UH marching band to perform halftime
show at Super Bowl
By Mike Emery
It’s the performance of a lifetime.
Backing a pop superstar like Janet Jackson is a
dream for any musician, but imagine the thought of doing that at
one of the most anticipated sports and media events of the year
… the Super Bowl.
For the members of the University of Houston Spirit
of Houston Cougar Marching Band and Texas Southern University’s
Ocean of Soul Marching Band, the dream has become reality. Both
bands are preparing to bring their distinctive styles to the Super
Bowl’s halftime show Feb. 1 at Reliant Stadium.
“I had been approached by a few people about
participating in the Super Bowl,” said David Bertman, director
of the UH marching band.
“The first two offers were about the band
selling programs and serving as stage hands to make extra money.
I wasn’t really interested, but then I received a call from
MTV in November. That caught my attention.”
According to Bertman, MTV, the music and entertainment
network that is producing the game’s halftime segment, had
researched university band programs in Texas. UH and Texas Southern
University (TSU) were at the top of the network’s list as
potential bands to perform.
Originally, it was going to be either TSU or UH
that was to be selected as the principal marching band to be included
in the show. Two auditions were arranged and according to Bertman,
the UH audition inside the Yeoman Fieldhouse was nothing less than
He had been informed confidentially that Janet Jackson
was the frontrunner to headline the halftime show, so he crafted
a performance that featured her 1989 hit, “Rhythm Nation,”
as well as several contemporary hip-hop numbers.
“When they saw our band, dancers and cheerleaders,
they were blown away,” Bertman said. “It was spontaneous
combustion. It was one of the most exciting things I had ever seen.”
Impressed, the visiting MTV producers informed Bertman
that they were indeed interested in using the UH band for the halftime
show. Bertman, however, suggested that both UH and TSU be included
to incorporate both bands’ unique performance styles.
Bertman has since been tasked with coordinating
both ensembles for the big show. He has been working on prospective
arrangements and developing show ideas for Jackson’s executive
producers to review. Assisting him is Eric Priest, a UH alumnus
and the marching band’s primary musical arranger.
“We sent them a plan of how we think the bands
will fit into the piece,” he said. “The producers at
MTV know that we understand the mechanics of a marching band, so
they gave us the green light to come up with ideas.”
Presently, he is awaiting final word on any alterations
that need to be made to the proposed show. He anticipates rehearsals
to begin Jan. 17.
“It’s exciting to have been given creative
license, but it’s a challenge to wait for feedback because
we can’t start practicing until we have a final concept to
work with,” he said.
Bertman admits to being on pins and needles until
he receives a clear idea of how to prepare both the UH and TSU bands,
but he knows that this is the event of a lifetime for everyone involved.
“It will be a great moment,” he said.
“This is something that doesn’t happen for many bands
very often, if ever. We’re a little overwhelmed, but we’ll
be prepared because we want to represent the city and the university
to the best of our abilities.”