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 thorn155@msu.edu to confirm your spot.

Meet the Band: Color Guard

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By: Riley Smith, Theo Vanegeren, Kelsy Wenson, Leah Wright

The 2017 Spartan Marching Band Color Guard is made up of 32 talented performers, 10 of which are freshman. Leading the section is a team of five squad leaders—seniors Katherine Fernandez, Madeline Hilton, Riley Smith, junior Jenny Radon and section leader Emily Bankes, also a senior. The color guard welcomes Mindi Murray in her first year as Director, as well as a host of talented staff and assistant directors.

Every day the color guard starts rehearsal with an exercise called ‘The X’, which is a series of running exercises and cardio choreographed to a song. The color guard meets half an hour before the band every day to do this, and to work as a section to learn and perfect choreography for halftime performances. While this can be tiring, it always prepares the team for full band rehearsal, and sometimes other band members join in for an extra workout.

While other sections in the band are grouped by squads, the color guard is divided into four ‘families,’ consisting of one or two squad leaders and a mix of returning veterans and freshman. Over the summer, all members submit videos to family leaders of SMBCG flag and dance technique in order to be prepared for the upcoming year. Each member is also assigned a ‘buddy’ coming in to preseason — not only so each member is accounted for on rehearsal and game days — but so new members have a person who is looking out for them through all their new experiences at MSU.

Meet our new Feature Twirler for 2017 – Taylor Scheffer!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in South Lyon, Michigan and attended South Lyon East High school. The only instrument I have ever played was the Trumpet in 6th grade and it did not last long because I was HORRIBLE. I also took a piano lab class in high school and that just assured me that being a musician was not in my future and that I should stick to twirling. I’m currently undecided on my major but I do know I want to do something in the medical field. I’m looking into Nursing or being a Physician’s assistant. My mom is a nurse at U of M hospital so she inspired me to go into the medical field. When I was younger my mom used to work as a RN at a nursing home and I would spend a lot of time there talking with the residents and talking with the other nurses which assured me that the medical field was for me.

Do you already know Nicole?

I have been twirling for 11 years now and I have been on the same team as Nicole since I started. So I have been close with her for quite some time now. I think that is one thing I am most excited about is being able to share such a memorable experience with her. We have performed so many routines together and spent so much time at competitions together that will make it that much easy to learn from her and twirl with her.

How did you happen to pick MSU?

I have wanted to go to MSU since I was little but what really made me fall in love with MSU was when I came to my first football game and got the chance to experience what game day was all about. I knew not only that MSU would be the best place for me academically but I also knew I was going to do everything I could to make sure I was in my best shape for my audition for the feature twirler position.

What was the audition process for twirlers like?

There was a series of steps that went into auditioning for the feature twirler position. You first have to send in a tape of you preforming a routine of your choice and based on that tape you can be invited for an in person audition. The in person part of the audition consisted of running, interview, and a twirling portion.

What are you looking forward to the most when you join the SMB?

I’m looking forward to making new friendships with the people I will spend most of my time with this fall and having a second family at my home away from home. I’m already so close with Nicole and just listening to her talk so highly about the people she has met through the SMB makes so excited to get to know all of them.

Any interests outside of music/band?

Along with twirling, a couple of years ago I competed in the Miss America’s Outstanding teen pageant and was lucky enough to win a local pageant Miss Shoreline’s Outstanding teen. I competed in Miss Michigan’s outstanding teen in Muskegon, Michigan and placed 2nd runner up! Through baton and the pageant world I was able to do a lot of charity events and fundraisers to give back to my community. I loved volunteering my time and I plan on continuing to do so in East Lansing.

2nd Annual SMB Pancake Breakfast – Saturday, August 26, 2017

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The 2017 Spartan Marching Band recently enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast thanks to the sponsorship of 40 band families, and many early morning volunteers.

The 2nd Annual SMB Preseason breakfast was held on Saturday, August 26 outside of Dem Hall and included fresh pancakes off the griddle, hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage, juice and coffee. Sparty joined the band in these early morning festivities, mingling with everybody, twirling batons, playing the trombone and flipping pancakes himself.

We are looking forward to the 3rd annual event next August. As a result of the many generous contributions, enough money was raised to donate $300.00 back to the marching band jacket fund for 2017.

Here are some pictures from the event.