Searching high and low for college money? At TCU, you can just join the band.

Faced with a dwindling marching band — one that lagged far behind its Big 12 peers, despite its location in a hotspot of high school band talent — TCU in 2015 started offering an incentive to full-time students of $3,000 a year to all band members.

“You can earn $12,000 over four years is how we pitch it,” band director Brian Youngblood said.

This year, the marching band has 235 members, up from 150 in 2014.

The money was designed to entice nonmusic majors who were arriving on campus with high school marching band experience.

Catherine Lillie, now a junior, is an example.

After four years in the marching band at Colleyville Heritage High School, Lillie was unsure whether she wanted to continue playing percussion at TCU.

She planned to major in political science, and a band schedule, as she knew first-hand, could be burdensome, with long rehearsals in the heat and events on the weekends. The time commitment was similar to a part-time job.

Then, in 2015, Lillie talked to a former Heritage classmate who was in the TCU band.

“He told me, ‘Hey, before you even think about doing it or not doing it, just know you’re going to get $3,000,’ ” Lillie said.

Now, two years later, Lillie said joining the band was the right choice, “even if they took away the money tomorrow.” But at the time, the cash “definitely factored into” her decision, she said, and that’s exactly what the TCU band directors were hoping for.

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