Marching band gets a taste of Hollywood

by Devin Foxall | 11/14/02 6:00am

Following the premiere of the remake of the horror classic "Carrie," executive producer Mark Stern '85 asked his father, Michael Stern '59, if he had noticed anything interesting about the marching-band music played as Carrie White is named prom queen -- shortly before she starts a bloodbath.

He didn't. "I guess it's an inside joke," the younger Stern said in an interview. A group at Dartmouth contributed to the inside joke, as the soundtrack to the infamous prom scene was performed by the Dartmouth marching band.

Stern said 12 million people watched the movie, which aired on NBC on Nov. 4, and that, chances are, someone thought of Dartmouth.

In the remake, as telekinetic social-outcast Carrie is announced prom royalty, a recording of the Dartmouth matching band's fierce rendition of "Dartmouth's In Town Again" fills the room. The fight-song merges into the "Dartmouth Touchdown Song." Then, while Chris and Billy argue over pulling the rope that will dump pig's blood on Carrie, "As the Backs Go Tearing By" fills the ears of prom-goers.

Stern said the script called for a school song played by a marching band, but that he couldn't find a "good marching-band sound." As Dartmouth's marching band was the only one that Stern knew of, he got in touch with Max Culpepper, the College's director of bands.

Culpepper sent Stern recordings of the Dartmouth Wind Symphony, but Stern said they sounded too professional. Stern wanted music that was more "wild and enthusiastic; not necessarily in tune but with a lot of spirit, like at a high-school pep rally," Culpepper recalled.

Culpepper passed Stern's request to Chris Collier '03, the student conductor of Dartmouth's marching band. During one of the band's rehearsals, Collier instructed the band to play the Dartmouth fight songs as loud as possible.

"We maxed the sound check by five decibels," Collier said. "The band was playing as raw and animal as they possibly could."The songs were recorded on digital tape and shipped to Stern. Stern called back a week later and said the songs would be used in the scene before Carrie is drenched in pig's blood.

"I think bringing on the pig's blood was quite fitting for our group," Collier said. "Of all things that could happen after we play our fight songs, to have someone get pig's blood dumped on them, well -- it's just kind of funny."

The songs have a "great school-song quality," Stern said, and the recordings work perfectly for the scene because they possess a "raw energy and enthusiasm."

Those who worked on the movie had the same reaction. While they mixed the sound for the scene, the studio executives wanted to make the music louder, Stern said.

Stern said he would use the Dartmouth band again for another project if the occasion required. Stern, a partner of Trilogy Entertainment Group, has produced many movies for television and is currently executive producer of "The Twilight Zone" television series, which airs on UPN.

Stern did not participate in the band while attending Dartmouth. "I just have a soft spot for my alma mater," he said.