Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band

Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band
Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band
School Louisiana State University
Location Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference Southeastern Conference
Founded 1893
Director Roy King
Assistant director Eric Melley (interim)
Members 325
Fight song Fight for LSU
Website www.bands.lsu.edu
Led by the drum major, the band takes the field for its traditional pregame performance.

The Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band —also called The Golden Band from Tigerland or simply the Tiger Band—is known by LSU Tiger fans and foes alike for the first four notes of its pregame salute sounded on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. This 325-member marching band performs at all LSU football home games, all bowl games, and select away games and represents the University at other functions as one of its most recognizable student and spirit organizations.



Cadet band

The LSU Tiger Band began as a military band in 1893, organized by two students: Wylie M. Barrow and Ruffin G. Pleasant.[1] Pleasant, who later became governor of the state of Louisiana, served as director of the eleven-piece cadet band.[2] (Pleasant was also quarterback of the football team and is credited along with football coach Charles E. Coates with changing LSU’s official school colors from blue and white to purple and gold.)[3] The band averaged thirteen members in its early years.[2]

Early Photographs of the Tiger Band
LOUISiana Ditigal Library
Band performs at State Fair in Shreveport in 1916.
Band pictured in front of Memorial Tower circa 1930.

In his written history of the band, former director of bands Frank Wickes describes the band's formative years:

By the turn of the century the Cadet Band also became a marching unit. Tours of the state and appearances at Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans became early traditions. In 1904, the band joined four companies of cadets from LSU for a performance at the St. Louis World Exposition.[2]

The military duties of the band were numerous, and it was not until later when the band's role in athletic events became more prominent.[2] The band marched its first halftime show in 1924.[2][4]

Kingfish years

The band enjoyed some of its greatest growth when infamous Louisiana governor Huey P. Long took a heightened interest in increasing LSU’s national prominence. For Long, the success of the band was inextricably linked to the success of the University.[5] In an oral history about the governor, Mary Hebert addresses Huey Long’s preoccupation with the band:

Photographs of Huey Long and the Tiger Band
LOUISiana Ditigal Library
Long hands out dollar bills to members of the band.
Long leads the band through streets of Houston.
Long singing with band aboard train headed to a game.
Carazo with drum major and drum majorettes.

...improving the university became one of his pet projects. It was not LSU's academic standing, however, that first attracted his attention--it was the band...The governor then demanded that the band be enlarged from twenty-eight to one hundred-twenty-five pieces...His band would be one of the largest in the country.[6]

He not only hand-picked the University’s president, James Monroe Smith, but also hired a new band director, Castro Carazo, the orchestra leader at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.[1][6] Long initiated a massive increase in the band’s membership and saw to it that the band’s drab military dress was replaced with showier uniforms.[2][5] A number of songs were co-written for the band by Long and Carazo, including "Touchdown for LSU," "Darling of LSU," and "The LSU Cadets March."[2][5] "Touchdown for LSU" is still played today as part of the band’s pregame performance. Long was often instrumental in lowering train ticket prices so that the band and students could travel to away football games.[1] Long would often lead the band through the streets during parades.[7]

Years after Long's assassination, many of the changes he made to the band and to the University were reversed as part of a backlash against his control over LSU and the associated scandals; for instance, Carazo was fired and the military uniforms were reinstated.[1]

After WWII

The band remained a military cadet band until the end of World War II when the band department became a part of the School of Music. "During the Carazo years, female students had appeared with the band as drum majorettes, but not in the ranks of musicians."[2] Women first joined the band in 1943.[1] A number of important changes were made to the band during this period, changes that shaped what the band is like today. The band hall burned to the ground in 1958 and a new hall was quickly built that is still used by the band.[1] The Ballet Corps (now known as the Golden Girls) was added and the band's pregame performance that remains to this day was created in the 1960s by director William F. Swor.[2] Current director of bands Frank Wickes again describes the band at this time:

Photographs of Tiger Band after WWII
LOUISiana Ditigal Library
Halftime performance during LSU-Ole Miss game in 1968.
Band creates a tiger on the field during halftime in 1968.

