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.

Second Color Guard Audition – Saturday, August 12, 2017

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On Campus Auditions

The SMB Color Guard will hold one (1) additional audition day for the 2017 SMB season. All prospective members will experience a morning group class in movement and flag that includes fundamentals along with choreography. After lunch, there will be a brief review and then the audition will proceed in small groups. Auditionees will meet with staff immediately following the audition to receive feedback and results. Those selected for the color guard will report to SMB preseason training on August 21st.

To register, please fill out the following Google form.

Date: Saturday, August 12, 2017
Location: Band Hall in Demonstration Hall.
Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

What to wear:
Please wear darker clothes that you move well in and are able to properly show your skills.
Ladies, a hair tie is expected to keep your hair out of your face.

What to bring:
Water, gloves and a great attitude! We will provide all equipment.
What we are looking for:
We are looking at grace, poise, attention to detail, athleticism, connection of body with equipment, quick adaptability to style + technique, strong performance, strength, consistency, attitude.
The desirable candidate will have all of the above attributes or the right-mix along with a strong desire/passion to improve and grow into the skill set necessary to succeed at Color Guard at MSU.

Contact information:

Mindi Murray, SMBCG Director – mindo217@gmail.com
David Thornton, SMB Director – dtt@msu.edu

Meet our new Drum Major for 2017 – Nicole Sanford!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am from Traverse City and went to Traverse City West Senior High School. Rachel Linsmeier (the 2nd SMB female Drum Major) was my band director when I was a drum major in high school. My sister, Kali Sanford, is currently an Osteopathic Medical Student at MSU. I am going into my fourth year in Music Education in the French Horn studio and formerly played Mellophone in the SMB (like Evan). My interests in music span a wide variety of areas. Currently, I am focused in Early Childhood Music and Music Therapy, however I am open to anything having to do with teaching music. I work at the Community Music School and am hoping to go to graduate school after teaching for a few years in early Music Education or Music Therapy.

Do you already know Evan?

Evan and I know each other well! He was a squad leader my freshmen year and took me under his wing, mentoring me through my first year in the SMB. Being in the same studio in the College of Music and in ensembles, we spend a lot of time together. We are really looking forward to working together because we already know each other well and will have of fun! Although he will be spending a lot of time teaching me the ropes, Evan is very relaxed and has welcomed me right into the role. Our leadership styles complement each other and will allow us to function efficiently on the field. Given our prior friendship we feel comfortable and trust each other, which is important when you’re strutting full force at each other in the stadium! We are both passionate about band but love to laugh and be goofy. We spent the past few weeks as instructors at the PAC Drum Major camp with many of the former SMB drum majors and got a chance to work together, which got us excited for the season!

What was the audition process for drum majors like?

The audition process is stressful. The past Drum Major spends a couple of months prior to the audition teaching the fundamentals of the pregame routine, back bend, strut, commands, and marching. This year we had the largest number of people ever come to audition. The audition itself consists of fitness testing, back bending, doing the pregame routine with the strutting entrance and marching. After narrowing it down to just a few, the audition process is completed by performing with the current drum major, and finally an interview. Then the wait begins to hear the results.

What motivated you to try out for drum major? Can you describe how you felt when you found out you were selected?

Rachel Linsmeier is my main inspiration. I auditioned for Drum Major in high school and wasn’t sure what to expect as I was young and fairly quiet. Pat Brumbaugh, my director at the time, believed in me and placed me in the role. Rachel, a student teacher at the time, mentored me through my first year. I received leadership training from her and from the MSU PAC camp and started to grow into the role. The next year Rachel became my band director and I was able to improve even further on my leadership skills. She was not only a role model for leadership but also an advocate for women in Music Education and Leadership.

Hearing the news about becoming a drum major in the SMB was unreal. I was training for a half marathon at the time and was out for a long run. I came home and got the email and was so tired I dropped to the floor. It was incredibly relieving and exciting at the same time. I called my mom and the entire conversation was her screaming at work!

Any interests outside of music/band?

My interests outside of band include playing IM soccer, running, hiking, and traveling. I love golf, however I’m terrible. My brother was a golf pro and my sister went to state finals for golf in high school. The genes somehow missed me.

Anything else that you would like to share?

I love the SMB and I am honored to step into the role of Drum Major!

