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.
The only person in her family who plays an instrument, Rachel Alvarez found a passion for marching band while attending Battle High School in Columbia. Alvarez enjoyed those experiences so much that she told herself that she would continue to pursue that passion at college.
So when Alvarez made the decision to attend the University of Missouri, joining Marching Mizzou was at the top of her list.
“I had done concert band in middle school, but once I joined marching band, I knew I had found something that I really enjoyed,” Alvarez said. “Being a member of Marching Mizzou has been such a rewarding experience. I never dreamed I would accomplish some of the stuff that I have been able to, such as marching in Arrowhead Stadium.”
Alvarez, a junior natural resource science and management major, began playing the tuba in the sixth grade. While the tuba wasn’t her first choice, her stellar scores with the instrument were enough to convince her band director that she should play it.
“During my tryouts, the tuba wasn’t even in my top three preferred instruments,” Alvarez said. “However, I received some really good scores with the tuba and the next thing I knew I was playing it full-time.”
Alvarez plays a variety of instruments, including the trombone, baritone, auxiliary percussion and a little bit of guitar. She plays the sousaphone for Marching Mizzou. The sousaphone is a brass instrument in the tuba family designed to be easier to play while marching.
“I’ve just always liked music a lot,” said Alvarez, who is in her third year of playing with Marching Mizzou. “The fact that I get to play at this level, surrounded by such talented band members and friends, is incredible.”
Alvarez said that she wasn’t originally planning on attending to Mizzou. She was interested in pursuing a degree related to zoology and didn’t think MU offered a degree that would fit her interests.
“I had a conversation with a couple different professors at Mizzou who told me about the fisheries and wildlife sciences option within the natural resource science and management degree,” Alvarez said. “I immediately knew I had to attend MU, as the program sounded exactly like what I wanted. It was an even better option than what I had been previously considering.”
The natural resource science and management degree, specifically the fisheries and wildlife sciences emphasis area, has allowed Alvarez to build on her interest of working with animals.
“I developed a pretty big interest in working with animals after watching Steve Irwin quite a bit growing up,” Alvarez said. “I eventually learned about conservation and how I could work with animals through that path. This degree program has opened my eyes to so many opportunities that I can look at after graduation.”
Alvarez has gained valuable hands-on experience through a job with the Columbia Environmental Research Center, too. Part of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the research at the center focuses on environmental contaminants and the effects of habitat changes on different ecosystems.
“My primary role is helping with the different fish research projects that are taking place, including one centered on invasive carp,” Alvarez said. “I really didn’t want to work with fish at first, but I have found a passion in studying the diseases that affect our fish. I’m actually leaning toward eventually pursuing my own research related to fish diseases, especially diseases that are hurting our native fish populations.”
Alvarez added that her USGS coworkers have been incredibly supportive throughout her time with the agency. She said that they’re very excited to see her march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“They’ve been joking about having a livestream set up to watch the parade,” Alvarez said. “They’re just as excited as I am, which is really fun. I never dreamed I would have this opportunity, honestly. I remember crying when they made the announcement that we would be marching during the parade. It’s going to be an incredible experience.”