50th Anniversary of the Big Ten Flag Corps

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by Jacob McCormick

In Fall 1967, following the retirement of longtime Spartan Marching Band director Leonard Falcone, renowned conductor Dr. Harry Begian was named director of bands at MSU. Dr. Begian came to MSU from his alma mater Wayne State University where he had been director of bands for three years. Begian together with SMB assistant director William Moffit directed the marching band from 1967 to 1969.

The end of Falcone’s tenure as director marked the end of one era and the beginning of another for the Spartan Marching Band. A number of changes were made in 1967 with Dr. Begian’s arrival at MSU. “The word among the music trade is that Mr. Moffit and I will hit it off as a team and should have a band second to none, and that is exactly what we hope to do,” Begian said in a September 1967 interview with the State Journal. Among Dr. Begian’s first actions as director was to add eight E-flat trumpets to the ensemble to enhance the soprano voice in instrumentation. Begian also decreased the number of clarinets in the Spartan Band and increased the number of alto and tenor saxophones.

Perhaps one of Begian and Moffit’s most innovative additions to the band in 1967 was the Big Ten Flag Corps. The Spartan Marching Band debuted ten new flags in its 1967 Homecoming performance according to the program from that game. Each of the ten flags represented one of the Big Ten Universities, emblazoned with the name of the school and its colors. Flags have been added over time to reflect the additions of Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers to the conference. The fourteen Big Ten flags lead the SMB in all parades, including the gameday march to Spartan Stadium. The Flag Corps also leads the band on to the field of Spartan Stadium during the band’s famous kickstep field entrance. The Big Ten Flag Corps typically do not perform during halftime, however the section participated in the “Summer of 1967” halftime show this season to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

While the flags are a beloved tradition in the SMB, it is important to note that they are not unique to MSU. Purdue University originated the display of flags representing its Big Ten counterparts. Longtime Purdue director of bands Paul Spotts Emrick introduced the Big Ten Flags to the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band in 1919. The SMB and AAMB happen to have more in common than just the Big Ten Flags. The two bands share a director in William C. Moffit, who was the assistant director of the SMB, 1960-1969, and director of the AAMB, 1981-1988. Moffit made an indelible impact at MSU with his musical arrangements, including his arrangement of Victory for MSU, popularly known as “Pregame Fight” by band members. Moffit is also the innovator behind Patterns in Motion, the constant-motion four-person squad marching system, still used by the SMB in its pregame routine today.

With the 1967 season now 50 years behind us, the current Spartan Marching Band and its alumni can look back on the impacts a single season had on the band’s growth and future. Directors Begian and Moffit certainly left their mark on the band program at MSU. Moffit’s arrangements of many tunes are still performed by the SMB today and the band’s current instrumentation is a direct result of the changes Begian made during his first season. The most apparent impact on the band from 1967 is the addition of the Big Ten Flag Corps, a section of dedicated band members who carry the colors of our opponents and set the tone of intensity as the Spartan Marching Band moves down the street and onto the field of Spartan Stadium on gameday.

Photographs Courtesy of Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.

Feature Twirler Auditions for 2018: Audition packets due by January 1, 2018

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2018 Feature Twirler Audition Information

Audition packets with cover letter, three letters of recommendation, resume, and DVD or website link to video at the bottom of your resume are due by January 1, 2018.

Please send these to:

Dr. David Thornton
Michigan State University College of Music
333 West Circle Drive
Room 118
East Lansing, MI 48824

Call Back for Live Auditions:
o Date: Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm
o Location: Demonstration Hall Arena
o What to wear: Costume of choice, comfortable athletic clothes to change into
o What to have prepared:
* 3-4 minute routine to the music of your choice
* Down the field routine showcasing your ability to twirl/march/travel similar to part of the pregame routine at MSU; we will provide this music
* Improvisation routine to music we will provide
* A list of tricks that will be sent to you via email with your live call back invitation
o Running will also be a part of the process, and an interview will conclude the audition

Questions? Please feel free to contact either of the following people:

Sarah Bennett, Instructor of Feature Twirlers: bennett.sarah.2014@gmail.com
Dr. David Thornton, Director of SMB: dtt@msu.edu

Meet the Band: Baritones

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The Spartan Baritone section is comprised of eighteen dedicated members. As one of the smallest sections in the band there is a true family-like connection among the group. The section is led by section leader Alyssa Wauldron, and squad leaders Jacob “Pancakes” McCormick, Kevin Eccles, Mark Elinski, and Jacob Topp. Each section in the Spartan Marching Band is divided into squads, a four or five person marching unit. The Baritones make up squads 39, 40, 41, and 42 of the 54 squads in the SMB.

