From a very young age, MSU Feature Twirler Taylor Scheffer, has always had a love for performing. She says she remembers watching her best friend twirl on the playground in elementary school, who eventually taught her how to and ever since then, she’s been taking private lessons, taking classes, and competing all around the country, for nearly ten years.
Twirling is a very unique, niche of a community that takes not only a high level of athleticism, but it also requires a background in dance and gymnastics. First starting as a gymnast, and eventually turning towards twirling, Taylor loves that in order to be a good twirler, you have to continuously perfect your skills and technique of gymnasts and dancers while twirling a baton. Being a twirler takes a balanced combination of dedication, perseverance, self-discipline, stamina, memory retention, and lots of hand eye coordination.
She says, “people often comment on how effortless baton twirling looks but, they cannot see the years of practice baton twirling required to perfect the skill. Twirling a baton is not something you can pick up one day and be great at; it takes an extreme amount of dedication and perseverance. Twirlers, like any other athlete, spend hours practicing and polishing skills to accomplish their goals and make a performance enjoyable.”
As a part of the small twirling community, Taylor says that she has been able to make friends from all over the country, and no matter who they are competing against, she’s always found it to be a supportive and welcoming environment. This supportive dynamic drew her to MSU. She remembers attending her first football game in Spartan Stadium and immediately fell in love with the professionalism and dedication of the Spartan Marching Band. As one of the oldest and most widely recognized marching bands in the country, she knew she wanted to be a part of the strong traditions and high level of excellence that the SMB holds.
Just like the other members of the marching band, Taylor has to learn new shows, new routines, and practice each and every day to prepare for Gameday. Her rehearsal consists of stretching, practicing tricks, and incorporating her performance with the rest of the band. Twirling at the collegiate level takes a lot of time and dedication, and Taylor says that her best advice to anyone would be “to keep practicing and find tricks that make you as a twirler stand out during the audition process.” If you’re interested in being a Twirler for the Spartan Marching Band, they often look for candidates with high level twirling skills, good physical fitness, good showmanship, and the ability to entertain a stadium full of people.
Taylor credits her success as a twirler to Twirl-M’s, located in Walled Lake, Michigan, as well as her coach Rhonda Muscaro.
Taylor is a current Junior at MSU and is majoring in Kinesiology with the goal of attending PA school after graduation.
Since 1975, Glen Brough has served MSU, the Spartan Marching Band (SMB) and MSU Performing Arts Camp (PAC) in many influential roles from drum major and student leader to world-class marching and visual instructor sharing his expertise to develop young leaders with an unwavering commitment to the traditions and excellence of the SMB. This year (2018) is Glen’s last season with the SMB, as he has announced his retirement from MSU effective Aug 2019.
SMB Alumni and friends are working to raise $50,000 to fund the Brough Leadership Award Endowment to provide tuition scholarships to SMB members who meet criteria serving in leadership positions and those who demonstrate a capacity to achieve educational and professional goals, along with the motivation to seek personal growth and development.
Early donors have established a matching gift opportunity for the first $20,000 pledged toward this endowment. The impact of your individual contribution will be doubled with a pledge which can be paid over a five-year period.
Contributions at any amount are welcome. Please support the campaign to endow the Brough Leadership Award and support SMB student leaders for years to come! Make a secure online donation today by clicking below, OR to make a multi-year pledge, please feel free to contact Madison Dugan, Assistant Director of Development / Alumni Relations for the MSU College of Music at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 517-432-4888.
While many people often focus on the musical aspects of the Spartan Marching Band, for 51 years the SMB has been home to the Big Ten Flag Corps, a section that performs only during pregame, and is dedicated to representing all 14 schools in the Big Ten. While many of the members are primarily instrumentalists, some of them play instruments that aren’t part of the SMB such as Flutes and Clarinets.
Because the section is strictly marching-based, this allows for members to participate even if they don’t have any kind of musical background. Many are swimmers, runners, dancers, or have played other sports in addition to marching band. Some have never even been in marching band before. The Tens are a very diverse section and welcome people with all different kinds of backgrounds.
Every year before the season starts, the squad and section leader are voted on by the section and the elected squad leader holds the Michigan Flag, and the elected section leader has the honor of carrying the Michigan State Flag. The section is then split into two squads, State Squad and Michigan Squad. Each squad has nine members, seven of which consistently perform, and then each squad has an additional two alternates that audition every week for the Illinois and Minnesota flags.
