Music makers

By Rebecca Kirkman

For two alumni, the connection to music—and the TU Marching Band—lasts a lifetime

Towson U marching band trumpet players
Members of the Towson University Marching Band perform at a football game in 2019. (Photo: Kanji Takeno)

The Towson University Marching Band (TUMB) has been defining the college experience for Tiger musicians for more than 40 years.

But for TUMB alumni Jackie Freeburger ’09 and Gary Williams ’09, the connection to the “World-Famous Towson University Marching Band” has continued beyond graduation.

The alumni have each dedicated more than a decade of service to the band in roles that have defined its future for the next generation of Tiger musicians.

We caught up with Freeburger and Williams to hear about their favorite band memories, what they’re doing now and their advice for future TUMB members.

Jackie Freeburger and husband at TU football game

Jackie Freeburger ’09

Music teacher and advancement via individual determination (AVID) coordinator, Ridgely Middle School

Do you still play music?

I am a music teacher at Ridgely Middle School where I teach band, steel drums and AVID. I just had my second baby this past year, so the only music I get to play is with my students!

What was your role in the band as a student?

I started playing alto sax. By my sophomore year, I switched to sousaphone. I played sousa the remainder of my time at TU. In my junior year, I became the sousaphone section leader as well as one of the first student staff members of the TUMB. I worked closely with John Miliauskas with the behind-the-scenes aspects of running a large marching band. During my time as a student, I also oversaw the band cookout each game day.

What are some of your favorite TUMB memories?

I have countless stories including spending my 21st birthday performing at Ravens Stadium for a high school marching band show, playing with Yo-Yo Ma under the baton of Marin Alsop ’16 (Hon.) as the TUMB lined the aisles of the Meyerhoff Symphony Orchestra, playing the national anthem at an Orioles game, performing for the wedding of TU alumni and, of course, marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 
 
The most amazing memory, though, was getting engaged in the middle of Johnny Unitas® Stadium with the entire marching band around me. My husband and I are high school sweethearts who went our separate ways and reconnected 10 years later. Knowing how much my band family meant to me, he secretly called John Miliauskas to tell him his plan. John had him fitted for a uniform and hid him on the field during the halftime performance. I typically ran onto the field to move equipment after the performance, and, as I sprinted onto the field, the whole band took a knee. I was so scared that I ran on too early, and the performance wasn't over. But then...here comes Tim dressed in full uniform. It was then I knew what was happening. 

How have you stayed involved with TUMB?

After graduation, I stayed as the new game day coordinator and managed many of the logistics when it came to feeding the band, game day operations and travel arrangements. I was in the band for five years and continued to work with the TUMB for seven more. 

As our new family began to grow, I stepped away from my role with the TUMB to spend more time with my new little one. I still participate in occasional alumni Pep Band games, including one last winter before COVID-19. There’s nothing like playing a huge sousaphone while six months pregnant!

What advice would you give to new members joining TUMB today?

Do it! I tell my students all the time about how participating in TUMB was the best decision I made as a college student. My high school didn't have a marching band, so I blindly joined the TUMB having never marched before. I learned everything I know and love about band through my time at TU. There is simply nothing like it!

Man with children in marching band outfits

Gary Williams ’09

Lead architect and vice president in emerging solutions, T. Rowe Price

Do you still play music?

I work in the IT field for T. Rowe Price where I focus on bringing new technologies and capabilities into the firm. I'm still involved in music as a marching and brass instructor for the Westminster High School Marching Band. I also run a brass ensemble at my local church, which allows me to still play my trumpet occasionally.

What was your role in the band as a student?

I played trumpet for my first year and was a drum major for the next three. For 16 years, I served on staff for the TUMB, with my most visible role being the "The Voice of the TUMB." So if you've seen the band perform any time recently, that was me saying "...and now please welcome the World-Famous Towson University Marching Band!"

What makes the TUMB experience special?

It's a thrill to perform in front of a crowd, but it's extra special when you can share those moments with a group of people that have worked together to achieve a common goal. Marching band is the perfect example of something that's greater than the sum of its parts. That shared commitment involved is then mixed with pride and support for TU. That's why I think the marching band is really the heart and spirit of TU.

What are some of your favorite band memories?

Mainly the fun times I had with friends making music. Also, a sense of pride knowing I was able to play a small role in helping grow the band into the organization it is today.

The most important thing, however, would be the cute saxophonist I met my sophomore year. We've been together for more than 20 years now and have two beautiful kids who are TUMB fans.

What advice would you give to new members joining the TUMB today?

You're going to have a great time being part of the TUMB! Get ready to make a lot of new friends, many of which you'll stay connected with for life. Every so often, take a second to stop and enjoy the journey because it goes by quick!

catch a performance

Band is Back

Towson University Marching Band performances resumed this spring. See them perform at the 2021 Commencement ceremonies or an upcoming Tigers Athletics event.