Founded in 1885, Marching Mizzou is the marching band for the University of Missouri. With 350 members, the band features students from nearly every major at Mizzou – including numerous students from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. For the first time in the band’s history, Marching Mizzou will participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Support Marching Mizzou by tuning into the parade, which will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Nov. 24.
As a fifth grader, Ryan Chapski was encouraged by his family to start playing an instrument. Chapski said the decision of which instrument to pick was fairly straightforward; his brother had previously played the trombone and they still owned it.
There was also one more added benefit.
“I’ll be honest, in my fifth-grade mind, the best part of playing the trombone was the fact that I could bump my classmates with the slide,” Chapski joked.
While the trombone did offer Chapski the opportunity for hijinks, he soon found out that he had a knack for playing the instrument and eventually joined his high school’s marching band. Chapski attended Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
“I really enjoyed marching band in high school,” Chapski said. “I liked that I could be up and moving around while playing. When I came to the University of Missouri, I knew that there was a great marching band, so I thought I might as well throw my name in the hat and see what would happen.”
Chapski, a sophomore animal sciences major, is in his second year as a member of Marching Mizzou. He said he has enjoyed being part of such a historic band – especially one that continues to honor years of tradition.
“It’s really rewarding to be a part of something so steeped in tradition,” Chapski said. “We’re a big family at the end of the day, and it’s cool to be part of something so historic.”
Chapski said that he was considering a handful of options when he began his college search, with his primary interests being animals and computers. A high school job at a local zoo showed him that he didn’t want to just sit at a desk all day.
“I definitely knew I wanted the freedom to be able to get out and about,” Chapski said. “Once I started narrowing things down, pursuing a degree related to animals made the most sense.”
Chapski was accepted into the Pre-Veterinary Medical Scholars Program at MU, which is an early assurance of admission program for pre-veterinary students on the Mizzou campus. That made his college decision fairly easy, too.
“My ultimate goal is to become a veterinarian,” Chapski said. “The scholars program is what obviously pushed me toward Mizzou. Things lined up perfectly and it was an easy choice at the end of the day.”
Chapski said the hands-on aspect of the animal sciences degree program has been vital during his time at MU. He has already gained valuable experiences just two years into his degree.
“It’s been really cool so far,” Chapski said. “Coming from Chicago, I didn’t have any farm experience – and one of my first labs had me going out and learning about livestock. I remember calling home and telling everyone I could that I just spent class with my hand in a cow.
“I just love the hands-on approach. No one cared that I didn’t have any agriculture or farm experience. They take each student from where they’re at and put us all on the same path.”
Along with Marching Mizzou, Chapski is a part of a handful of clubs at MU, including the Pre-Veterinary Club, Litton Leadership Scholars and the Student Association for Fire Ecology (SAFE). While he is invested in each group, he said Marching Mizzou has been his primary focus as the band prepares for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of work in preparation for the parade,” Chapski said. “We’re doing quite a bit to get into shape since it’s such a long march. We’ve also been doing a lot to make sure our turns and our routine are perfect. It’s tough work but it’s also really exciting.
“This entire experience is wild, honestly. To be on a national stage where there’s an actual chance of my friends seeing me on TV, it will give me the ultimate bragging rights. It’s going to be a blast.”