Other flags are chosen based on an audition process that takes place during preseason, as well as another audition that takes place halfway through the season. However, a few flags require certain skills based on each member’s individual marching ability.
For example, the Ohio State and Wisconsin flags must be able to prance (similar to modified strut, or a high step that kicks out a little further) at a very high level because they have the farthest distance to travel. The Indiana and Nebraska flags must have a consistent step size because they are the dress point for each squad, meaning they are responsible for helping to keep the line straight as well as keeping the pace of the marching as they go down the field. Senior Section Leader Claire Kosky, says that “having ten-foot-tall spears with giant colorful flags makes each of us easy to spot, so it’s important that the entire section demonstrates correct technique and intensity at all times.”
All of these audition processes are just one aspect of the deeply rooted traditions within the section. Second-year Alex Pomavile says “considering that we represent other schools besides Michigan State with our flags, there are a few traditions that we have in terms of flag care to make sure that Michigan State is honored above all others.” For example, “whenever the flags are not in use during the game, they are laid down and wrapped within the Michigan State Flag,” and anytime the band sings or performs ‘The Shadows’ all of the flags except the MSU flag are lowered to a resting position, while the MSU flag remains in the air.
On Gameday, many people look forward to the third-quarter cheer performed by the Drumline, but simultaneously, the Tens perform something equally exciting – the flag race. Pomavile says that, “during this, all Flag Corps members participate in a race where the Michigan State flag and the opponent’s flag are passed between groups for a race around the perimeter of half of the football field.” He also adds that legend says that “Michigan State has never lost one of these races.”
Throughout everything the Tens do, their motto is “First on, last off.” Fourth-year Aaron Meek says that this is “much more than just the format of our drill.” He adds that it’s a mindset that guides the section in everything they do. “In parades we lead the band to our destination, letting everyone know that ‘we have arrived’; in Pregame, we are the first people that the audience sees as the band flies out of the tunnel. We set the bar – in terms of intensity, talent, and pride – that the rest of the ensemble then follows. And at the end of Pregame, we are the last members of the band to kickstep into the endzone, maintaining the same standard of intensity, talent, and pride that we set for the rest of the ensemble at the start.”
It’s a mindset that the section carries on to encourage people to finish as strong as they started. Through all of the physical and athletic aspects of the SMB, everyone has to push through the exhaustion, adrenaline, and physicality that often comes with being a member. As a very athletic section, the Tens are here to help set the standard and prepare the audience for the Spartans kickstepping out of the tunnel.
But throughout all of their constant hard work and dedication to the ensemble, the Tens are still as close as ever. Freshman Maddy Niblock describes the atmosphere of the section as “a great mix between high levels of intensity and an insane amount of fun. The tens know that when it is time for us to do ‘the thing,’ as we all call performing, we step up to the plate and strap on our game face. We get angry and focus in all of our efforts in order to perform to the absolute best of our ability. However, once it is time for us to relax, we have such a great time being one big happy family. The atmosphere in the tens is like no other and I would not trade it for anything.”
During a college football game, not everyone is interested watching the halftime show; many see halftime as an opportunity to head towards concessions or use the restroom, and many are talking as the band takes the field.
It’s very rare that a college band gets to experience a venue where every single fan is there to watch them perform. But every year, Bands of America (BOA) hosts events like this dedicated to the marching arts. Thousands of high school band members and their families gather to watch nothing but marching band.
Nobody is leaving their seats in the middle of the show and the crowd is completely quiet. Everyone sits anxiously awaiting for the next band to perform, no interruptions, no football, just music.
This is what it was like for the Spartan Marching Band as they performed as an exhibition band at the Bands of America Grand National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on November 9th.
BOA hosts marching competitions all over the country, but this weekend’s competition included 108 of the nation’s best ensembles performing over the course of three days.
And this year, the SMB got to be a part of it.
This performance was the start of a marathon weekend for the SMB. The SMB traveled to Indianapolis that Friday, only to have a quick turnaround in order to be back and ready for the Michigan State vs. Ohio State Football Game the very next day. But despite the exhaustion, performances like BOA are what fuel these hard-working musicians.
