USC Trojan Marching Band on “Glee” – Pt. 2

Photo by Brett Padelford

All of America will be glued to the television this Sunday, Feb. 6, for the Super Bowl—but after the game marching band fans can stay tuned for a special episode of “Glee,” featuring the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band (TMB) reprising its role as the fictional McKinley High School Band.

Thirty members of the TMB will be featured in a mash-up of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll,” dancing and marching on a foggy football field among most of the “Glee” cast heavily made up to look like Zombies.

“I’m super excited; I can’t wait for it to air,” says Jessica Jones, a junior and tuba player in the TMB who will appear on the show. “I’m a huge football fan, and I feel terrible because I typically am excited to watch the Super Bowl, but it’s not that big a deal to me this time.”

For Jones, who previously marched in the high school marching band in the small town of Springboro, Ohio, this episode of “Glee” is her first big “Hollywood gig” with the TMB—although many of her bandmates were a part of the “4 Minutes” production number for the show’s “The Power of Madonna” episode in 2010.

Choreographer and co-producer Zach Woodlee worked with the TMB both times, receiving high praise from the band members, who enjoyed his sense of humor and work ethic.

“Zack definitely remembered people and their names from last time, and he learned all of the new names and would call us by our names during the rehearsal,” Jones says. “He was amazing; he was so much fun. He made you want to be there so much, and even when you had to do things over and over, he made it very nice and welcoming.”

Woodlee commented after the TMB’s last appearance that he hoped to work with them again.

“I think I’d beg—I really would,” Woodlee said in 2010. “You’ve already got something good, so why change it up? I think if [the McKinley Band] ever did come back, the only way we could do it was to get the USC Band back. Personally, I’d say if we can’t get them, we’d wait until we could.”

However this time it was the band waiting for the cast to be available. After the band rehearsed with Woodlee in early December, the day of shooting later that week had to be canceled due to an outbreak of tonsillitis among the cast and crew. The shoot was rescheduled for January, just as the USC students returned from winter break.

The band arrived that afternoon at Cabrillo High School in Long Beach and went right into rehearsal with the cast—who took the time to get to know the TMB students around them in the formations. Several cast and crew members were interested in Jones’ tuba, and she met many of the show’s stars, including Harry Shum Jr., Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Heather Morris and Ashley Fink.

“I thought I would be more star-struck, but they made us feel like one of them, like friends they had known forever,” says Jones, who has been a big fan of “Glee” since the show’s premiere in 2009. “Many of them went out of their way to make the band feel welcome.”

Filming the musical number took until 11 p.m., and then most of the band members stayed to be extras in additional scenes throughout the episode that showed the crowd and people on the sidelines of the field, including the band. The TMB finally returned to USC’s campus at 7:30 a.m. the next morning.

Nicknamed “Hollywood’s Band,” the TMB has made countless television appearances for reality and awards shows including the 2009 Academy Awards and Grammy Awards, “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars,” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” For scripted shows, their recent roles other than “Glee” include “How I Met Your Mother,” “’til Death,” and “Scrubs.”

The “Thriller/Head Will Roll” mash-up will air as part of the “Glee” episode entitled “The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle” on February 6, 2011, following the Super Bowl, and has been reported to be the most expensive post-Super Bowl television episode in history.

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.