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A Unique Performer: Emily Tutnick’s road to becoming the USC Marching Band’s twirler

first_imgBeing the USC twirler Gameday “[ASU] was a stepping stone for me to come to USC,” Tutnick said. “That’s probably one of my favorite parts, seeing everybody getting hyped up and tailgating and having a really good time before the game starts,” she said. Tutnick spends upwards of 20 hours per week on perfecting her craft. At practice, she typically focuses on set routines that she will use in competition, rather than on the field. In competitions, twirlers are deducted points for mistakes, so she must stick to a set routine. During her senior year of high school, Tutnick applied to USC with dreams of twirling for the Trojan Marching Band. When she didn’t get in, she attended Arizona State to focus on academics with her sights still set on being a Trojan. Becoming the USC twirler Tutnick and the band perform for the majority of the day and don’t get to relax until after the postgame concert — which, as Tutnick attests, is much more enjoyable when USC wins. The band gathers around the student section and triumphantly plays songs that the crowd wants to hear. Without fail, the band plays the alma mater and “Fight Song,” but this time allows for the band to incorporate popular songs like “Heartbreaker.” But Tutnick still needed to try out. She showed up to Brittingham Field one day over the summer and performed in front of the marching band. Keeping in line with its culture, the decision was up to the student members. “[The band] is really student-oriented, which is cool,” Tutnick said. “But it was really nerve-wracking being judged by [my] peers.” The band members erupted into cheers as Tutnick bowed to close her tryout performance. Eight years of twirling experience had led to this moment. Before fans even consider rolling out of bed and sporting their USC attire on gameday, Tutnick is already hard at work with the Trojan Marching Band. Practice starts at 6:30 a.m. before getting into the various festivities of the day. As many professional baseball players do by hitting off a tee to start practice, Tutnick begins practices by rehearsing the most fundamental skills of twirling before getting to the flashy, “big” tricks. “When you play basketball and you dribble the ball, you dribble every single day,” Tutnick said. “It’s a basic level skill. I do that too, but just with twirling.” Achieving her goal of twirling for USC hasn’t slowed down Tutnick’s mental and physical preparation. Two batons float down from 20 feet in the air and hit the grass after flying in and out of USC twirler Emily Tutnick’s hands for a solid minute while the Trojan Marching Band plays “Tribute to Troy” in the background. She grabs the last baton before it hits the ground and wraps up her routine with a spin and a bow, as if the drops were all planned. Although many aspects are similar between the two settings in which she performs, Tutnick engages in a different mindset during a performance at a USC football game in front of the roaring crowd of the Coliseum. Tutnick walks to her coach, Liane Aramaki, breathing heavily with the same natural smile she keeps on her face while performing. Aramaki hands her a water bottle and a towel, which Tutnick accepts with the fierce intensity of a fighter between rounds. It’s a typical Tuesday evening band practice at Cromwell Field, and Tutnick, now a sophomore, is preparing for USC’s homecoming football game, where she will entertain tens of thousands of fans before kickoff and during halftime. After eight years of field and competitive twirling, she sees the Coliseum stage as the peak of her twirling career. “[Tutnick is] an athlete who loves to perform [and] works diligently to perfect the skills of her sport,” Aramaki said. “Emily started twirling at a much older age than a lot of her competitors, and she was very adamant in being able to compete at the elite level in a very short time,” Aramaki said. “She had also once said that she would be the featured twirler for the USC Trojan Marching Band, and she would do whatever it took to get there.” “I really want younger girls that see us as college university twirlers to be able to say ‘I wanna go there’ or ‘I wanna be like [her],” Tutnick said. Though she strives for perfection in every aspect of her routine, mistakes happen. To Tutnick, it doesn’t matter how she falls, but rather how she gets up.   “If I drop [the baton] on the field, I will attempt to make it look like I did it on purpose rather than just looking at it and picking it up and moving on,” Tutnick said. Twirler mentality Fans and alumni come up to Tutnick at rallies and voice their satisfaction in finally having a twirler back in the marching band. Up until 2013, the Trojan Marching Band had one to  four twirlers each year. However, the last five years saw a blank space on the field where Tutnick now stands with her gold attire reflecting the Coliseum lights amidst a sea of red when the band formation spells out “Trojans.” “Coming to USC was not only because I wanted to,” she said. “It’s because it’s good for the community, and it creates this image that another twirler can come in after me.” “Field twirling is different because I have creative freedom, so I get to have fun,” Tutnick said. It has taken some time, but Emily Tutnick has taken the role she always wanted. (Emily Smith/Daily Trojan) USC has a reputation in the twirling community for being extremely hard to get into and the band has no way of pulling applications through. USC is seen as a far reach and many twirlers are discouraged from applying. Tutnick didn’t want it to stay that way. “The night games can be like 17 hours,” Tutnick said. “It’s really long, but I have so much fun, so it’s all worth it.” All of this makes for a long Saturday, but Tutnick wouldn’t have it any other way. While Tutnick is proud to twirl for her school, she sees a greater need to represent other twirlers. Tutnick started as a gymnast when she was just two-years-old, but she stuck with the sport for 10 years. She always thought her tumbling skills would carry her into high school cheerleading until her mother didn’t want her to. They decided to find another way for her to represent her school, and Tutnick fell in love with twirling while in a small baton class in Phoenix. Having built a relationship with the marching band during recruitment, she reached out when she received her acceptance to transfer to USC as an international relations global business major, after one year at ASU. Tutnick wants the little 10-year old girls who slick their hair back in tight buns and spend hours juggling batons to set their goals and accomplish them — just like she did. While the Spirit of Troy has a packed day with many performances, Tutnick’s favorite aspect of the bands pregame rituals is the march to the Coliseum. The band walks through campus on its way to the game blaring popular Trojan classics including “Tribute to Troy” and “Fight On.” last_img

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