The Tiger Band program hit its zenith in 1970 when LSU was named the All-American College TV Band in a one-time national contest sponsored by General Motors. After marching the Orange Bowl Parade on New Year's Eve and performing at halftime of the 1971 Orange Bowl game on New Year's Day, the Tiger Band flew to Oakland, Ca. On January 2, the band performed a different show for another national television audience and officially received the All-American College TV Band Award at halftime of the East-West Shrine Bowl. The trophy was presented to Director Swor by Meredith (The Music Man) Willson, confirming LSU's prominence among the country's top university marching bands.[2]

The band creates a set of circles in the end zone during a halftime performance.

Continued quest for excellence

In the fall of 1997, the band directors of the Southeastern Conference unanimously voted the LSU Tiger Marching Band the best marching band in the SEC according to a survey taken by the Northwest Arkansas Times.[2] The band was awarded the Sudler Trophy in 2002, a one-time award conferred upon the nation's best college marching bands.[8]

The band continues to be a celebrated part of the University community; some members report being asked for autographs.[9] The current look of the band has been memorialized in a set of 17 miniature, hand-painted figurines that includes the different members of the band and that sells for almost $400.[10][11] One group of fans has even chosen to memorialize the band's Pregame performance by creating shirts with the first four notes of the band's fanfare.[12] On Saturday, October 11, 2008, ESPN announced that the Tiger Band won first place in a competition amongst university bands from Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and USC. Each band played a version of John Williams's Indiana Jones theme, and ESPN posted the videos online for fans to vote.[13] At halftime during the 2009 home football game against Vanderbilt, the band was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

On game day the band makes its way through campus toward Victory Hill and Tiger Stadium.

Plans are underway to build a new band practice facility and an additional rehearsal hall to be used by the marching band during bad weather.[14] The 2007 Louisiana Legislature appropriated $5 million toward construction of the complex with the stipulation that the University raises $5 million to match the funds.[15] The cost of the project currently totals $15 million.[15]


Victory Hill

On game days, the band marches from the band hall to Tiger Stadium, stopping along the way at Victory Hill, located right outside the stadium. "Thousands of fans lining North Stadium Drive listen for the cadence of drums announcing the band's departure from the Greek Theatre" and await the impending arrival of the band.[16] The band stops on the hill and begins to play the opening strains of the "Pregame Salute." Then, while playing the introduction to "Touchdown for LSU," the band begins to run in tempo through the streets and down the hill amidst the crowd of cheering fans. The band also marches from the stadium to the band hall upon the conclusion of the game, a practice not usually employed by other bands.[9]

Photograph of Tiger Band Performing Pregame
LOUISiana Ditigal Library
Band in signature "LSU" formation in 1968.
Video of Tiger Band Performing Pregame
Band performing in Tiger Stadium in 2007.


One of the most celebrated traditions carried on by the band is its pregame performance at each home football game. The performance includes pieces from the band’s expansive repertoire of school songs, including "Pregame Salute"/"Touchdown for LSU" arranged in the early 1960s by director William F. Swor specifically for the band to play during pregame.[17] The drill design and musical selections pieced together by Swor remain relatively unchanged today. The band also uses a more traditional style of marching (called the "peak step" by directors and members of the band) during pregame, a style that requires the band members to lift their legs to mid-calf as they march.

The band forms LSU during a pregame performance in Tiger Stadium.