As the entire crowd, including all those high school band members eagerly awaited the announcement of who made it into the semi-final round, the SMB took the field…
Performing their tribute show to the Circus featuring music from the movie The Greatest Showman, as well as music from Cirque du Solei, and the 1941 Disney Classic, Dumbo, with the song “When I see an Elephant Fly,” (featuring a flying Dumbo made by the band). For some, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. For others, this was not their first time performing at Lucas Oil Stadium. Many SMB members have competed at various BOA events during their high school career, and many have spent their summers marching with Drum Corps International (DCI) performing at the DCI Finals in August.
Junior Baritone Ryan Malburg says this was his 8th time performing at Lucas Oil between various DCI performances with the Cavaliers over the past two years. He says, “there’s a special kind of feeling being inside this stadium, and stepping on that field feels incredible every time I’m able to. I had some of the best moments of my entire life, and have had many emotional performances at Lucas Oil. Being able to share this experience with the Spartan Marching Band was truly special, and was a memorable experience in an entirely new way.”
Sophomore Tenor Sax Dan Schneider shares a similar experience, but he has been fortunate enough to perform at Lucas Oil Stadium three times for the BOA Grand Nationals with his high school, as well as three times with the Legends Drum and Bugle Corps, making this performance his 7th at Lucas Oil. He says that “each performance is one of its own. Each time you take away a different experience that can change yours and other people’s lives.”
Freshman Tuba Shimon Likhtman was a member of a competitive marching band in high school that would perform at the BOA Regional in St. Louis, but he says that Lucas Oil felt different. “Lucas Oil holds a significance for competitive marchers; it’s where the best of the best go to compete. Although we weren’t competing it was quite the rush marching on that field of champions.”
Sophomore Color Guard member Alaura VanNest performed at BOA three times while in high school, and she said, “it was a great chance for me to actually experience the venue, rather than just experience my performance. It was a lot of fun knowing that there were high schoolers in the stands waiting to see us, and that my performance could really impact their future marching career.
While some had BOA or DCI experiences, others remember performing at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa. Senior Trumpet Anneliese Petersmarck, says that “The Big Ten Championship game was amazing, but I don’t think anything will compare to an entire audience who are there to watch bands perform, and who know exactly what goes into what we do.”
Senior Mellophone Bailey Barry says that “The Big Ten Championship game was like nothing else. It was my first performance in Lucas Oil and one I will never forget. Being back in Lucas Oil for BOA was amazing. The energy was just the same.”
Senior Trombone Adam Mackey adds that “It was a completely different experience. There’s a lot more commotion when it comes to the Big Ten Championship game, a lot more practice time, lots of fans from many schools, and it makes for an easy transition to it being such a big game and still on a Saturday.”
However, for the majority of the band, they had never performed at Lucas Oil before. A lot of people noted the differences in the acoustics that came from playing inside a large dome. Sophomore Trumpet Thomas Zambiasi said that he was most surprised by how much of the sound got lost in the dome. He said, “I haven’t performed in a band competition for two years, so it was definitely a little weird not having the big crowd noise or reactions that we’re used to in Spartan Stadium.” Senior Kelsie Montgomery adds that “The way the stadium was laid out was a little weird because mostly all you could hear was yourself and not the others around you. Normally I can hear our announcer just fine at the stadium but at Lucas Oil it was harder to hear him.”
However, Sophomore Alto Sax Nick Confer would say otherwise. He said that, “The acoustics were incredible! This was one of the first times I’ve been able to really hear myself playing during a performance with the SMB.”
Fifth Year Snare Jack Tallman adds that, “it was an echo chamber. The field feels bigger than what we usually perform on. The amount of seats is also incredible. There’s a very cool energy to the place; it makes you amplify the intensity you bring to the field.”
But despite the acoustics many band members loved every moment of their experience in Lucas Oil just the same. Junior Baritone Braedon Halle says, “it was really fun. The crowd was excited to see us and I was really amped up to perform for all the high school students. I think it was a really good experience and despite the lack of sleep I would definitely want to do it again.”
Freshman Tenor Sax Emma Bush says that “My first time experience at Lucas Oil was pretty unbelievable because I never thought that I would get the opportunity to perform in a situation like that. It was amazing to be able to make such an impression on high school bands that had never seen the SMB perform before.”
Freshman Trumpet Ryan Koschay says that “just walking out of the tunnel onto the field was exhilarating. The big ‘Bands of America’ logo hung up at the back of the field, all the people watching in the stands, and hearing them when we hit our big chords or made Dumbo; it all was quite a lot to take in at once.”
