When Sean Murray was in junior high, he watched a performance of the local high school marching band and was fascinated. His freshman year of high school, he signed up — and so began a journey that would ultimately bring him to UAB in May to direct the Marching Blazers.
“I just thought, how amazing it was, the camaraderie of it, when you join any organized group that is working toward a common goal,” he said of watching that first performance.
This fall, that common goal for the Marching Blazers is to generate excitement and support for the return of UAB Football.
Marching bands are a longstanding tradition in college football, Murray said, and the performances set the atmosphere apart from professional sports arenas.
“We live in a technological age where, if you go to a pro game, you get piped-in, canned music,” he said. “There’s something the live music brings —a certain amount of revelry because it’s your hometown team. The band plays into that. It’s a feeling you don’t get if you go to a pro game.”
A new legacy
For its part in the new era of UAB Football, the Marching Blazers will be sporting brand-new, custom-designed uniforms bearing the Blaze logo, which Murray thinks people will find “very cool.” But beyond its appearance, he said the band plans to “be ever-present and support UAB in every way we can.”
Murray said the Marching Blazers will present a new pregame show featuring school songs, pageantry and flags featuring Blaze during the first game of the 2017 season against Alabama A&M University.
Both the campus and Birmingham’s excitement for the return of football has helped Murray get more excited as well, he added.
“I drive around the city and see banners up in windows — you can sense that there is a palpable excitement for it, to see what the team is going to be like and how it’s all going to come together.”
He said the anticipation is contagious among the students that form the Marching Blazers.
“They are vested stakeholders,” Murray said. “These students have given up their time the last few years, and they feel like this is their team and their program. There is a certain excitement in repping your university. That’s what’s been driven home to me — this is their team.”
Season tickets are on sale now; Employees from any academic or administrative unit, can purchase a season ticket package in Blaze’s Corner, sections 14 and 15, for $99 or in general seating for $135 and enter their purchase in the Dean’s Challenge for a chance to win prizes and bragging rights. Family members, friends, alumni and neighbors of employees also can credit their season ticket purchases to a specific department; the general public can purchase packages from $99-$150, and National Alumni Society members can order for $135.
Murray came to UAB from Florida Atlantic University, where he was associate professor of music, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands, and has his Bachelor of Music Education degree, Master of Music Education degree and doctorate from Florida State University College of Music. He plays the tuba and has taught brass and woodwind instrumentation plus band arranging, pedagogy, conducting, music and culture and learning strategies.