Bio: Pride of Oklahoma Drum Major
Name: Kyle Mattingly
Hometown: Noble, Oklahoma
Family: Parents Shelley and Tim Mattingly; brother Brian Mattingly. Shelley played the clarinet in the Pride, while Tim and Brian played the trumpet.
Education: Kyle will earn his Bachelor of Science in environmental sustainability focused in planning and management with a minor in water and sanitation for health and sustainable development. (“I’ve had to practice that,” he said. We believe it.)
This guy’s goose-kicked, high-stepped and strutted his way to the top and can now call himself the Pride of Oklahoma’s one and only drum major for the Fall 2015 football season.
You’ll see him this year leading 350 Pride members down Owen Field, his game-day mace raised high.
But, who is he?
He’s Kyle Mattingly, a Noble native, talented trombonist and five-year member of the band who has music in his bloodlines (both Ma and Pa Mattingly are University of Oklahoma graduates and past members of the Pride). He’s halfway around the world in India now earning credit for his minor, but before he flew out, he took some time to share with Pride fans some little-known facts about himself.
The University of Oklahoma: So, why OU?
Kyle Mattingly: I’m from Noble. It’s where I grew up. My mom went here, my dad went here, my brother went here, so it’s kind of a little bit of a legacy, too. There was no pressure; I could have gone anywhere I wanted.
Plus, my first major was meteorology. And so it’s like: It’s in your backyard. Your parents went here. Your brother goes here. It fit. It was right. It was exactly what I wanted to do.
OU: Who do you look up to?
Mattingly: My dad’s dad; we call him Pawpaw. He spent a good part of his life in the U.S. Army and was a great family man. Meemaw, too. She raised five kids while he was away. He served his country, came home, and for a long time was a deacon in his church. They’ve been married probably over 60 years and are just kind of the ideal, American family — a great example of how you should raise your kids.
The second one — and I’m not cheesing this up; this is 100 percent serious — would probably be the Pride of Oklahoma director, Brian Britt. Honestly, because just seeing the way he can organize and motivate people — I’ve never seen anything like it. He really, really is like a dad away from home.
Tragically, in 2012 a student from Michigan was driving home after a late band practice and they had been really tired and had a fatal car accident. And that really hit home, you know? Someone who lives so far away from us really hit home to him. He sent out an email to us and said, “Listen: What we do is not easy. You can be very tired. And if you’re traveling home for Thanksgiving, Christmas or just for the weekend and you’re feeling tired, No. 1, pull over, take a nap. It’s fine. You’re still going to get home. But if you need a ride, if you’ve gone out and made some poor choices and you need a ride home, you call me. Because I don’t ever want to have to go to a student’s funeral.”
He generally cares that much and he wants to see us do the best we can and make sure we’re all safe and have a good time doing what we love.
OU: Why did you want to be the drum major?
Mattingly: I grew up totally idolizing the drum major and then especially the OU drum major. I could almost embarrassingly report back to like 2004 who all the drum majors have been. I still have videos on my computer of me filming the drum major when I would come to the games, and just watching him conducting and everything. That was a big part of it. You just looked up to him. It was kind of a childhood dream.
Another part of it was coming to OU and having a really great time in the band. The band is so much fun, you can’t even really describe it. You see what the drum major means to all the people in the band. You’re a friend first and a mentor. You’re more of an example, I feel like.
In 2013, I saw things I wanted to change, and fellow Pride members I wanted to help, and students starting to forget what a blessing it was to be a part of the Pride. And then I realized, as I walked into the stadium and we packed up in the tunnels to run out, I just had this switch, a full 180 that I’m not going to get to do this very many more times. How many people in the world get to do this for the university they love so much? You just realize: I love this university like a lot, a lot. And I love this band just as much, if not more. To be able to run out on the field and turn and face down field and then 85,000 people just erupt because they’re excited the band’s here, football’s here, you know it’s time to beat so-and-so and we’re the ones leading the charge ... That’s really exciting, and it’s something you don’t get many times in your life. It was kind of a revelation of my love that I have for this university and for this band. That’s what propelled me into auditioning again and sticking with it and coming back for a senior year.
OU: When you think of a basketball player practicing, he might be shooting free throws. But for you, you’re just standing there goose-stepping or high-kicking and no one is watching. But that’s practice, right?