The SMB is filled with amazing opportunities and members get to experience events from an entirely new perspective. Performances like BOA create memories that will last forever…
And to think that they left Indianapolis Friday evening at 9pm, drove for five hours in the snow, got stuck on Farm Lane coming home, slept on the floor of Dem Hall, had a large family breakfast in the morning, then had an 8am rehearsal all to get ready to perform an entirely new show for the noon game against Ohio State. Regardless of however many hours of sleep everyone got, these are the memories that the members of the SMB will always remember, these perspectives that no one else in the world gets to experience day in and day out.
Family is at the heart of what band is all about. Beyond rivalry and pride is a common bond that unites all of our programs together. In this, we mourn alongside our fellow band members in times of tragedy. On Saturday, November 24, our brothers and sisters in the Michigan Marching Band lost one of their own.
Maggie St. Clair, longtime Director of Operations for the University of Michigan Bands, passed away Saturday morning. We know firsthand the work that goes on behind the scenes to make a successful band run. Maggie was an exemplary model of all that goes into the administration of a band program. She interacted with the Spartan Marching Band many times – always a beacon of professionalism and pride in her work. Beyond that, however, she was simply a wonderful
person – devoted, passionate, caring, and loving.
The Michigan Marching Band shared this about Maggie St. Clair:
It is impossible to encompass everything that Maggie meant to the Michigan Marching Band in a short statement. She has been the heart of this organization for decades. The high standards that she held herself andMa those around her to helped shape the MMB into what it is today. Maggie has touched the lives of thousands of individuals within the University community. Her commitment and unrelenting passion for the organization will be greatly missed. Her contributions will be a part of the fabric of the Michigan Marching Band forever. She was a Leader and she was the Best.
Our thoughts are with her family and her family in the University of Michigan Bands.
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, 2019. Please send these to:
Dr. David Thornton
Michigan State University College of Music
333 West Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824
Call Back for Live Auditions:
o Date: TBD
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: email@example.com
Dr. David Thornton, Director of SMB: firstname.lastname@example.org
A section deeply rooted in tradition, work ethic, and family, being a Spartan Tuba is considered one of the most physical jobs within the Spartan Marching Band.
“To be a Spartan Tuba, it takes mental and physical determination. This section is not for the faint of heart, as we have to have heavy instruments on our shoulders for almost two hours a day.” Senior, Matt Dowdy describes the endurance and physicality it takes to carry a 40-pound Tuba day-in and day-out. He says that on Gameday’s they’re swinging their horns, marching in formation, and when playing in the stands, most of the time they have less than three seconds to get their horn up ready to play.
Not only is the pure physicality of holding a tuba demanding, but so are the various performance aspects. The Tubas have a particularly rigorous version “The Series” or the SMB’s march to the stadium. Dowdy says that they lift their horns almost completely over their heads 11 times during one sequence of the series and four of those times they bring the bell down in front of them first – this is called a “Dip Flash.”
Tuba Series is taken very seriously. During preseason, the freshman tubas are taught “The Series” separately from the rest of the band to make sure they learn the rhythms, vocals, and all of the moves in a way that helps them manage the massive instrument on their shoulders.
Junior, RJ Dean says “A lot of time your tuba is barely even touching your body. Not many people have the pure determination to throw your tuba down to your legs and back up over your head in two counts.” He also says that while kick stepping their feet are in a resting position instead of moving, and they also don’t participate in the infamous “seven-ups” or various horn swings that you see throughout the band during Pregame. These adjustments are all in the name of making it easier to march with such a massive instrument on their shoulders.
But all of this hard work, determination, and strength just brings the section closer together.
“We are a very close-knit section,” says Dowdy, “having only 24 of us, it is comparable to a brotherhood or family of sorts. Most of the band spends time with their squads, and while we do as well, on many occasions the entire section is involved in social gatherings.” Plus, the Tubas have their own room inside Demonstration Hall where they store their uniforms and instruments that often feels like their own home away from home.
Other traditions within the Tuba Section are often encompassed in their Gameday experience. It starts inside Dem Hall as they all get their uniforms on – they play Gordon Lightfoot’s, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and sing along loud and proud for all to hear.
Afterwards, all the tubas go to the West Tower of Spartan Stadium and serenade the original Sparty Statue with a Tuba’s only version of “Spartan Fanfare”; a song typically played by the band after the football team scores an extra point after a touchdown.