David Thornton named 13th Director of the SMB

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In announcing the appointment, James Forger, dean of the College of Music, praised David Thornton for the experience, energy and artistry he will bring to his new role.

“We look forward to welcoming David in this important leadership position,” Forger said. “We are confident that he will execute this new role with great skill and imagination, while building on our distinguished marching tradition here at MSU.”

The 300-member band was founded in 1870 and has grown into one of the premier college marching bands in the nation. Thornton has been part of the band’s leadership team for the past five years. He came to MSU as a graduate student in 2012 and joined the faculty of the College of Music in 2015 as assistant director of bands and assistant director of the SMB.

As part of his duties, he will also conduct the Symphony Band and Spartan Brass. Thornton succeeds Professor John Madden, who has announced his retirement from the university, effective Aug. 16.

Kevin Sedatole, MSU professor of music and director of bands, has worked closely with Thornton, first as his conducting mentor and more recently as a colleague.

“I’m very excited to welcome David as the new director of the Spartan Marching Band and conductor of the Symphony Band,” Sedatole said. “He has done exceptional work as the associate director, and I know that he is ready to take over the helm of the SMB. I’m thrilled that one of the best young conductors in the country will now be joining me in leading our band program.”

A native of Springfield, Va., Thornton received master’s and doctoral degrees in wind conducting from MSU and holds bachelor’s degrees in music education and clarinet performance from Florida State University, where he held the position of head drum major of the FSU Marching Chiefs.

Thornton began his teaching career leading middle school and high school band programs in Melbourne and Tallahassee, Fla. Under his leadership, bands from Tallahassee’s Leon High School received peer-reviewed invitations to appear at the College Band Directors National Association Southern Division Conference, the Savannah (Georgia) Music Festival and the Florida Music Educators Association State Conference.

From his very first SMB rehearsal in 2012, Thornton was impressed with the band’s culture of comradery and its performance excellence.

“I have great respect and appreciation for the rich tradition and history of the Spartan Marching Band,” Thornton said. “I place tremendous value in the century-long heritage that has been established, and I am eager to continue that culture in collaboration with our outstanding students. I am excited to embrace my role as director within the SMB family of students, alumni, directors, and donors as we carry on the time-honored commitment to excellence.”

Read the full article on the MSU College of Music website.

David Thornton, assistant director of bands was appointed director of the Spartan Marching Band effective June 14, 2017. Photo by Mark Hansen.

2017 Staff Announced

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The SMB is pleased to announce our staff for 2017. Pictures and bios for new members will be coming soon. Go Green!

2017 SMB Staff
Director – David Thornton
Associate Director – Simon Holoweiko
Announcer – Peter Clay
Visual Instructors – Glen Brough and Jon Schwarz
Percussion Instructor – Jon Weber
Percussion Graduate Assistant – Kathryn Irwin
Conducting Graduate Assistants – Tyler Austin, Travis Higa, Hunter Kopczynski, Branden Steinmetz
Color Guard Instructor – Mindi Murray
Assistant Color Guard Instructors – Bryan Ayala and Emily Rogers
Twirling Instructor – Sarah Bennett

2017 Auditions

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The Spartan Marching Band is open to all university students by audition only. You must be accepted to Michigan State University in order to audition. You do not need to be a music major to qualify for the Spartan Marching Band (SMB). Approximately 10% of the SMB population studies music, while the other 90% come from all other colleges and majors in the University.

Directions and Audition Appointments

To confirm audition participation (required) and get directions to campus, contact Charlene Wagner, Band Secretary at (517) 355-7654, or email her at reha@music.msu.edu.


More questions about the audition process? Be sure to visit the SMB audition FAQ page.

You may also e-mail the Director of the Spartan Marching Band, Professor John Madden at madden@msu.edu with any questions related to Spartan Marching Band auditions.

There is one scheduled audition day for instrumentalists interested in membership in the SMB:

  • Saturday, June 17, 2017
  • Start time: 9:00 am meeting, Music Building, room 120
  • 9:30 am audition times begin
  • Lunch on your own
  • 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Marching Audition – location TBA
  • 3:00 pm: audition day concludes

What to Expect

The instrumental audition should consist of one prepared solo piece or etude involving contrasting styles (3 to 5 minutes in length). A piece that you might perform at a “Solo and Ensemble Festival” would be appropriate. You do not need an accompanist. This piece does not need to be memorized.

