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Tempo and Textiles

Olivia Vanistendael

By Susan Fandel

Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS) students Kaylin Sutton, Amanda Gregory, Olivia Vanistendael and Khari Simpson have more in common than their studies — they are all members of the NC State Marching Band, also known as the Power Sound of the South. In addition to their classes, work and extracurricular activities, these dedicated Wilson College of Textiles students spend hours every week getting ready for games and firing up fans — and they wouldn’t change a minute of it.

“It’s like being at the heart of school spirit,” said Vanistendael, part of the color guard. “Practice is hot and repetitive, but I wouldn’t trade my four years of three practices a week or having no Saturdays for anything.”

Gregory, who plays the clarinet, agrees.

“Band is a lot of fun but it is also a lot of work,” she said. “There’s no other activity like it, where you make music alongside a physical activity like marching…(it is) so exciting, but a lot of work is put in to produce the product that the crowd sees on game day.”

How did you become interested in band?

“I started playing music in the 6th grade on trumpet. I switched to french horn and mellophone my freshman year of high school, and have played both ever since. I have always been interested in music, but I think the desire to create music stemmed from my being in dance from 3 to 18 years old,” said Simpson.

“When I was in 5th grade, the high schoolers came and played the primary instruments, what everyone basically starts on: flute, clarinet, trumpet and trombone — and that was meant to encourage us to join band. For me, it worked. Before sixth  grade, they had a band night where you went and picked out your instrument and from then on, I’ve been in band,” said Sutton.

“I saw a poster hanging on the lockers at my middle school and tried out in 8th grade for the high school color guard. I played the flute before that, but I was ready for something new. Eight years later and I haven’t looked back. I was a captain for two years in high school, marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was a captain for two years at NC State and had my last performance with the Power Sound of the South a few weeks ago in El Paso,” said Vanistendael.

“I started playing in the band in 6th grade, so I’m on my 10th year of playing the clarinet and being part of the band. Both my parents were in the band while they were in school and always said it had been so fun, so I decided to give it a shot. I chose to play the clarinet because, after playing the recorder in elementary school music class, I figured the two would be similar enough. Spoiler alert — they aren’t. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed band, so I pursued it throughout middle school, and the thing that excited me most about high school was the ability to do marching band,” said Gregory.

NC State marching band members form a pyramid
Amanda Gregory, bottom right | Photo by Dan Jahn

Why did you choose NC State?

“I’m from Pittsburgh, so the warm weather in North Carolina definitely played a role in my college choice. I also wanted to go somewhere where I didn’t know anybody from high school. We have a great engineering program and a big marching band, so NC State was the perfect choice,” said Vanistendael.

“I was born and bred a Wolfpack fan and in my house, learning to put up a wolfie was as serious as learning to walk. My dad is an alumnus of NC State, so growing up it was always my dream to attend here. As the time rolled around to start applying to colleges, I did look elsewhere in order to keep my options open because I knew there were a lot of great schools out there — but in the end I knew NC State was right for me…NC State is home and it really is a dream that I get to go to school here,” said Gregory.

“When I was a junior in high school, I came for a visit and just fell in love. I liked how big it was and all the opportunities that I heard the students having,” said Sutton.

What drew you to textiles?

“There’s a niche group of people in this field, as well as a broad variety of paths for research and academia in Textile Engineering (TE),” said Simpson.

“I’ve always had an interest in textiles — especially clothes — and finding something that incorporated both that and chemistry was something special. It made sense,” said Sutton.

“Engineering 101 required students to go to information sessions about the different engineering disciplines at NC State before choosing one…when I attended the textile engineering session and thought it was cool and interesting, I knew it was the right choice for me…Textiles has shown me a whole other side of sustainability that hadn’t crossed my mind before college that now serves as a huge inspiration for my personal and career goals,” said Vanistendael.

“I came into college thinking I wanted to be an engineer…with a combination of random circumstances, I found myself at an introductory TE workshop that was required for one of my engineering classes…I really liked the environment at the Wilson College of Textiles and what I was being presented. I had some friends in the Polymer and Color Chemistry (PCC) program as well…After some consideration, I changed my degree to PCC and haven’t looked back since,” said Gregory.

Amanda Gregory, in her NC State marching band uniform, puts up a "wolfie."
Amanda Gregory | Photo by Dan Jahn

What is being in the marching band like?

“Being in band is honestly like being in a large family, which is especially true within the sections. The clarinet section was voted Most Like Family for the third year in a row. We have practice from 3:35 p.m. until 5:25 p.m. and then basically all of Saturday is taken up depending on the time the game starts. We usually meet at Price Music Center five hours before kickoff. Playing at games can be taxing sometimes — but who else gets to say that they’ve been on the field at Carter-Finley Stadium every single game since their freshman year? What I like most about band is the people I get to meet through it. All of my closest friends have been made through band,” said Sutton.

