McBride experiences national championship as member of Redcoat Band

Updated: Jan 25


Blake McBride, middle, in Lucas Oil Stadium with two bandmates after winning the championship

t’s been a little more than a week since the University of Georgia Bulldogs brought back a national championship to The Peach State, and most fans are still as pumped about the win today as they were last Monday. That is especially true for one local, Blake McBride. He’s currently studying at UGA and, as a member of the Redcoat Band, had a front row seat to the historic season, including the victory over Alabama for the title. The Chronicle’s Halei Lamb interviewed him Monday for his personal perspective.

Tell our readers about yourself. What’s your name, how old are you, where are you from, who are some of your family members, what year are you and what are you studying at Georgia, and what are your future plans? Also, please briefly explain your history with band—how you got started, the instruments you’ve played, the instrument you play now, etc.

McBride: My name is Blake McBride, the son of Amy and Jim McBride. I am 21-years-old from Stillmore currently in my junior year studying music at University of Georgia. In the future, I hope to become a band director, just like my father, and eventually return to the Emanuel County area to teach. My dad began teaching me trumpet from a young age. I believe I was in kindergarten when he gave me my first “lesson.” I grew up loving music, learning as many instruments as I could, and began playing in the band at ECI, where my dad taught at the time, as soon as I was able. When I went from being homeschooled to attending Jenkins County High School, I began the marching band there, and absolutely loved it. I have been in the music program at UGA since I started attending the University in 2019, but this is my first year as a member of the Redcoats.

When and how did you become involved with the Redcoat Band, and what has your overall experience been like so far?

McBride: I reached out in April to the director of Redcoats, Brett Bawcum, searching for a spot in the band, and he offered me a position as one of the first trumpet players. I have been in this position ever since. It has been an incredible experience getting to perform with and in front of so many people. I think in all my years marching with both ECI and Jenkins County, the largest band I have ever been a part of has been 30 to 40 people. There were over 450 Redcoats this year with 66 trumpets, so being able to perform with such a large group was a completely new experience that I loved. On top of that, performing in front of a sold out stadium that has a capacity of more than 90,000 is just unreal.

When, if at all, during this season did you start to realize, “Hey… We could actually win this thing!?”

McBride: As a lifelong Georgia fan, I was really nervous to get my hopes up too high too soon. I never really wanted to say, “We could actually win this thing” until the clock said 0:00 in Indianapolis but going into this season, we always have the dream that this could be our year. We really saw that become a greater and greater possibility when we beat Clemson, but also when we demolished a top-10 Arkansas team, then sure enough, this was our year.

What is the most memorable moment of this season for you—excluding the championship?

McBride: I think there were two big moments for me. As a Georgia fan in general, it was Arkansas’s opening drive when the crowd at Sanford stadium was so loud we forced two false starts in a row to start off the game. More specifically as a Redcoat, I think it was running onto the field for the pregame show at the season opener against Clemson. This was my very first performance as a Redcoat, and the roar of the crowd was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I have performed in front of large crowds before, including a couple of state championships with ECI in 2007, 2008, and 2012 and as much love as I have for the fans at Roundtree Stadium, this was just on another level.

Blake McBride, at right, after beating Charleston Southern for the last home game of the season

The championship game itself… Tell us about your experience. When did you guys leave? What was the halftime show like, and what kind of preparation went into it? What was the atmosphere like, and how did you feel when UGA won?

McBride: This was truly a whirlwind of a trip. We began with a couple of rehearsals on Friday and Saturday leading up to the game to make sure we were ready. We then got on our buses and left Athens at 3 a.m. Sunday morning, which allowed us to arrive in Indianapolis early Sunday evening to get moved into our hotels and rest up for the big day on Monday, which consisted of a performance at the FanFest that morning and, of course, the game. The atmosphere was incredible. The entirety of downtown Indianapolis was decked out for the game, including large banners on the sides of nearly every building in the area. The halftime show was fun to play as we did excerpts from our “Soul” show, which we had premiered earlier in the season at Sanford Stadium. All in all, it was just an incredible experience that became even greater as the game ended and we could see “Georgia Bulldogs: 2022 National Champions” on the jumbotron. That was something I had waited 21 years to see with many fans waiting even longer, and it was just unbelievable that I got to witness that in person.