Academically, the section represents eight different colleges at MSU: the College of Engineering (7), College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (3), College of Natural Science (2), College of Music (2), Lyman Briggs College (1), the Broad College of Business (1), College of Social Science (1), and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (1). Five members of the section are in the Honors College.

History and tradition are at the core of the Spartan Marching Band and are certainly a central component to the Spartan Baritones. The section has a storied history and numerous long-standing traditions of its own. The Baritones are particularly connected with the greater history of the SMB and Leonard Falcone, the beloved father of the MSU Band. Falcone was director of bands from 1927 through 1967 and was a world renowned virtuoso on the baritone horn. Take a listen to the MSU Shadows and you will hear a beautiful weaving baritone line penned by Falcone to showcase the warm low brass tone of the instrument.

Among the section’s most well-known traditions is “Hooah.” In 1988, the section was looking for something unique to put on its section shirts. Baritone squad leader Jim Starkey, who was also in ROTC, suggested “Hooah” as a possibility. The word is a military battle cry and slang for the “best of the best.” The section adopted “Hooah” that season and it caught on very quickly. Since 1988, “Hooah” has flourished and evolved from an exclamation and motto into a nickname for the section as a whole, the individual members of the section, the instruments themselves, and so much more.

Spartan Hooahs *always* wear shorts. Since 1985, and beginning with a dare between friends, the section wears shorts to every rehearsal no matter the weather. If you join the SMB for a rehearsal in late November with snow on the ground, you will certainly find the committed Spartan Hooahs sporting shorts in the bitter cold along with hats, scarves, and gloves.

In 1996, the Spartan Hooahs adopted their beloved section mascot – the rubber duck. You will find a rubber duck hidden in many section photos, including the formal photos taken around Sparty during preseason. The Hooahs have a number of smaller traditions as well. For a decade, the section has sang the song “Sailing for Adventure” from the film Muppets Treasure Island on every bus trip with the band.

In 2013, the section started the popular pirate defense cheer that accompanies the drumline during football games. The pirate cheer has since spread to much of the rest band. The Hooahs also have competed annually since 2011 in the Hoo-La Cup against the Otlas (alto saxophones), a series in which the Hooahs have reigned victorious with a 5-2 overall record. Additionally, during the section’s huddle on Adams Field on gameday, the Hooahs prepare for the game ahead with their “What Makes the Grass Grow” chant, which has been a staple since 2007.

The longest standing and perhaps most well-known tradition of the Spartan Baritones is Faygo! The section introduced Spartan Stadium to its rendition of the Faygo Boat Song, arranged by Matt and Andy James, in Fall 1976. Faygo, originally performed by the section during football games, would prompt the entirety of Spartan Stadium to stand, sway, and sing along. The section now performs Faygo on Adams Field as part of its gameday warm up routine. The Spartan Hooahs celebrated 40 years of Faygo in 2016 with a large gathering of alumni and a Faygo delivery truck brought from Faygo’s Detroit headquarters especially for the celebration. Each member of the section has a favorite flavor of Faygo Pop which they declare their first year in the band, the current section’s favorites are: Orange (5), Rock N’ Rye (4), Creme Soda (4), Root Beer (3), Red Pop (1), and Arctic Sun (1).

The abundance of traditions and storied history of the Spartan Hooahs make the section an incredible group to know, befriend, and be a part of. With an incredible flair for humor and a consistently positive attitude, the Hooahs are a section and a family like no other in Spartan Nation.
Go Green! HOOAH!

