Marching With the Mace
Cade Mahlen ’24 has found his rhythm at Texas A&M University as the 2023-24 Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band infantry drum major.
- By Mamie Hertel ’24
- Photography by John Davidson
- Oct. 11, 20234 min read
Just over 50 miles east of Aggieland, there’s a place known for its Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band legacy and lineage: Huntsville, Texas. The son of two Baylor University graduates, Cade Mahlen ’24 didn’t grow up attending Aggie football games but fell in love with watching the Huntsville High School band, which adopts a precision military marching style similar to the Aggie Band, under the Friday night lights.
After picking up a trumpet in sixth grade, Mahlen went on to become his high school’s drum major. His mentors, all of whom were Aggie Band members, advised him to attend Texas A&M University. Their encouragement led him to trade Friday nights and his Huntsville Hornet forest green uniform for Saturdays, Kyle Field and khaki Bravos.
What was it like hearing, “Cade Mahlen ’24, Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band infantry drum major” for the first time?
It was a surreal Wednesday. The announcement was made during the full band meeting that morning at 7 a.m. It was hard to focus; it was my busiest day of the week, with three classes and a lab. My roommate, Jared Foltyn ’24, who was also named the combined drum major that morning, had the same 8 a.m. as me. We definitely walked into class late!
Before we made it to class, though, it felt like the whole world already knew. I was trying to communicate the news to my parents before someone else told them. All of Aggieland knows what a drum major is and has appreciation for it, so the news spread quickly.
How does it feel to lead the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band in front of a crowd of 100,000 people in Kyle Field?
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to march on Kyle Field. You’re so focused on what you’re doing that you forget there’s thousands of people watching. Looking up at the stands, it feels almost like a canyon. There are people as far as you can see, and I can’t help but think, “How lucky are we to be doing this? It’s such a blessing to be here.” It’s also meaningful to look over and see Jared alongside me as we lead the band together. Every performance is the culmination of a lot of hard work every week on and off the drill field as a Corps member. We live a life of consistency to be precise and successful for game day.
What do you hope to do with your nuclear engineering degree?
I feel lucky that the university’s nuclear engineering department is the largest in the country but the smallest engineering department at Texas A&M. The intimate academic setting helps me get to know my professors and classmates very well.
I interned with the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico this summer, learning about critical safety. With nuclear engineering, I could pursue career paths in research, national security or regulatory measures. Recently, I’ve thought about going to law school to bridge the gap between the technical industry and policymaking.
How have your scholarships impacted your time in Aggieland?
I’m fortunate that my Corps experience is supported by two scholarships: the Frances & Jack E. Brown ’46 21st Century Scholarship and the Tom Murrah ’38 Aggie Band Scholarship. My scholarships motivate me to make the most of my time in Aggieland. They take a lot of pressure off and allow me to pursue things like being a drum major and a commanding officer while still being a diligent student.
You’re in the Corps of Cadets, the Aggie Band and the nuclear engineering program. How do you manage all of it?
As first sergeant for B Company last year, I was responsible for a lot of people. For example, I had to ensure everyone was up at 5 a.m., even after I had studied all night. I’m trying to be a good Corps and band member while also being the best student, son and friend. That takes a toll on you, but I’ve discovered that I can endure more strain when I’m doing it for others. So that’s what I tell my people: I don’t wake up early for me. I wake up early for them—the people around me and the people marching on my left and my right.
Help cadets march to success: You can benefit Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band members while also supporting the university’s March to 3,000 initiative, which aims to grow the Corps to 3,000 members. To learn more, contact Kelly Corcoran ’95.