Please also prepare the following major scales; C, F, B flat, E flat, A flat, G, D, A, E. Perform these scales by memory.

There will be brief sight-reading at the live audition.

Wear appropriate “work out” type clothing for the marching audition, including proper footwear (running shoes, sneakers, etc.). No sandals. Wear comfortable, not formal, clothing for your “playing” audition. You will have time to change clothes for the marching audition.

Video Auditions

Those who can’t be on campus for the June 17 audition day may submit a “video audition.” However, it is highly recommended to attend the audition day. Video must be uploaded to a YouTube or vimeo format. Email the video link to madden@msu.edu with the subject line; SMB Video Audition 2016.

The video audition must contain:

  • Solo piece from beginning to end (may be video of recent solo and ensemble performance with accompanist, or other solo performance).
  • If making a solo performance video, accompaniment is not required, but is welcomed.
  • All scales listed above from memory.
  • Display of marching technique on a football field – 10 yards of forward march “8 to 5” and 5 yards of backwards march “8 to 5.” IPhone video is fine here.
  • Introduction of yourself.
  • Email with video link(s) must contain name, address, phone, and on-campus housing assignment (if known).

Brass and Saxophone Music Majors:

If you plan to be a music-major, your MSU College of Music audition will satisfy for automatic membership in the Spartan Marching Band. These music majors will receive an invitation letter from the Marching Band Office in early May. If you would like to participate in the SMB as a music major, simply fill out the form in the early May mailing and return it to the MSU Band office. You will then be included in our July mailing for all new SMB members.

Percussion Music Majors:

Percussion music majors must audition for the Drumline separately (see below).

Flute, Clarinet, Oboe and Bassoon Music Majors

Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, and Bassoon music education majors typically perform on alto or tenor saxophone in the SMB. If you are interested in participating in the SMB, you must audition on your preferred “marching” instrument on June 11th or by video as described above.


2016 MSU Drumline auditions will be held on April 29 and May 13, from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. More information can be found on the drumline website.

Questions about drumline auditions should be directed to Professor Jon Weber, MSU drumline instructor.

Color Guard

On Campus Auditions

The SMBCG will hold one (1) audition day for the 2016 SMB season. All prospective members will experience a morning group class in movement and flag that includes fundamentals along with choreography. After lunch, there will be a brief review and then the audition will proceed in small groups.

Date: TBD
Location: Band Hall in Demonstration Hall.
Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

What to wear:
Please wear darker clothes that you move well in and are able to properly show your skills.
Ladies, a hair tie is expected to keep your hair out of your face.

What to bring:
Water, gloves and a great attitude! We will provide all equipment.

What we are looking for:
We are looking at grace, poise, attention to detail, athleticism, connection of body with equipment, quick adaptability to style + technique, strong performance, strength, consistency, attitude.
The desirable candidate will have all of the above attributes or the right mix along with a strong desire/passion to improve and grow into the skill set necessary to succeed at Color Guard at MSU.

Video Auditions

Those who are unable to attend auditions with a reason deemed acceptable by the SMBCG instructor or SMB Director are able to submit a video with that demonstrates the following requirements:

  • Movement: 60 second routine that demonstrates basic knowledge of movement fundamentals including moving across the floor
  • Flag:
    o Drop spins
    o Peggy spins
    o Thumb flips
    o Pull hits
    o Pop, Pole (crank), Prayer, Wind-­up, 45 tosses
    o 60 second routinesTo submit, please upload to Youtube and mark as ‘unlisted’. Send unlisted link to eichlerp26@gmail.com

Deadline: Friday 6/10/16 @ Midnight. This deadline is non-negotiable. We will not accept late submissions.


Please feel free to reach out to any of the following people with questions:

John Madden, Director of SMB: madden@msu.edu
Peter Eichler, Instructor of SMBCG: eichlerp26@gmail.com
Krystle Forbes, Assistant Instructor of SMBCG: forbes.krystle@gmail.com
Charlene Wagner, Band Administrative Assistant: reha@msu.edu

Big Ten Flags

The Big Ten auditions will be TBD from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Demonstration Hall.

Any questions should be directed to Megan Garrod (meggarrod2@gmail.com).


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