After the firing of LSU’s Tigerband Director Roy King in the spring of 2016, band members faced the challenges of a new director and teaching style that came with the changes.
News broke of King’s firing on April 6, just three days before Golden Girl Auditions. Unable to get answers from LSU and Tigerband employees, the students got their updates from news stories and Facebook posts.
Due to the tension involving King’s firing, the students have decided to remain anonymous but will be referred to by band section and classification.
Life in Tigerband proceeded as though nothing had occurred. Golden Girl Auditions took place without King, the usual head judge. A junior Golden Girl stated, “The Roy situation just sucked. They fired him right before our auditions, which didn’t help calm any of our nerves. They handled all of it so poorly.”
The Golden Girl’s spoke of their high stress during auditions with little knowledge of what would happen to them and the band without Roy. A sophomore Golden Girl said, “After a returning member was cut, I was just scared they would want to get rid of all of Roy’s girls. Roy picked me, so why would they want to keep me?”
Band members had mixed emotions when it came to the unexpected firing of King. The majority of students interviewed signed a petition in opposition to King’s firing and hoped to keep him as director. Even with over 5,000 signatures on the petition to LSU’s President King Alexander, it was clear, LSU had no intention of rehiring King.
Students expressed their disappointment in how LSU dealt with King’s abrupt dismissal: “I just wish they had handled it better. Roy was planning on retiring when his daughter graduated from color guard this season,” said a junior tuba player. Many students agreed with the tuba player when he said, “They could have told him this was his last season and not made such a scene of the firing.”
A senior on drumline expressed his frustration with the situation: “The band had no say and that pissed me off. We are the ones who have to practice with these directors and no one asked us our opinions. In fact, they told us to keep our mouths shut.” King played the snare drum during his years in Tigerband. This often led to King favoring the drumline during his terms as director. The senior drumline member continued, “When Roy was in charge, we were pretty much his favorites. He always paired us with the Golden Girls. He was my man.”
While most students interviewed were opposed to the firing of King and how the situation was handled, there were a handful that were ready for a change in leadership. A junior mellophone player stated, “I didn’t like Roy. I didn’t think his humor was funny. Dr. Llinas has a respect for the students and demands respect from the students. I like that. I don’t think you need to have a joking relationship with the band director.”
Other mellophone players agreed that King often called members out during practice in a disrespectful manner. King often referred to students by their shirt color or way they looked. Students laughed when recalling a common saying of King’s: “You without the shirt, who should definitely be wearing a shirt, what are you doing? That’s wrong.”
A sophomore trumpet player replied to the mellophone players’ comments by reminding them that King allowed the students to make fun of him as much as he made fun of them. He spoke of how King always managed to get his work done and still form a relationship with his band members, a skill many feel Dr. Llinas, the new Tigerband director, lacks.
Llinas was named Interim Tigerband Director shortly after the firing of King, whom he worked under as Assistant Band Director. Band members were incredibly split on the feelings of Llinas taking over King’s position.
Members describe Llinas as more professional and less personal with his students. A junior Golden Girl stated, “I don’t have any sort of relationship with Dr. Llinas. Our drill is way cooler and people now love our halftimes, but I can’t really say much more about Llinas.” This was a common reaction amongst the band members. Many felt band had become less of an enjoyment and more of a job.
Under the direction of Llinas, band practices became more serious with increasingly difficult halftime shows. Llinas hoped to revamp Tigerband and call more attention to the band during halftime. Drill became longer and more challenging. Llinas expected the Golden Girls and Color Guard to dance and flag for the entire halftime show, not just one number.
A third year Golden Girl stated, “I do think that the band has improved greatly. As much as I hate that Roy was fired, we do look so much better. We are dancing so much more in halftime, which I love.” She went on to explain how when they take a pause from dancing, they are actually marching with the band rather than in the front by themselves: “This year we are expected to keep up with band and know as much as they do about marching, while dancing almost the entire show long. Its quite the workout.”
The mellophone players spoke on how much they love the revamping of Tigerband. They feel the forms the band makes under Llinas are more interesting than they have been in the past. Some of their favorite forms have been the floating house from Pixar’s Up, the Superman logo, an electric guitar, and a moving Mike the Tiger.
Tigerband alumni have commented on the sound improvement of the entire band. They have noticed a significant change in the musical skills of the band since Llinas took over as director. Although many alumni opposed the firing of King, they could not help but admit how well the students are coping with the sudden changes.
Although the firing of King caused great disagreement amongst Tigerband members, there is no doubt they had an incredible football season, reaching thousands of views on their YouTube videos of halftime performances.
While opinions of Llinas vary, his love for his band members and desire to improve Tigerband show in his email after the final home game of the season to his students: “You conduct yourselves with integrity and that is more important to me than the size of the band or how much sound you put out on the field. This has been a year of experimentation and with that, comes great things and some things that we would like to improve upon for next year.”
Even with varying opinions, the members of Tigerband agreed that this has been a year of incredible growth for the band. The students spoke of the amount of pride they feel after each halftime show due to the large amount of work they put in during and outside of practice. Regardless of who the director may be, Tigerband upholds LSU’s traditions and keeps Tiger fans cheering every Saturday night of football season.