The band begins the performance in the south end zone of the stadium and is called to attention by the drum major right before he marches out across the end zone in front of the band. Stopping at the goal line, the drum major wields his mace and uses his whistle to signal the band to take the field. The band marches out of the end zone to the beat of a single bass drum in fronts separated by five-yard intervals. The drum major halts at the 40 yard line on the far end of the field and the band is now spread across the southern half of the field with the color guard at midfield and the southern goal line. The golden girls line up next on the west sideline next to the band. The band stands at attention and awaits the percussion introduction to "Pregame Salute." As the band plays the stirring opening chords of the salute (which are taken from the tune "Tiger Rag"), the band turns to face all four corners of the stadium. The crowd explodes in cheers. Once the band salutes each part of the stadium, the pace of the music and the marching picks up, the music transitions into Long’s "Touchdown for LSU," and the band sweeps the field. Toward the end of the song, the band breaks the fronts and spells out "LSU."

In the "LSU" formation, the band plays the "LSU Alma Mater" and the "Star-Spangled Banner" and is directed at the north 47 and a half yard line by the director of bands. (The band then plays "Fight for LSU" as it virtually flips the formation to spell LSU for the fans on the east side of the stadium. Upon arriving in the new formation, the band plays the second half of "Tiger Rag," which culminates in the crowd chanting "T-I-G-E-R-S, TIGERS!' in unison. This is followed the "First Down Cheer," to which the east side of the stadium in unison responds to each of the three refrains with "GEAUX! TIGERS!" and to the final refrain with "LSU!" To the sound of a fast paced drum cadence, the band returns to the original "LSU" formation facing the west side of the stadium and replays the "First Down Cheer" as the crowd responds. The band immediately breaks into an encore performance of "Touchdown for LSU" as it reforms the original fronts, marches to the north end zone, and then breaks the fronts to form a tunnel through which the football team will enter the field.

An annual event, the band performs season highlights during Tigerama.


Each fall, the marching band and the University's top concert performance ensembles join forces for a concert featuring musical highlights from the football season. This annual concert, called Tigerama, is now in its 31st year.[18] Tigerama begins with the LSU Wind Ensemble and the LSU Symphonic Winds playing a number of pieces including "LSU Rhapsody," a concert medley of school songs, and "God of Our Fathers," which includes an antiphonal brass finale during which members of the Tiger Band brass join both of the concert ensembles. During the second half of the concert, the Tiger Band enters to its traditional cadence, plays songs from each show from the current football season, and concludes with traditional school songs. Tigerama was once performed in the LSU Student Union Theatre, then was moved to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, then to the Baton Rouge River Center, and is now back in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. On a few occasions, Tigerama was a traveling showcase for the Band Department at various performance venues throughout the state.

The band pays tribute to veterans and the nation during its annual LSU Salutes halftime performance.

LSU Salutes

Each fall, the band honors its own humble beginnings as a cadet band and the history of the University during LSU Salutes by performing a halftime show with a patriotic theme. Usually during alternating years the band plays a medley of songs representing each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, spells out the names of each branch, and recognizes the members of each branch present in the stadium. This is also the only time when the Golden Girls change their look and don special red, white, and blue uniforms for their featured performance. LSU Salutes, generally celebrated during Veterans Day weekend, is a set of events that recognizes cadets who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Until 1969, every entering male student at LSU was required to participate in the ROTC program for at least two years.[19] LSU was once referred to by students and staff alike as the Ole War Skule, and LSU ROTC programs provided more than 12,000 soldiers for World War II—a number eclipsed only by Texas A&M University(14,123 officers), and the military academies.[19][20] The military heritage of the University dates back to its very establishment in 1860 as a military training institution; future American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman served as its superintendent.[21]

One of the LSU Golden Girls dances on the field during a halftime performance.

Golden Girls & Colorguard

As the band evolved into a full-blown show band, featured auxiliary units were created to add entertainment.

