Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2005 | People

The Music Man: Jason Hillenbrand

By Jennifer Hemmingsen

Okay, so there are only 40 trombones in the Hawkeye Marching Band, but Jason Hillenbrand will still lead them in the big parade, the big game, and, perhaps, in a big bowl. Hillenbrand, a junior music education major, is the band’s new drum major, and he’s loving every minute of it.

Jason Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand, who has played trombone in the Hawkeye Marching Band for the past two years, was one of four candidates who strutted, conducted, marched, and interviewed for band directors during this past spring’s drum major auditions. He got the job because of his showmanship and his experience—he was drum major for his high school band in Palatine, Illinois, and holds first-class certification from the Smith-Walbridge Drum Major Summer Clinic.

The drum major is the highest-ranking student leader of the marching band and, in his signature white uniform and foot-and-a-half tall bearskin hat, is also one of the most noticeable. Hillenbrand assists the director during rehearsals throughout the season, and he also has free reign to choreograph his moves on the field.

Directing the UI’s competitive group of musicians will be a treat, he says: “The motivation for people to be there is totally different. There are no parents any more saying ‘Hey, you have to be in band.’ The spirit is there. And, the Hawkeyes are actually a good football team, as opposed to my high school team.”

Leading a Big Ten marching band will also help when Hillenbrand starts looking for a job as a high school band director after graduation. He hopes to teach students not only musicianship, but also responsibility, friendship, and teamwork. As his own experience shows, marching in the band isn’t just about notes and trills.

“It’s really a life experience,” he says.