Growing up in nearby Double Oak, Amy Woody frequently visited the UNT campus as a kid, usually to attend performances by the College of Music's bands and ensembles.
Over the past two years, she's become a familiar face here -- first as a graduate student and teaching fellow pursuing her doctorate of musical arts in conducting and, since this fall, as director of UNT's athletic bands.
However, she has long been a fixture in the Denton community, having spent 14 years directing the bands at Denton's John H. Guyer High School from 2007 through 2021.
In fact, she previously directed several members of the current Green Brigade lineup when they were students marching in Guyer's band.
"I told them, 'I'm sorry, but you get to be with me again,'" she recalled of reuniting with her former students this fall. "It's been fun. They've been really excited and really positive about the experience."
Woody, who also is a wind studies lecturer in the College of Music, is among a small but growing number of women who hold the director of athletic bands title at universities nationwide -- and the first ever at UNT.
"When I was young, I don't think I could name any women in this type of role," she says. However, that did not deter her from pursuing it. "Over the past decade, many women have stepped into this role and are doing wonderful things for athletic bands."
Woody started taking piano lessons in grade school before picking up the clarinet in sixth grade. During high school, she fell in love with marching band.
"It offers this very unique creative outlet while simultaneously teaching discipline and responsibility and challenging your mind. I think the challenge of it has always kept me motivated and interested in it," she says.
As an undergraduate at Baylor University, where she earned a bachelor's in music education, she "tried to step away from music a couple of times, but I couldn't bear the thought of not having the ability to perform or help create some
performance. It was just too much a part of me."
She chose to pursue a music career and earned a master's degree in clarinet performance from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York.
After deciding that the life of a full-time performing clarinetist was not for her, Woody returned to Texas to teach music "and be in the role that inspired me," she says.
At Guyer High School, she taught music theory and for seven years served as assistant band director before being promoted to head director.
In 2021, Woody departed from Guyer to pursue her doctorate at UNT. She was offered the athletic bands director job in April 2023 and continues to work toward completing her dissertation.
"In a lot of ways, I'm like the band's CEO," she explains of her work with the Green Brigade, noting that it requires excellent communication skills to manage hundreds of students who travel for games and other events.
"It's a huge ordeal to get the band anywhere. Any time you see the marching band at an event, there is a buffer on both sides -- before and after -- in terms of time," Woody says. "We don't just show up and do our thing."
During football season, the Green Brigade typically rehearses two hours per day, three days a week.
Prior to each performance, "You have to go through it piece by piece and make sure that it works. Then, you show up at the game and have this beautiful product that people love to see. They don't know how many hours went in to make it great. That's how it is with any type of art."
In advance of evening football games, the marching band gets to work in the early afternoon setting up equipment, rehearsing and eating a meal before joining the Mean Green March parade that winds from Traditions Hall through Mean Green Village to DATCU Stadium.
The biggest challenge Woody says she faces "is the mass quantity of what I'm dealing with in every sense -- the number of students, the amount of time, the scale of the event -- and making sure that I'm always staying ahead of whatever is coming."
Woody admits she was "very nervous" before stepping onto the field Sept. 2 prior to the Mean Green's first home game this season against the California Golden Bears. However, "the crowd went wild" for the Green Brigade, she recalls.
During most home games this season, Woody stood on the field and observed the band's intricately choregraphed and thoroughly rehearsed performances.
"Once the machine is going, it just goes," she says. "You hope that everybody has done their job and knows where to go. I got to experience it with the audience and, in those moments, all of the hard work paid off."
The Brigade's performances are "a testament to the students," Woody says. "They come with music experience on different levels, but when it's time to perform they are amazing."