Once they arrive on Adams Field and conclude their Gameday Warm-up, they all hook their pinky’s together and yell “Do It Up! As they prepare to embark on their iconic Tuba Series down West Circle Drive towards Spartan Stadium.
Being a Spartan Tuba is an honor, and the moment you become one, you join a family of musicians and bandos that truly love what they do. Sophomore Zack Jennings says that something that really sets the tubas apart is that “during the ‘Go right through for MSU’ part of Victory for MSU, we are the only people that play. It is really cool to know the thousands of fans in the stands are just listening to you.” The Spartan Tubas are extremely dedicated musicians, and it takes a lot to throw that forty-pound tuba over your head each and every day.
Thousands of faces, freshly mowed grass with stark white numbers, and an uncontainable energy. It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of being first out of the tunnel at pregame.
And yet, freshman trombone player Madeline Shank does her best to explain.
“The electric environment of Spartan Stadium never fails to amaze me as I start kick stepping. Each time I move down the field in my green and white uniform, a new flood of emotions overtakes me,” Shank says.
“As the applause and ‘go state’ chants enter my ears, all is perfect; I feel at home, I feel like I belong, I feel like a Spartan,” she continues.
Shank feels fortunate to be in the second line of trombones that lead the band down the field during Pregame. At the forefront of it all, she is one of thirty-six trombones in her section.
Senior Kim Roe says she was in the front row of trombones coming out of the tunnel her freshman year. “Nothing will ever be able to imitate the overwhelming emotions of pride I felt. Ten days of preseason, hours of work, mental and physical exhaustion; it was all well-worth that split second of time before kick stepping out of the tunnel for the first time. I will remember spot 26C for the rest of my life.”
Because the trombones have longer slides, they are positioned at the front of almost every formation within the SMB. They lead the band down the street on Gameday, they lead the band out of the tunnel for every pregame, and they sit front and center in the stands. Due to their positioning, the trombones have embraced the phrase, “bones lead the way.” Working to not only be visual leaders, but also as examples and role models for the rest of the band.
Junior Viet Phan says, “We set the example and are often first impression that people get of the Spartan Marching Band. We try and be good role models not only to our peers, but to our audience as well.” Junior Ian Poage adds, “We pride ourselves on the effort and enthusiasm we bring to rehearsal, in addition to our pristine musicianship and marching technique.”
The Trombones emphasize how close they are as a section and recognize that they couldn’t be the successful section that they are, without the constant support, friendship, and family atmosphere they’ve cultivated. Sophomore Eiryn Hodges says, “Being a Spartan Trombone is like getting to be a member of a 36-person family who understand and care for you like you wouldn’t believe. For how big our section is, we are incredibly close.”
Senior Devon Davidson adds, “when I came into the section I was very nervous because I didn’t know anyone or anything about the university. But from day one, I felt accepted and we all became a family.” Not only are the Trombones close during rehearsal, many of them live together, and often go out to dinner on a regular basis. Senior Mikey Werth says, “We are always doing yearly events together and it makes for such a close bond between everyone. I feel like it’s what makes the section so tight. We have a history of always being close and it shows on the field with the way we play and march together.”
The family atmosphere has contributed to many of the Trombone Traditions. One of these is the dance to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s September – a dance that is now spread throughout the band whenever this famous song is played. Trombone Section Leader Troy Anderson says that “No current bones know the origin of this dance, but this tradition will never fade.” They also have a yearly “Bonesgiving” holiday event, and they always perform their rendition of “Low Rider” on Adams field every Gameday.
Perhaps the most beloved tradition is the “Triad” – a group of three trombones and one announcer that perform for the band while they stretch and prepare for their Gameday morning rehearsal. Triad member Ian Poage says that they play “songs that are relevant to the upcoming football game, news, or MSU events.” He adds that the songs are often arranged by students, and “the announcer, usually a trombonist with an especially ‘velvety voice,’ stands at very top of the scaffolding and cracks jokes through the band’s speaker system.”
But while the Trombones are deeply rooted in traditions, this year they decided to bring in something new to the SMB – four Bass Trombones. The Bass Trombone adds more depth to the ensemble and strengthens the low brass sound. One might even say they help lead the low brass sound. Ian Poage says, “As a bass bone, I can attest to the fact that these instruments and their players provide a certain power to the low-brass sound. Oftentimes doubling the tuba part, the bass bones create a low, edgy sound that really cuts through the ensemble.”