“It is very relaxed overall for a college-level band, but that just makes practices and performances more enjoyable. I like the family-like companionship that I have with my section here the most. Everyone is close within each section and usually everyone helps and supports everyone else,” said Simpson.

“At the beginning of each school year we have a one-week long band camp, where we are going for 12 to 13 hours each day learning marching techniques, the drill for our shows and the music. Throughout the semester we practice for two hours, three days a week, and then game days are an all-day event for us. We juggle all this alongside pursuing our degrees.

I have met some of my best friends in the marching band who have become family, and thinking that I’ve known them for less than three years seems crazy. We’ve shared a lot of memories together (and) it has given me so many unique opportunities to travel and experience things that otherwise I would not be able to.

My favorite part of marching band is definitely pregame runout. There is so much energy and everyone is hyped up and we run into a stadium of thousands of screaming fans. It is an unmatched feeling and so amazing to be a part of. I also love marching around through the tailgates on game days and interacting with all the fans. To them, especially the little kids, we are celebrities in some sense and they always think we are so cool. NC State is a special place and I love being in the Power Sound of the South and being part of tradition here,” said Gregory.

“I have built great relationships, laughed harder than I ever have and become a better teacher, leader and team player. My favorite part of band, aside from wearing an insane amount of makeup, hairspray and glitter, is pregame. Running out onto the field every Saturday and hearing the roar of the fans — and their offbeat singing — will always be my favorite part of band, hands down,” said Vanistendael.

5 members of NC State marching band color guard stand outside stadium at away game
Olivia Vanistendael, far left | Photo by Dan Jahn

What are your future plans?

“I still have no specific ideas what I want to do with my degree except to get a job. I am passionate about the textile industry and how intimately it is a part of everyone’s daily life — and the fact that I will one day get to play a role in that is why I love the field that I’m in,” said Gregory.

“I plan to move into industry for a few years and hope to eventually pursue an MBA,” said Sutton.

“I want to go into the workforce for a while to support myself and my medical school-bound girlfriend, then to graduate school to hopefully finally become a college professor in engineering, preferably textile or chemical engineering,” said Simpson.

“After graduation in May, I am road-tripping to San Francisco where I will be working on the product development team at Levi’s. In the future, I may go back to school, work at a sea turtle rehab center or become a lobbyist. I’m not really sure where my post-graduation adventures will take me, but whatever I do, I want to reduce human impact on the environment and leave the world a better place,” said Vanistendael.

Do you have any spare time and if so, what do you do with it?

“During the marching season, spare time is few and far between — especially this last season. We did a lot of traveling, so there were only a few free weekends. Even on those weekends, I kept myself busy hanging out with friends — and studying, of course. But generally, in my spare time I just enjoy hanging out with friends and watching Netflix like your typical college student,” said Gregory.

“Mostly, I play video games, board games, watch Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and hang out with my girlfriend and roommates. I do enjoy keeping myself up to date in the tech sphere and recently, I built my own PC,” said Simpson.

“In the fall, I don’t have much time at all with band and classes. With the time that I do have, I am the event coordinator for Greater Good Textile Group and fundraising chair for the Wolfpack Environmental Student Association. Outside of band, class and clubs, I absolutely love going to concerts, watching movies and hula hooping,” said Vanistendael.

Sutton and Gregory also serve as pages for Dr. Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles.

What does being a page entail and how do you juggle it all?

“Being a page for the dean is a job I look forward to doing. The faculty, staff and students here at the Wilson College of Textiles are all so easy to talk with and make it fun to go to work. It can be a lot at times to be doing everything at once, but the reward is worth it in the end,” said Sutton.

“As a dean’s page, I serve as one of the faces of the College as people walk through the dean’s suite door to either meet with the dean or various faculty throughout the College. In this position, I get a unique look at how the College is run and get to see a lot of things that many students don’t even realize is going on as they attend their classes downstairs.

We answer the phone, emails, schedule conference room reservations, talk to faculty and guests and make sure everyone and everything is getting where it needs to go. There are a lot of little parts that make up this job. As far as juggling it all, along with everything else in life, it gets easier the more you do it and as you gain experience. It has taught me a lot and is a unique experience that I really enjoy. I love getting to know the staff, professors and dean on a personal level. Not many students get this opportunity and I feel very fortunate to have been awarded it,” said Gregory.  

All photos by Dan Jahn