The LSU Golden Girls, a feature unit with the Tiger Band and the oldest and most established danceline on the LSU campus, was created in 1959 as the Ballet Corps.[22] The Golden Girl moniker became official in 1965. Today, the line includes fourteen to eighteen dancers who audition each year to make the line and who are often members of private dance studios.[17]

The LSU Colorguard, a flag twirling unit not to be confused with a traditional military colorguard, was established in 1971.[23] Twenty-four to twenty- eight female twirlers are selected from an audition process.[23] For a brief period in the 1980s the Colorguard was co-ed.[17]

Members of the LSU Colorguard perform at halftime of the 2004 Capital One Bowl.

Songs of LSU

"Fight for LSU"

"Fight for LSU" is the University's official fight song. The band plays "Fight for LSU" often, most notably when the team enters the field (while the band is in a tunnel formation at the end of its pregame performance), successfully kicks a field goal, scores an extra point, or completes a two-point conversion. Following a halftime performance, the band often exits the field while playing "Fight for LSU." The full song uses elements of a musical march and consists of an introduction, a strain that is played twice (and sung twice using the same lyrics), a breakup strain (with new lyrics), a return to the introduction, a final repetition of the original strain (at a faster tempo and with the original lyrics), and a coda. Often the band only plays the introduction, a single strain, and the coda.

"Pregame Salute"/"Touchdown for LSU"

"Pregame Salute"/"Touchdown for LSU" is often incorrectly considered by fans to be the school’s official fight song. The opening chords and melodies of the "Pregame Salute" were derived from "Tiger Rag," a popular jazz tune from 1917, while "Touchdown for LSU," which directly follows the "Pregame Salute" both on the field and in the stands, was written in part by Huey P. Long. This song is played most notably during pregame, during the march down Victory Hill, and at the beginning of the fourth quarter of each football game.

"Hey, Fightin’ Tigers"

"Hey, Fightin’ Tigers" was adopted as a school song in the 1960s by William F. Swor. Originally titled "Hey, Look Me Over" and written by Cy Coleman for the musical Wildcat, starring Lucille Ball, its lyrics were changed when LSU won exclusive rights to the music.[21] The band plays this song often in the stands and on occasion will play it to conclude a halftime performance while spelling out "LSU" or "Tigers." The song itself consists of an introduction, a repeated verse (with lyrics), a drum break during which the band and crowd both shout "T-I-G-E-R-S," and a jazz version of the original tune with various opportunities for the crowd to shout out "LSU." Typically, the full ensemble plays the verse once and then sings the second time while the percussion, tubas, and piccolos play.

The Bengal Brass Basketball Band which plays at all basketball games also plays "Hey Fightin' Tigers" with different lyrics.

"Tiger Rag"

"Tiger Rag" was first made popular by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917. It has been adopted by a number of schools who, like LSU, claim a tiger as a mascot. The "Hold that Tiger" portion of the song (which musically consists of one pitch played three times followed by a second pitch, up a major third, played once) is the most recognizable portion of the song for LSU fans, as it is incorporated (at different tempos) into both the "Pregame Salute" and the "First Down Cheer." Upon the scoring of a touchdown, the band plays the "Hold that Tiger" portion of the song, which concludes with a "T-I-G-E-R-S" cheer from the crowd.

"LSU Alma Mater"

The "LSU Alma Mater" was written in 1929 by Lloyd Funchess and Harris Downey, two students who developed the original song and music because LSU's first alma mater was sung to the tune of "Far Above Cayuga's Waters" and was used by Cornell University.[24] The band plays the "Alma Mater" during pregame and at the end of each home football game. Also, members of the band join arm-in-arm at the end of rehearsals on Saturday game days and sing the "Alma Mater" before leaving the practice facility.