Troy Anderson says that, “As a true victim of the bass trombone sound, I stand right in front of them during concert arcs. The four bass bones consistently create a wall of sound behind me. I find it hard to keep my balance when their sound keeps pushing me forward. That’s how you know they’re doing their job correctly.”
As one of the loudest, most dominating sections of the Spartan Marching Band, the trombones are constantly finding ways to push each other, work harder, and become a better family. They have the be the ones the pave the way down the street into the tunnel and onto the field. Mikey Werth says, “There is nothing like marching into Spartan Stadium with nothing in front of you. All eyes are on you, all that is heard are the cheers; and without a doubt, it’s the best adrenaline rush you’ll ever get – and the Bones are fortunate enough to be able to have the honor of leading.”
Remember when you were a kid? Well, part of you still is. And that’s why the Spartan Baritones play “Faygo”. You’ll hear the current members of the Spartan Baritones play the iconic Pop theme song every game day during their warm-up on Adams Field. This year, the tradition is in its 42nd year.
Before MSU was sponsored by Pepsi, beverages in the stadium were supplied by Faygo. Beginning in 1976, the baritone section periodically played the “Faygo Boat Song” for the student section in between third and fourth quarter. The song was written by two baritone section members, Matt and Andy James. The student section and band both loved the tune, and it was adapted into a marching band halftime show played by the entire Spartan Marching Band. In the early 2000’s, Faygo was no longer served within the stadium, but the Spartan Baritones continue to play the tune to the present day.
Being a long-time tradition in the Spartan Baritones, it is also well-known by alumni of the Spartan Baritones. This is one of the reasons alumni band week is important to the Spartan Baritones. As part of recent tradition, the current section members and alumni come together after the game to play “Faygo” during Alumni Band week. Two versions of the song have been written for the baritone section. The older section members play along with the younger members in the original arrangement of “Faygo”. A more recent version of “Faygo” is played afterward.
Faygo is more than just a song or beverage for the Spartan Baritones. It’s one of the things that makes alumni week special for them. The shared connection is why current members look forward to alumni band each year. It brings everyone together from all generations from within the band.
“Alumni band week reminds me that I’m part of an organization that existed and thrived long before I got to MSU and will continue to do so long after I leave. We’re part of a long green line” says Mark Elinski, a senior Chemical Engineering Major from Troy, MI.
“I always look forward to alumni band week. It’s a great way to reconnect with alumni I’ve met in previous years, see people I’ve been in the band with, and meet new people,” says Ryan Malburg, a Music Education major from Wixom, MI. “Every year, I am fortunate enough to connect with someone and learn a lot about the band and our origins.”
Evan Blanchard, a senior Physics major from Okemos, MI, says “Sometimes that’s the only time alumni come back to MSU. The connections you made here never go away. All the friendships you made carry on for the rest of your life.”
Many members of the SMB can pinpoint the moment they decided they wanted to march at Michigan State. Whether they had parents in the band, an influential high school director, friends in the band, or a general love for the art, everyone has their own story about how they earned a spot in the Spartan Marching Band. For many though, the community involvement of the SMB is what showed them more about the college band experience. While most bystanders only experience the “normal Gameday routine” of the SMB, there is so much more to their story than football. Fifth year Tenor Saxophone Section Leader Alex Klingel says, “we are a bigger part of the community than just musicians at a football game, and that makes being a member of the SMB even more special.”
While the Tenor Saxes try not to take themselves too seriously, they do try to make the most of their college band experience. They shared with us how the SMB has made an impression on the community and how they believe it’s made an impact on those around them.
Dr. Thornton loves using the phrase, “make an impression,” to inspire members of the SMB – especially before a big run through of pregame or halftime. Senior Squad Leader Aryka Thomson says, “he is reminding us that what we do makes an impact on other people’s lives. We want that first note to sound powerful and beautiful, our uniform to be clean and worn with pride. The goal is to show our talent and the results of our hard work inspire others to do the same.” The SMB spends hours upon hours every week perfecting their shows, and it’s all to help make an impact on at least one person in the audience. “It’s important to understand that Dr. Thornton is talking to the band as a whole when he says ‘make an impression’ not just individuals,” says Junior Squad Leader John Hindenach. “During a performance it’s very hard for a single member to make an impact, but if everyone gives their all then we can make an impact and I think that’s very powerful.”
