No two days in Rudy Morr’s life as an Illinois State student look exactly alike. From new class activities to spur-of-the-moment lunch plans, each day is different. One thing that stays constant? Two hours of marching band practice every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Morr, a junior finance and insurance major and math minor from Chillicothe, is the drum captain for the University’s Big Red Marching Machine (BRMM). In addition to classes, Morr balances coordinating the drum section of the band and pursuing out-of-class academic work.
On November 12 University Marketing and Communications senior photographer Lyndsie Schlink followed Morr through a day in his life as a student and member of the Big Red Marching Machine.
Morr starts his day with class from 9:30 to 10:40—a math course, required for his minor. Although Morr does not prefer morning classes, his interest in the subject motivates him to make the drive to attend the class in person, despite having a Zoom option.
“I went into the College of Business when I first came to ISU and I picked finance because it was the most ‘math’ one, and that’s my best subject,” Morr said. “I prefer being in person. It feels more like a full experience, and you’re forced to pay attention.”
After class Morr heads back to his apartment where he quickly starts work on the FDIC Academic Challenge, a team competition for undergraduate students that provides them the chance to answer real-world policy questions regarding the banking industry.
Morr has been working alongside other Illinois State students on the challenge for the past three or four weeks. “My finance professor contacted me about doing it,” Morr said, “And I wasn’t sure if I could, so I didn’t respond for a while, but I was like, ‘You know what? Sure.’ And joining was a good idea. Obviously, I was already busy, so this added a layer of stress but I think in the long run, it’s worth it.”
The downtime he has in between classes provides Morr with a couple of hours to alternate between work on the challenge and class assignments. During this time he also breaks for lunch.
“This lunch was hot dogs, which is common. I usually have stuff that’s really quick and easy to make, but still constitutes a full meal,” Morr said.
Should he have the time for a more labor-intensive meal, however, Morr’s lunch might differ: “I do make a mean burger.”
Following his meal Morr returns to campus at 2 p.m. for a major-specific class: Introduction to Risk Management and Insurance.
Class sessions for this course are heavily focused on partner and group work as 15 to 30 minutes of each class are spent working through activities that apply course material to different scenarios. On this day students acted as claims representatives and worked together to develop questions to ask someone filing a claim.
After class Morr heads to Redbird Arena for band practice. He typically arrives 30 to 40 minutes early, grabbing his equipment upon arrival and then catching up with his bandmates.
As the band’s drum captain, Morr oversees the four drum sections of the band—the bass; quads; cymbals; and Morr’s instrument, the snares. The drum section has 36 members, and Morr’s snares group has eight.
Morr also acts as the section leader. “If you ever go watch us perform and you hear the whistle and four hits on a drum, that’s me.”
As captain and section leader, Morr is the first contact when BRMM Director Dr. Mack Wood and other section leaders need to communicate with the drum section.
“I also do a lot on the programming side for the football games,” Morr said. “I decide what the drumline players do so I have a lot of trying to figure that out every day.”
Band rehearsals typically take two hours, from 4 to 6 p.m., but the drum section can stay for up to an hour and a half longer on weeks when there are football games. These weeks can get particularly stressful for Morr as he and his section learn material for a new, unique halftime performance theme.
“Every football game, we have a different halftime show,” Morr said. “The first one was a tribute to bands from Illinois, one was from music from different movies, then there was a Beatles show. This last week we were practicing for our last show where the seniors get to pick what we play.”
Although Morr will not miss the pressures of practicing new routines with quick turnaround times, the football season’s end is bittersweet. “It will be nice to have the time back, but I’ll miss doing it.”
After a few hours of playing, Morr revisits the FDIC Academic Challenge, this time with his teammates and faculty advisor, Dr. Vladimir Kotomin, associate professor of finance. At the time of the photo, Morr’s team had just over a week left before the first round’s deadline on November 19. Prior to the deadline, the group met for an hour every Wednesday night.
At meetings the group splits into two groups. One group (pictured on the far left) works on data analysis while Morr’s group focuses on research and writing. The groups work to address this year’s topic: “The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Banking Sector.”
“The question was, ‘How did the pandemic affect the banking industry?’ So researching that I’ve learned a lot about just the banking industry in general. It has been a good learning experience,” Morr said, “And of course, it’ll make a nice line on the resume.”
Finally, Morr is able to take some time to eat. He prefers to stick to the more affordable option of cooking his own meals at home, “So this wasn’t a normal Wednesday for me, per se. This was out of necessity; I just didn’t have time to stop at home.”
On this night he grabbed a “Pick Your Pair” meal from Potbelly opting for a half sandwich that he paired with a cup of mac and cheese, a selection Morr said you can’t go to Potbelly without getting.
Morr ended his day of classes, math, and music with even more music, rehearsing with the University Band from 7 to 9 p.m. for a concert that took place November 16. Morr was a member of the University Band for a semester his first year and admitted to missing it since, so he was excited when a member asked him to take up a role for the concert.
“One of the graduate assistants came up to me the Wednesday before this and said, ‘Hey, we don’t have any people to do this, would you like to?’ So, on top of my already busy schedule, I was like, ‘You know what? Sure,'” Morr said. “And now I’m thinking about doing it next semester. I just cannot wait for them to tell me they need people again.”
This short-lived membership was an exciting addition to Morr’s average Wednesday night plans.
“After BRMM I would go home, eat dinner, and then do whatever else I have to get done, so this was more exciting,” Morr said. “This was a busy, busy day for me, but it made me feel productive, and feeling productive feels good.”