Mattingly: Yeah, it makes you feel kind of silly when you’re out at the field and there are people just walking and driving by and there I am, no one else at all, just a big open field, with me doing goose-kicks and strutting down and I venture to say some people don’t know what they’re watching. They’re like, “What is he doing? Is he having a seizure? What is happening?” You feel a little silly, but if you want to be confident and go out in front of 85,000 people, you have to be able to do that. Practice makes perfect.
OU: Is there one question you get asked pretty frequently now that you’re the OU drum major?
Mattingly: The No. 1 thing is: Can you do that silly walk? Or it’s something about the silly walk. We call it “the strut.” But to everyone else it’s the silly walk, the back bend, the funny walk. Some people say “the thing where you run down the field and look at the band behind you.” No one really knows exactly what to call it because it’s something kind of strange. Occasionally you get “How do you try out? How do you even get that? Why did you want to do that? Why did you even try out for the band?”
I think it’s cool to see that people are interested in the drum major, that they’re interested in the band as well. The band is the picture and the drum major is just the frame. I’m there to do the silly walk. I’m there to wave my arms around. And otherwise, the band is the show. They’re the ones making the music. You’re not a band without music. They’re the ones putting in just as many hours as I am. I don’t want the silly walk to take away from what they’re doing.
OU: This talent that you have as a drum major, that’s very in-your-face; you put it on display for 85,000 people each week. Do you have any hidden talents? Anything people wouldn’t expect from you?
Mattingly: The only thing I can think is maybe I can do accents pretty well? Well you see, in Mesoland, Russia, you no play band; band play you.
I also find laughs very fascinating. I know that’s really strange. But they’re funny. Laughs are funny. There was a girl in high school, ... [LISTEN BELOW]
OU: This was your third time trying out for drum major. How did you prepare for auditions and get better at the things the judges were looking for?
Mattingly: I think there are three things I can think of right off the bat that the directors and the other students are looking for. First, can you conduct? Can you do the high kicks? Can you do the strut?
Two: How you carry yourself. Can you stand on the ladder and project confidence as you’re leading the band? Part of it is how you act toward fans and other students, and how you carry yourself in general.
Then, the rapport that you have with the band and the relationships you’ve made, the rapport you have with the director.
There’s not a whole lot you can do about the latter except put yourself in the position to lead and step up, to put yourself out there and make those relationships. When it comes to how you carry yourself I think these things can be learned, but it’s always something that’s come very naturally to me. I was drum major in high school, so just standing up on the ladder and being able to call up a tune and conduct it and motivate others in practice and on the game day has just come very naturally. My mom is a teacher, my dad’s a teacher, my brother’s going to seminary to be a youth director, so a teacher of sorts … It’s in my blood, I guess.
But then lastly: skills. That’s my weakest point, personally. I’m not a music major, and I’m not a conducting expert by any means. Michael Hancock, assistant director of Bands, and Brian Wolfe, assistant director of Athletic Bands, have helped me greatly.
It’s about your condition, too. You have to be in shape and strong and flexible. You just have to take plenty of time to work out. I’ve been doing the INSANITY workout trying to get my legs and back strong. You need to work on cardio, too, making sure you can do goose kicks for five sets of eight, for probably a good minute. Just being able to sit there and do high kicks isn’t easy. And then to turn around and be able to do the strut down the field after that ... You need to really be in shape, really be in condition and strong.
OU: Do you ever get tired of conducting “Boomer Sooner” at away games?
Mattingly: Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, I don’t know how other people feel about it, but that is one of my favorite things. It is one of the most passive-aggressive ways to be like “We are here. We are loud. And we’re kickin’ your butt.” And there’s been times, especially when we go to Oklahoma State University, it’s a point to play it as many times as we can. I think we almost broke 100 two years ago.
OU: When you’re not goose-stepping in an empty field, what are you up to?
Mattingly: I’m an insanely huge soccer fan. I love to play soccer indoors in Oklahoma City about once a week and then once during the week with some other students here at OU. And then if there’s a soccer game on I’m probably watching it. I don’t care if I like the teams or not, I’m probably watching. Sports in general, really. I’m always up to try something new. And of course just hanging out with friends, just playing. I’m not a huge video game fan, but when I am playing I’m probably playing FIFA.
OU: Have you ever tried to do the strut or high kick and just have an epic drum major fail?