Senior, Sven Adriaens says, “everything we do should be treated as though it is affecting at least one other person even if we don’t directly receive praise in that moment. I didn’t make the band my freshman year, and every day I could hear them practicing from my room in Wonders. I would go to practices from time to time, and walk to class in a way that would take me past the practice field. I was initially unsure if I wanted to do college band, but after hearing the SMB, even only in a rehearsal capacity, those doubts disappeared.”
For many years now, the SMB has performed as the exhibition ensemble at the Grand Ledge Invitational, an event where several high school band students get to experience an ensemble of the caliber like the SMB for the very first time. Junior Ashley Hare says, “it’s great to be able to show them what we do, and often times people in their high school band will then set higher expectations for themselves and continue on with the music career.”
Sophomore Dan Schneider follows with, “They look up to us like we are a big brother or a mentor. They see what we are doing and they are blown away. Many students at the Grand Ledge competition are moved in such a way that it shapes their undergraduate career, whether that be joining the SMB tor even pursuing music here at MSU.” The Grand Ledge Invitational is often the epitome of finding a way to “make an impression” on an individual.
However, being in the SMB doesn’t just mean making a musical impression on someone, it’s also about finding ways to make a physical impression on the community. For the past 16 years, the Spartan Marching Band has worked in conjunction with mid-Michigan Sports Broadcaster Tim Staudt, and the Sparrow Children’s Hospital to host the “SMB For Kids” event, in which the SMB puts on a two-three hour benefit concert to help raise money for the hospital and for the SMB. Since its inception, the event has raised over a half a million dollars each for the Sparrow Children’s Hospital and for the SMB. Ashley Hare says that it’s an event that she looks forward to every year, and one of her favorite memories from her time in the SMB.
However, it isn’t just the big events that help make an impact in the community. Every week the SMB has extra gigs and performances that are outside of their normal commitments. Almost every Friday before a home football game, members go to the Spartan Hall of Fame Café and play rah-rah tunes and other pep band music for guests at the restaurant. On Gameday, there are several traveling groups that go around to different tailgates and play “Bandograms” for excited Spartan fans. The tenor saxes are particularly excited about gigs and extra opportunities to play. Section leader Alex Klingel says that “every opportunity that we get to venture outside of the band is an experience. There’s always a story to tell afterwards.”
Gigs are also a way to go out and interact the Spartan community in a way you normally wouldn’t get to. Klingel says, “we don’t get a lot of interaction with fans, and when you’re out in a gig with a smaller group physically interacting with fans, you might get to see someone you know or strike up a conversation with someone new. It’s a heartwarming experience.” He also recalls visiting an Iowa tailgate tent a few years ago, and said they were able to play their fight song for them. “We got an opportunity to play for random strangers, and being able to bond with the Iowa fans as well as Spartans is a really cool experience.” But in closing, and in true tenor saxophone fashion he says, “I love gigs, gigs are great.”
The Tenor Saxes are constantly trying to find ways to reach out to the community and stay in touch with their alumni. Every year they hold a fundraiser to help purchase their tenor saxophone apparel for the new members. Any parents, friends, or alumni that donate receive a couple of recorded post-cards throughout the season as well as a few photos of the section thanking them for helping out. Throughout this process the Tenors are able to build a better relationship with their alumni while supporting their new members. The Tenors recognize the importance of giving back to the community after all of the support given to them and the SMB, they love any opportunity to make music for other people.
Every Gameday the Tenors play “Ditty,” – their own rendition of “Scotland the Brave.” They circle around alumni, fans, and anyone else that they can “corral,” play the tune, and eventually add their own dance moves as the song progresses. This tradition began in the 1990’s when some of the Tenors played “Scotland the Brave” to ironically poke fun of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. For Halloween of 1998, many of the Tenors dressed up as the Irish Guard, and the following season this “Ditty” became a Gameday tradition.
The Tenor Saxes are constantly finding ways to give back and help support the community around them. Everything the Tenors do, encompass much of what the entire SMB stands for. Whether it’s making an impression on an eager high school bando, a Children’s Hospital, Spartan and Visiting Fans alike, or an athletic team, there is so much more to the SMB than Pregame and Halftime. Senior Aryka Thompson says, “The community looks to us as a symbol of pride for MSU. When we wear a band jacket, people associate us with hard work, passion, respect, and love for our school. Holding up those expectations by performing for and interacting with the community perpetuates this feeling of pride and shows the value of hard work.”