As a member of the band, how do you think you contributed to the Bulldogs on the field, particularly on the biggest stage in Indianapolis?

McBride: I think the band is a crucial part in the outcome of the game. No, I am not nearly as important as, say, Jordan Davis, but the crowds are a huge factor on gameday, and my job in the band is to make sure the crowd is loud and excited throughout the whole game. I think what I said earlier about Arkansas is evidence of that. The noise of the crowd cost our opponents 10 yards, and that was just the beginning of the game. Home field advantage is such a huge part of sports, especially football, because of what the crowd and the band can do to encourage the home team and intimidate the opposing team. We were able to bring a little bit of that home field advantage to Lucas Oil Stadium, which motivated our Bulldogs and intimidated the opposing Tide.

In your own words, tell everybody what this win means to you and how it will stick with you in the future.

McBride: This win means a lot. I think the reason this means so much is because we have been such a good team for such a long time, a great team even. We have come so close for so many years, but despite our greatness, have never been good enough. Now, for once, we have made it over the hump and can finally be called national champs, which is such a good feeling.

Who have been some of the people who helped get you to where you are today (and by extension of that, to the national championship game)?

McBride: There are so many people that have helped me get to where I am today that I couldn’t thank them all. There are many staff members on Redcoats who teach us and prepare us for every single performance at every single game. There is Gilbert Villagrana, our trumpet tech, and Brett Bawcum and Rob Akrige, who are the two directors of the band. We have a props team that make sure all of our instruments, equipment, and uniforms get to where they need to be. There are also people who organize the logistics of our trips and work with groups like the SEC and college football playoffs to get us where we need to be. The list goes on forever. For me personally, the communities here in both Emanuel and Jenkins counties helped me the most. The people of these communities have always been so supportive of me and the band programs at each high school. If it weren’t for the community members who supported ECI’s Spirit of the Dogs Marching Band, I may have never started out in marching band. Had it not been for the community members who supported Jenkins County’s War Eagle Marching Band, I might have not continued in the activity which led me to UGA. The constant love and support from the community to band program is what helped me get to Indianapolis to be a part of a national championship, and I am forever grateful.

There’s sometimes a stigma that comes along with being a member of the band. Given this platform and given what band has allowed you to be part of lately, what do you want to say to those back at home who are in band right now?

McBride: The stigma that surrounds a band program, especially a high school band program, comes from a lack of understanding about what a band does, how hard a band works, and how important a band is to raising school and community pride. I think if people were to really take a peek under the hood to see how a band actually works, especially on the fraction of a budget many other school activities have, the stigma around band would cease to exist. That being said, if there is anyone in band now, I would encourage them to stay in band and to keep working hard to improve on their instrument every single day. Hard work is rewarded. For me, my hard work has given me the opportunity to perform in front of hundreds of thousands of people and experience a National Championship for UGA, and there is no telling where the Lord will take me from here. As far as the stigma goes, people are always going to have something to say about something you are doing. Remember to keep doing what you love regardless of what people say. If you work hard and never settle for anything short of greatness, then greatness can be achieved.

What is the most memorable moment from the championship game for you?

McBride: I think it was that very first fumble that we recovered for a touchdown. Even though it was called back, it set the tone for the game and gave us the momentum very early on.

What are your plans for the future in regard to UGA/the Redcoat Band?

McBride: I hope to continue as a part of the Redcoat Band. I have one more year left in my degree program, after which we shall see where God leads me.

What was it like to represent Emanuel County in this historic time for UGA?

McBride: There is no doubt that Emanuel County natives have gone on to achieve some incredible feats and will continue to achieve great things in the future. Though I didn’t do anything particularly special, I am so proud that I could represent Emanuel County and be a part of something so incredible for this University and the state of Georgia.

Photos are credited to Cathy Marszalik, official photographer for the season.

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