Other pieces

Listen to "First Down Cheer"
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Listen to "Second Down Cheer"
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  • First, second, and third down cheers are played when the Tigers are on offense. The "First Down Cheer" includes the "Hold that Tiger" musical phrase from "Tiger Rag." The "Third Down Cheer" is based on the song "Eye of the Tiger" made famous by Survivor.
  • "Tiger Bandits" was created to pay homage to the defensive unit from the 1958 national championship football team. Coach Paul Dietzel called the unit the "Chinese Bandits."[25] The title of the song was eventually changed to "Tiger Bandits" (or just simply "Bandits") to make the tradition more inclusive. The band plays the song when the Tiger defense forces the opposing team to punt on fourth down or makes a noteworthy defensive play (such as intercepting a pass).
  • "Darling of LSU" and "The LSU Cadets March" were both composed by Huey P. Long and band director Castro Carazo. The songs are no longer a part of the band's everyday repertoire.[2]
Listen to "Tiger Bandits"
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  • "LSU Tiger Triumph March" was written by Karl King in honor of the band and was first played in Tiger Stadium when the Tigers took on Tennessee in 1952.[2][26]

Bengal Brass

A group of 60 members selected from the ranks of the band constitute the Bengal Brass Basketball Band, often simply referred to as Bengal Brass.[27] This group of all-brass musicians (and percussionist on a trap set) is often split into two squads—purple and gold—and performs at LSU select home volleyball matches, many home gymnastics meets, all home men’s basketball, and all home women’s basketball games in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Bengal Brass also travels with the men’s and women’s basketball teams during postseason play, including recent trips by both teams to the Final Four. The band has performed in a number of cities in the United States: Boston, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Nashville, Cleveland, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, San Francisco, Tampa, and Seattle.

Notable alumni

  • Bill Conti received an Academy Award for his score to The Right Stuff and is also a longtime musical director and conductor for the Academy Awards. Some of his other credits include scores for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, Rocky (including the "Gonna Fly Now" theme), and The Karate Kid. He also composed themes for ABC Primetime and Dynasty.[28]
  • Emmy Award winner Julie Giroux is credited with writing music for over 100 movie and television programs.[29]
  • H. Owen Reed is a composer, conductor, and author, whose works for band demonstrate his devotion to the study of the traditional musical styles of Mexican, Native American, Anglo-American, and African American cultures. He has also published eight books on the subjects of musical composition and music theory.
  • Clifton Williams wrote a number of prolific pieces for band and won the inaugural American Bandmasters Association's Ostwald Award for Original Band Literature in 1956 for his first band composition, "Fanfare and Allegro."
  • Carl Fontana, trombonist


