Herrera said. “So, you get to meet people who work the PA or whoever’s in the media box or maybe even courtside. And it gives me an opportunity to be in the room with those people.”

As a bonus, Herrera — a first-generation college student and only the second Hispanic drum major in the band’s history — gets to bring his family to watch the Lakers play.

Band drumline at Coachella
The USC Trojan Marching Band’s drumline performs at the Coachella festival. (Photo/Sean Kusanagi)

Herrera’s Trojan Marching Band experience is not unique. Over the past 50 years, band members have performed at the Academy Awards, at the Grammys and on over 150 television shows. They’ve played the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, performed at the Olympics, appeared at halftime of the Super Bowl and traveled to 19 countries. Band members who performed for the 1979 recording of “Tusk” with Fleetwood Mac are still recognized to this day.

On March Fourth, celebrating experiences students will cherish for life

Trojan Marching Band Director Jacob Vogel is in his second year leading the organization. He continues to create experiences for students they will cherish for life while growing the financial support they receive from the program.

USC band concert: USC Trojan Marching Band Director Jacob Vogel
Jacob Vogel conducts the USC Trojan Marching Band at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Photo/Brett Padelford)

“What I love about working in the marching arts at a university like USC is the confluence of decadeslong traditions and contemporary innovation, which is why we’ve decided to take a modern approach to an old-fashioned concept for USC’s Day of SCupport,” Vogel said.

Vogel has big plans for the May 4 event — a daylong digital “streamathon” with the Spirit of Troy.

“You’ll hear stories from students, see special performances and travel with me as I visit storied Los Angeles landmarks,” Vogel said. “I hope my enthusiasm for the band program and hearing more stories like Jacobo’s encourages the Trojan Family to support the student experience as the program continues to grow and as we look forward to our future in the Big Ten Conference.”