MSU Museum Preserves Spartan Band History

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Photo Credit: Perl Yes Wong

By Jacob McCormick

As a History major, Museum Studies minor, and Spartan Marching Band member, I have had the unique opportunity to combine my studies in history and museology with a Spartan Band focus. During Fall 2016, I began an internship with the MSU Museum History Collection through the MSU Museum Studies Program. This internship afforded me the chance to gain valuable real world hands-on experience in the Museum. Given my membership in the Spartan Marching Band and my familiarity with its history, the opportunity to take inventory and assess the Museum’s collection of MSU Band materials was exciting, educational, and rewarding.

The Michigan State University Museum, among the earliest established museums in the United States, is the steward of approximately one million objects reflecting disciplines and fields such as Natural Science, Archaeology, Anthropology, Folk Arts, and History. The History and Culture Collections consist of about 100,000 artifacts, of which less than five percent is on exhibit at any given time. The Spartan Band materials are among the objects carefully housed for research and preservation when not on display in the MSU Museum, located at 409 W. Circle Drive.

The MSU Band was established in 1870. The earliest band-related materials in the MSU Museum’s collection date to the early twentieth century. A large portion of the band collection is ephemeral paper material, such as concert programs and photographs. Exploring the selection of band photographs, one might find a large panoramic photograph of the Michigan Agricultural College Military Band or a snapshot of an early band member dressed in his khaki uniform.

Most directors of the Michigan State Band are represented in the Museum’s collection through snapshots, uniforms, and personal belongings. Materials include numerous awards and medals from Leonard Falcone, mementos of William Wiedrich’s years as a member of the band and as director, and a plethora of photographs documenting John T. Madden’s 28 years in the position.

Aside from the paper and photograph portion of the collection, the MSU Museum also maintains numerous band-related textiles. Primarily composed of uniforms, the Band textile collection includes early Cadet Corps Band uniforms and the first green and white Spartan Band uniform worn from 1952 through 1964. This inaugural green and white uniform is now accompanied by nearly every successive Spartan Band uniform from the last 65 years.

Many directors’ uniforms, like those of Leonard Falcone, Kenneth Bloomquist, and John Madden, are also featured in the Museum’s collection. Several Band Jackets, including an early 1950s prototype, find their home in the collection as well, many adorned with varying section and bowl game patches. Michigan State’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 1954 is commemorated with a Band Jacket patch, the original artwork for which can be found in the collection.

Aside from the Spartan Marching Band materials, the museum collection also houses objects related to the MSU Alumni Band, Swartz Creek Band, Spartan Brass, and various concert ensembles.

Did you know that the Spartan Marching Band has performed for five U.S. presidents? Did you also know that the 1988 Rose Bowl game ball was gifted to the Spartan Marching Band by head coach George Perles? Answers to these questions and more can be found in the extensive collections of the Michigan State University Museum.

To learn more about the MSU Museum and for information on how to access collections for research, visit museum.msu.edu.

Information and access to collections courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

Meet the Band: Featured Twirlers

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The 2017 Spartan Marching Band Feature Twirlers are Nicole Harris and Taylor Scheffer. Senior Nicole started twirling at the age of 5 and has been twirling for 16 years. Sophomore Taylor started twirling at the age of 9 and has been twirling for 10 years. Both women are members of the Twirl-M’s baton twirling group out of Walled Lake.

Rhonda Muscaro, along with various other coaches, have instilled their love of baton twirling from a young age. Nicole and Taylor have competed on the same team winning More than nine national titles. Each summer, the twirlers train every day in preparation to compete at the baton twirling national championships held at Notre Dame University. Once they return, they immediately head right into preseason training for the SMB.

smb twirlersThe twirlers started off preseason this year teaching Taylor the traditions of the previous feature twirlers. These traditions include the fight song, pregame, and series. These are traditions that the feature twirlers hold dear to their hearts because they have been passed down from generation to generation starting in 1972.

The most unique aspect of the feature twirler position is having the ability to choreograph their own routines for halftime and postgame shows. The twirlers have multiple sections that they create at the beginning of the season, and throughout the process of learning halftime, they mix and match the sections to create a combined routine. The routine changes every week and includes 1, 2 and 3 batons.

Although choreographing individual routines is exciting, the best part about being a Michigan State feature twirler is getting to twirl with one another. At the start of every season, the feature twirlers create a duet or multiple duet routines that they will perform throughout the season. Both Nicole and Taylor found this to be an extremely easy process because of their long history of twirling together. Both girls describe themselves as having the same twirling style and process of choreographing.