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ruffin, Thomas F. (2002). Under Stately Oaks: A Pictorial History of LSU. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0907126829. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Wickes, Frank (2007). "The Marching Tigers: A Brief Look at Over 100 Years of the LSU Tiger Band, ‘The Golden Band from Tigerland’". Louisiana State University Department of Bands. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://bands.lsu.edu/band_history/index.php. 
  3. ^ Little, Nancy (2002). "Tiger Rag: Rekindling a Rivalry and Returning a Tradition". Louisiana State University Media Relations. Accessed on 4 June 2007. http://appl003.lsu.edu/UNV002.nsf/(NoteID)/A90DB13999E634D686256B4B005974A6?OpenDocument. 
  4. ^ Frost, Emma (2004). "A day in the life of the Tiger Band: Writer follows the Band for a day". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2004/09/09/Features/A.Day.In.The.Life.Of.The.Tiger.Band-2050291.shtml. 
  5. ^ a b c "Huey Long’s Programs – Louisiana State University". Long Legacy Project (2006). Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://www.hueylong.com/programs/louisiana-state-university.php. 
  6. ^ a b Hebert, Mary (1994). "'I've Got a University': Huey Long and LSU's Golden Years". T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History. Louisiana State University. Accessed on 4 June 2007. http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/williams/newsletters/ohnewsletter5.html. 
  7. ^ Everson, Darren (2008) (5 December 2008). "'What the Rise of Southern Football Says About America". The Wall Street Journal. Accessed on 6 December 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122843720586081461.html#articleTabs%3Darticle. 
  8. ^ Leger, Benjamin (2002). "Golden Band from Tigerland awarded trophy". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2002/01/24/CampusLife/Golden.Band.From.Tigerland.Awarded.Trophy-2044532.shtml. 
  9. ^ a b Bachman, Rachel (2004). "Postcard from Louisiana: Upending Stereotypes, Fans of LSU Geek for the Band". The Oregonian. Accessed on 4 June 2007. http://tigerforums.com/showthread.php?t=18972. 
  10. ^ "Louisiana State University Products". The Little Band Man Company. Accessed on 4 June 2007. http://littlebandman.com/lsuproducts.htm. 
  11. ^ Mitchell, Dennis (2004). "Golden Band recreated in collectible form: Company founded by former student". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 4 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2004/03/15/CampusLife/Golden.Band.Recreated.In.Collectible.Form-2048998.shtml. 
  12. ^ "92,000 fans. 4 notes. 1 experience". Gametime Shirts. Accessed on 23 October 2007. http://www.gametimeshirts.com/. 
  13. ^ "ESPN Battle of the Bands". 'ESPN. Accessed on 11 October 2008. http://promo.espn.go.com/espn/contests/indianajones. 
  14. ^ Blum, Jordan (2007). "Tiger band seeks new lair: Current hall can’t fit all the musicians". The Advocate. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/7809337.html?index=1&c=y. 
  15. ^ a b "LSU Bands". Forever LSU Campaign. Accessed on 23 October 2007. http://foreverlsu.org/priorities/bands.php. 
  16. ^ "Tiger Band". LesMiles.net. Louisiana State University Athletic Department. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://www.lesmiles.net/athletics/lesmiles.nsf/$Content/Tiger+Band?OpenDocument. 
  17. ^ a b c Burris, Alexandria (2003). "Music to cheer by: Golden Band boasts long legacy". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2003/10/30/Features/Music.To.Cheer.By-2047602.shtml. 
  18. ^ Leger, Benjamin (2002). "Annual 'Tigerama' event entertains crowd: Wind ensemble, band display talents". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2002/11/22/CampusLife/Annual.tigerama.Event.Entertains.Crowd-2044350.shtml. 
  19. ^ a b Grantham, Natalie (2004). "Saluting Military History: University's history remembered". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2004/11/12/News/Saluting.Military.History-2051145.shtml. 
  20. ^ "LSU Salutes - History". Louisiana State University. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://appl003.lsu.edu/specevents/salutes.nsf/$Content/History?OpenDocument. 
  21. ^ a b "Quickfacts". Louisiana State University. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://www.lsu.edu/visitors/quickfacts.html. 
  22. ^ "LSU Golden Girls". Louisiana State University Department of Bands. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://bands.lsu.edu/golden_girls/index.php. 
  23. ^ a b "LSU Colorguard". Louisiana State University Department of Bands. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://bands.lsu.edu/colorguard/index.php. 
  24. ^ Markway, Rebecca (2003). "Campus 411: Stuff you never knew about LSU". The Daily Reveille. Accessed on 4 June 2007. http://media.www.lsureveille.com/media/storage/paper868/news/2003/03/24/CampusLife/Campus.411-2045702.shtml. 
  25. ^ "National Champions - 1958". LesMiles.net. Louisiana State University Athletic Department. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://www.lesmiles.net/athletics/lesmiles.nsf/$Content/National+Championships+-+1958?OpenDocument. 
  26. ^ "Karl King Tunes - L-M". www.karlking.us. Fort Dodge Public Library. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://www.karlking.us/tunes_lm.htm. 
  27. ^ "LSU Bengal Brass". Louisiana State University Department of Bands. Accessed on 3 June 2007. http://bands.lsu.edu/ensembles/bengal_brass.php. 
  28. ^ "Bill Conti". Internet Movie Database Inc. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006015/. 
  29. ^ "Julie Giroux". Internet Movie Database Inc. Accessed on 1 June 2007. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1029696/. 

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Sudler Trophy Recipient
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