Growing up, Howard Lin always watched America’s Got Talent.
Tuesday night, he got to be featured on it.
The drum major of UF’s Pride of the Sunshine marching band, along with 50 other bandmates, shot promotional videos and played songs like “Let’s Go Gators” and “You Can Call Me Al” at America’s Got Talent’s live-auditions in Jacksonville in January.
Lin, a 21-year-old UF advertising fifth year, said although the Pride of the Sunshine was not auditioning for the show itself, it was an amazing experience to be a part of.
“On national TV, seeing the university get advertised as well as the band was really cool,” he said.
Associate Director of Bands Jay Watkins said producers of the popular competition series reached out to UF’s marching band — made up of 365 undergraduate and graduate students with more than 100 different majors — in December. They said they’ve wanted to feature a college marching band on their show for years.
During the first weekend of January, a film crew for the show flew to Gainesville to film the Pride of the Sunshine performing in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. For the promotional video, the marching band played the song “Apache” and learned a new routine, where they spelled out “AGT” with their bodies, which Watkins said took a short amount of time.
That same weekend, Watkins said about 50 section leaders, including Lin, traveled to Jacksonville for the live auditions.
“It puts the gator branding out in front of an international audience, which can only help the university,” he said.
This is not the first time UF’s marching band has been internationally recognized for their talents. Watkins said the Gator band performed at the the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The Pride of the Sunshine, which played at the Pre-Opening Ceremony Concert and the Parade of Nations, was the only U.S. band asked to perform.
Watkins said he thinks the performance at the Olympics may have helped the marching band get the America’s Got Talent gig, since the show — currently hosted by Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Howie Mandel and Mel B — was originally based in London.
“I think it represents the whole university really well,” Watkins said.
Pride of the Sunshine alumnus Michael Marder, who played the mellophone for the band during his four years at UF, said being featured on America’s Got Talent was just one of the many amazing aspects of being a part of the group.
“It was probably one of the best decisions of my life to this point to join Gator band,” the 23-year-old said. “It was honestly the time of my life.