Even though the twirlers are a section of two, they find ways to integrate with the other sections of the band. Every game day the twirlers tailgate with the trombone section on Adams field. They also form a section with the drum majors and call themselves “Baton Squad.”

This is a bittersweet year for Nicole as it is her last year with the SMB, but for Taylor, her journey just began and she is excited to carry on the traditions.

Meet the Band: Trumpets

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The Spartan Marching Band trumpet section is the biggest section in the band, standing at 59 members for the 2017 year. The three trumpet section leaders, fifth-year senior Peter Richey, senior Bradley Arnold and junior Shannon Sheldrick, are joined by 11 other squad leaders: Lindsay Culp, Joey Swinkey, Richard Lewis, Alex Burns, Jacob Bonesteel, Adam Johanknecht, Emily Garman, Jake Bronson, Kyle Hanson, David York and Michael Perry.

The top eight players in the section are chosen to play the E-flat cornet, more commonly known as the “eeph.” The eephs have their own traditions, including their own Series and “Eeph Games,” which you can observe on game days when the band is in arcs on Adams Field.

Being such a large section, it can be difficult to bond, but the trumpets make sure to do so through a few group outings throughout the season. Every year to celebrate the end of preseason, they take a trip to Cracker Barrel and then go to IHOP after the Spartan Spectacular rehearsal in late October. Additionally, they go to Uncle John’s Cider Mill for cider and donuts during the fall.

The trumpets also have some very serious traditions, including playing “MSC” – Michigan State College’s original alma mater – on Adams Field before our march to the stadium. It is one of their most prevalent customs because it is a great way for the listeners as well as the players to remember some of the history behind the Spartan Marching Band, as well as to reflect on how far we have come.

The trumpet section includes many different personalities, but one thing is for sure: they will always be sure to greet you with a friendly “Hullo!” should you come across them.

Meet the Band: Mellophones

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On gamedays, seen from afar in sectionals on Adams field, the Mellophone Section can be distinguished from the pack as it huddles and chants three times, “Spartan Mellos/ Brass Playing War Machines/ Trained to Fight, Trained to Kill/ Trained to Die, But Never Will!” For the record, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. This mantra exemplifies the passion, intensity and drive with which each of the 26 Mellophones approach performing with The Spartan Marching Band.

Comprised of 8 new members and 18 veterans (specifically, 4 fourth years, 4 third years, 10 second years), the Mellophone section has one of its youngest sections to date! Led by section leader Hannah Trezise, the Mellophones also boast outstanding squad leaders in Justin Hoffman, Kelsey Ordway, Steven Hogan, Hanna Sajdak, Sarah Hughes and Joseph Essenburg.

Unfortunately, the origins of many Mellophone traditions have been lost to history. Nevertheless, the section is incredibly proud of everything that sets them apart from the rest of the band. For example, along with the Mello chant, one can also catch the Mellophone line– arranged from tallest to shortest member– playing pregame fight… but on the person to their left’s horn. At the last in-season rehearsal of the year, the Mellophones also partake in the cherished tradition known as “Primary Instruments Day.” Originally created as a means to remind the band’s fans of what a French Horn looks like, the event has become something of a chaotic gathering of instruments and non-instruments (IE: frying pans and wooden spoons) with which they perform the attendance block’s Falcone Fight.

Other, smaller traditions include White Mellophant Gifts, pillow pets, a widely recognized–and questionably obnoxious– Vegetable Game, contested ownership of a mounted deer between the Mellos and Trombones, and, of course, loving each other like family. For more information on any of these traditions, feel free to approach the Mellophone tailgate on game days and introduce yourself!

Meet the Band: Tenor Saxophones

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The Spartan Tenors are one of two woodwind sections of the SMB. Leading the section of 18 members for the 2017-2018 season is Senior Section Leader Alex Klingel, as well as Squad Leader Seniors Sarah Sheridan, Aryka Thomson, Hayden Stoub, and Junior Taylor Evon.

