The Marching Band on the steps of Northrop Plaza

Marching toward a more efficient future

CSE student balances academics with being the University’s drum major

Chamberlain Gregg loves generating ideas, whether it’s a new 3D printing design or a plan to make business operations more efficient—or, ways to boost morale amid the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ 320-member marching band. The junior from Minneapolis is the University’s 64th drum major, and he’s also a College of Science and Engineering student majoring in industrial and systems engineering. 

Gregg, a recipient of both the Pride of Minnesota Band Leadership and Pride of Minnesota Drum Major scholarships, knew he wanted to join the Gopher Marching Band ever since he attended its annual indoor performance at Northrop Auditorium when he was in high school. 

“After seeing that everything I loved to do in high school was bigger and better in college, I just knew I was going to come to the U of M, and I knew I wanted to be in the band,” he said.

As drum major, Gregg spends a lot of time running about the football field on Gopher game days, hyping up the student section, and doing the occasional backflip during pre-game shows—don’t worry, he’s trained in gymnastics. But his responsibilities span much further than that. 

In addition to conducting the band on game days, the drum major is responsible for leading stretching exercises and marching practice during rehearsal, and for speaking on behalf of student band members at public University events.

Double duty

The way Gregg sees it, he’s a student first—but he’s also in a big leadership role. 

“I’m seen as this link between the staff and the students,” he explained. “I’m mostly a student, but I serve as a connection between the two so that we can all get things done in a better way.”

Chamberlain Gregg doing a backflip at a Gopher football game
Gregg performs a backflip on the field before a Gopher football game at TCF Bank Stadium, where he participates in both pre-game and halftime shows. Credit: Gopher Photo

Both performing on the field and leading more than 300 other talented musicians—over 30 percent, by the way, are also CSE students—can be physically and mentally grueling, but Gregg makes a point to tackle his marching band activities and his academics one at a time.

“I’m always doing something,” he said. “In any of my free time, I’m either thinking about new things for the band, or I’m thinking about how I can stay ahead in school so I can be ahead for the band.”

Gregg is also involved in Kappa Kappa Psi, a fraternity that raises money for music programs at the University.

When asked his favorite part of being a drum major, Gregg said it was interacting with and getting to know his fellow band members from a new perspective. 

“No matter how little it might be, every day I get to impact the whole band and everybody’s lives,” he said.

“I normally wouldn’t get to know them very well, but we’re united by this random thing we do together on the field," Gregg said. "It’s really awesome to get to know so many people on campus and impact campus together in such a meaningful way.”

One of Gregg’s goals as drum major is to facilitate more engagement with the Gopher football team, spirit squad, and the Twin Cities campus community at large. He hopes to arrange events where other U of M students can meet the band and host more accessible on-campus performances, such as free pop-up "flash bands" on the mall.  

“With most of our performances, you have to pay to see us,” Gregg said. “For example, to watch out halftime show, you have to buy a football ticket. So, we want to do what we can to engage with everybody.”

Engineering efficiency

Of all the skills his drum major status has helped him hone, Gregg said interpersonal communication has been the most important, especially in preparing for more involved leadership roles in the workplace. 

“Knowing so many people in the band is a big challenge,” he said. “It gives me a lot of practice with actually talking to people and tending to their needs.”

After graduation, Gregg hopes to work in operations research. This field involves using math and analytics to come up with ways companies can make their processes more efficient. 

It was this sort of problem solving that originally piqued his interest in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) during his freshman year, when he was undecided on his major at the college. 

“My advisor and I went through all of the majors in CSE, and ISyE was what really stood out to me,” Gregg said. “It’s about efficiency, and whether I’m creating something new or modifying something that already exists, I like the idea of slimming down a process.”

This year, he is excited to build on the concepts he’s learned in the classroom with physical models. Gregg, who 3D prints and laser cuts in his free time, is hoping to apply those skills in a professional setting by using 3D printers to visually represent business models. 

Throughout his future career, Gregg said he wants to stay involved in music. Whether that means starting a band with friends, joining the U of M alumni band, or helping select the University’s next drum major, he hopes to continue creating—and performing. 

Story by Olivia Hultgren

Catch Chamberlain Gregg in action... the University’s 58th annual Marching Band indoor concert, held in Northrop Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 24. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Northrop website.

If you’d like to support students in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website.