Mattingly: You’re always wanting to get further and further back. Because if you can get more flexible, and the further back you’re comfortable with, that’s the better your strut’s going to be on game day. So sometimes you practice and maybe your legs are tired because you worked out a little bit too hard or just too many times in one day. Or sometimes your legs just most literally give out from under you, and you just eat it. And that’s whenever it’s good there’s not 85,000 people there around you, that you’re there by yourself. Learn from failure and pick yourself up and do it again. Literally dust the dirt off. You have to push and you have to try to get that head back as far as you can. You’ll fall a few times but if you can even get back one more inch every time you practice, then game day, it’s going to be there.
OU: You’re so close to graduating! What’s your dream job?
Mattingly: There’s an organization in Oklahoma City called Water4. They work on drilling and developing wells in developing countries. They work on the adage “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” They’ll go into countries and they’ll teach people how to manually drill wells. They’ll go down 85 feet to get water just using hand drills. You’ll turn it five times, bring it all up, dump the dirt out and send it back down. It takes several weeks sometimes to drill one well.
They set up businesses with locals in Africa, Central America, South America, and teach them accounting. It helps to stimulate commerce in the area and money flow. Not only are you getting water for places that really need clean and safe water, but you’re also getting people jobs. You’re stimulating their economy. For a small fee they buy all the materials they need from you, and you provide them with the education they need to use it. And then once you leave, they have a company that they go and drill wells in villages for a small fee. Instead of drilling one well that services maybe 200 people, you give other people the tools they need to provide water for thousands.
OU: Who would play you in a movie about your life? (Someone with a really great accent, I hope!)
Mattingly: Some people say I look like Justin Timberlake. I don’t really see it. I think it’s just the curly blond hair?
Mattingly: Yes. Uniforms are not cheap. Of course we are happy for any kind of support, whether it’s $5 or $5,000. We’re one of the very few bands in the nation that travels to every single away game. And we usually take all 300 of us to Dallas, OSU when we play in Stillwater, and TCU when we play in Fort Worth, and then to the Bowl Game. And that’s very expensive to do. We’re fortunate to have a huge fan base, but the more support we have, the better we can represent OU and the better shows we can put on. So if there’s anyone out there who would be interested in donating and being a supporter of the Pride, definitely check that out.
OU: What’s the best thing about being drum major so far?
Mattingly: That’s an interesting question for right now because most of it has just been personal prep. We did the Red-White spring game and that was a ton of fun. Before, I was kind of nervous, a little apprehensive, but once you get up in front of some of your fellow band members and you put the headset on and get a feel for how the game runs and everything, it calms a little bit of your nerves.
This isn’t something specific to drum major, but it’s something that I’ve always really enjoyed: I love first-year Pride members. Not to say returning members aren’t as excited, or aren’t as bright eyed and bushy tailed ... But there are a lot of students who are apprehensive because they joined the band because that’s what they did in high school, but they’ve never really looked forward to being in the Pride. They have that nervous look. I love to go up and talk to those guys and girls and be like “Hey! Are you excited!? We’re going to have a great time!” And I just try to introduce them to new people — people in their section, people outside of their section who they can get a long with. Also to see those members who are really excited because this is something they’ve always wanted to do. We announce the band, then that night we meet up and the drums kick us off and we play “Boomer.” That’s like the first thing we do as the band. And to see everyone super excited … They don’t know “Boomer Sooner” yet. They don’t have it memorized. The other 150-200 returning members do. So that’s always fun. It’s like “Oh my gosh, this is actually happening! I’m actually in the Pride of Oklahoma!” And to see all those excited calls home to Mom.
OU: I love that you walk up to those people who look a little unsure. I bet that just makes their day.
Mattingly: I hope so. I think that there are some people who are in the band and they struggle to really connect. They don’t get the full experience. It’s just “going to band” for them. But if you can make that connection, you make even one friend who you’re really excited to show up and hang out and march and go to football games with, and sweat in your uniform with, then it’s so much better and so much more fun. To be able to identify those people and go up and say “Hey, are you having fun at camp so far? What’s been your favorite thing you’ve done so far?” and then introduce them to someone and maybe tap their section leader and introduce them ... It’s something I really enjoy.
OU: If you could meet one person (or a group of people) who would it be?
Mattingly: I would really like to go to Everton, which is in Liverpool, England. I’d probably go and hang out with the Everton soccer team in Goodison Park and just meet some of those guys, like Tim Howard, the U.S. goal keeper.
Watch for Mattingly on the field this fall and mark your calendars for the University of Oklahoma's first game of the season against Akron at 6 p.m. Sept. 5 at home.