The SMB Tenors are well known for their “Scotland the Brave” rendition, popularly called ‘Ditty’. While kicking, playing, and sometimes marching, the Tenors have a blast performing their tune in East Lansing and across the country. This tradition began in the 90’s when some of the Tenors played “Scotland the Brave” to ironically poke fun at the Fighting Irish. In 1998 on Halloween, the Tenors dressed up as the Irish Guard, and the following season ‘Ditty’ became a pregame tradition.

Speaking of Halloween, the Tenors also have a tradition of ‘dressing to impress’ for the holiday. The past 4 years, either officially or unofficially, the Tenors have won the annual SMB section costume contest. Some of those costume ideas included dressing up as the Stanford Marching Band (complete with twirlers), the SMB Sparty Watch (it took a lot of spray paint to be a bronze Sparty), and even an elaborate BP oil spill this past year. Where ever they go they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Bleed Green!

Meet the Band: Alto Saxophones

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The Alto Saxophone section includes thirty-six members, twenty-four of whom are veterans in the SMB. These members are part of many colleges throughout the university, including the College of Music (9 members), Lyman Briggs College (7), the College of Engineering (4), Broad College of Business (4), James Madison College (3), the College of Natural Science (1), the College of Social Science (1), RCAH (3), and three undecided. In the Alto section, there is a combined 77 years of SMB experience with four fourth-year members, nine third-year members, eleven second-year members, and twelve first-year members. Although most of the section are alto saxophone players, eleven of the thirty-six members play the clarinet as their primary instrument, two originally played the flute, and one member plays bassoon.

The Alto Saxophones are led by section leaders Caleb Doerr and Eric “Smokey” Locker. In addition to them, there are six other squad leaders: James O’Neill, Zach Woloszyk, Andrew Acciaioli, Davis Donigan, Octavius Hernandez, Kyle Syrba, and Megan Wild.

The Alto Saxophone section is more commonly referred to as the Otlas (Alto backwards). The origin of this nickname was lost to history, but we know for sure that this nickname has been used since the 80s. This name is shouted by our section during the Series cadence in the SMB’s march to the stadium on gameday and as a part of our section cheer on Adams Field during warm-ups outside the Music Building.

Every year, the Alto section (Otlas) plays the Baritone section (Hoo-ahs) in a game of kickball on top of the Shaw Parking Ramp. This game is played for bragging rights and the coveted Hoolah Cup (Hooah + Otla), a styrofoam cup and bowl glued together and covered in tin-foil. This year, the Hoolah Cup will be played for the 8th time with the Altos looking to defend their title as champions. Additionally, every year around the holiday season the section gets together to exchange gifts and have a big potluck dinner at an event called Alto Thanksgiving.

The altos are also known for having the greatest tailgate in the universe, hosted by Rick and Carrie Germain.

2017-18 Spartan Brass Auditions: Thursday, October 5, 2017

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Auditions for the 2017-18 Spartan Brass will be Thursday, October 5, 2017, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the Music Building. Sign up for audition times on the board outside the MSU Band office (room 116) in the Music Building.

Spartan Brass is a second semester, 1 credit ensemble. All students who earn a position in the Spartan Brass must enroll for one credit.

The 1st rehearsal is Thursday, October 12th, 2017
7:00 to 9:00 PM in Demonstration Hall – Band Hall
Music, uniforms, procedures, and season schedule to be discussed.

Spartan Brass will be accepting auditions for the following instruments:

Alto Sax (10), Tenor Sax (6), Trumpet (30 = 10 1st, 10 2nd, 10 3rd), Mellophone (10), Trombone (20 = 6 1st, 7 2nd, 7 3rd), Baritone (12), Tuba (6-8), Electric Bass (2), and Drum Set (3-5).
Note: instrumentation is flexible

What to prepare?

Instrumentalists should prepare a solo or etude, no longer than two minutes. Contrasting styles are recommended. A marching band excerpt is acceptable, but NOT ADVISED.

Percussionists (drum set players) must exhibit mastery of all styles and sight reading ability. All Drum Set players will play for Dr. Jon Weber on or before Oct 11 at Dem Hall. Email or see Dr. Weber for details (drumline@msu.edu).

Electric Bass players All E. Bass players must attend the first rehearsal on Oct 12th in Dem Hall and perform with the band (sight read). Bring your own E. Bass, we will supply the amp. Send email to dtt@msu.edu to confirm your spot.