Meet the band: Nikki Sanford, Drum Major

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Nikki Sanford – Drum Major
5th Year, Traverse City


I am excited about this next season as the leadership team has already begun preparing for it. We have big shows planned and always consider student feedback to further improve our band. I am looking forward to the big games that will be held in Spartan Stadium as well as our travel to BOA.


My favorite part about the SMB is the people and the support from the community. I have made some of the best friends in my life through this organization. We all work hard towards a common goal bigger than ourselves which is something that I am very proud to be a part of. On game day, our hard work pays off through our performances and the love that we receive from the community and alumni.


I auditioned for the band because of its stellar reputation for a high standard of excellence and the community support that comes with being in the band. It was a great way to be welcomed into Spartan culture before school even began. I feel like I am giving back to my school while participating in music in a way that is unlike anything I had prior to the SMB.


I learned that SMB culture runs deep throughout history. Alumni who come back for games or see our band jackets share stories of their experiences in the band. The tradition of the band creates a shared bond between generations of people.


My advice for those auditioning would be to come in prepared well musically because we have high expectations given the number of people who come to audition. I also would advise for you to have an open mind and be ready to learn about marching technique, especially if it differs from your past experience. For those new to the band, be open to meet new people. The vet members are thrilled to meet you and be a mentor to you. Be ready to work extremely hard and come prepared. With these things in mind, you will have a successful and rewarding season ahead!

Arris Golden to bring great energy and talent to MSU as newest Band faculty

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Arris Golden, a skilled conductor, music educator and band director currently leading the Marching Tar Heels of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will join the faculty of the Michigan State University College of Music as the assistant director of bands and associate director of the Spartan Marching Band. Her appointment will be effective July 1.

“Arris brings creativity as a conductor and over 20 years of experience as an award-winning music educator in North Carolina, where her artistry in the concert hall, the classroom, and on the marching band field has been clearly seen,” says Dean James Forger. “We are excited to engage an individual with her depth of talent and experience.”

Golden is known as an accomplished educator with extensive experience leading marching, concert and symphonic bands.

“Our students are going to love Arris Golden’s energy and enthusiasm for her job,” says David Thornton, associate director of bands and director of the MSU Spartan Marching Band. “Her teaching experience and knowledge of our program will allow her to have an immediate impact.”

Golden was drawn to MSU because of the level of artistry and commitment to excellence she saw within the band program.

“I was also drawn to the community within the College of Music,” Golden says. “There is an incredible sense of camaraderie and collaborative spirit that exists among the faculty, staff, and students.”

The depth and breadth of the MSU band program requires a leader of Golden’s caliber who has worked with multiple types of bands at multiple levels. She brings a proven ability to relate to students of a variety of ages and backgrounds. Her middle school concert band leadership, for example, led to international recognition and featured performances and premieres of commissioned works at respected music education conferences.

“We are very excited to have Arris Golden joining us at MSU,” says Kevin Sedatole, director of bands and chair of the conducting area. “Her unique experience in the area of commissioning for the wind band repertoire and her significant qualifications as conductor and educator will greatly enhance our wind band community. She also brings expertise on the secondary level of teaching that will offer invaluable learning experiences for our students.”

Golden said she is looking forward to teaching and working with students at all levels of the band program. She is excited, too, about interacting with area high school students through the Spartan Wind Symphony and with students who come from all parts of campus via the Spartan Marching Band. Her familiarity with MSU comes from her involvement in its band programs as a graduate student having recently completed the DMA in wind conducting.

“To me, this position is the best of all possible worlds,” she says. “I am greatly anticipating getting started in July.”

About Arris Golden

Arris Golden is the newly appointed assistant director of bands and associate director of the Spartan Marching Band at Michigan State University. She officially beings her new position in July 2018.

Golden is currently a member of the conducting faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and serves as the assistant director of University Bands. In this position, she is the music director of the 265-member Marching Tar Heels, director of the Women’s Basketball Pep Band, conductor of the Symphony Band, guest conductor with the Wind Ensemble. She also teaches courses in music education.

Prior to her appointment the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Golden was director of athletic bands at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina (2008-2009). While at Campbell, she oversaw the entire athletic band program, including the inaugural year of the “Sounds of the Sandhills” Football Pep Band and the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Pep Bands.

In addition, Golden served eight years as the director of bands at Gravelly Hill Middle School in Efland, North Carolina. During her tenure, Golden conducted an internationally recognized middle school concert band that participated in featured performances at the North Carolina Music Educators Association annual conference, in Winston Salem, North Carolina (2010) and at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, in Chicago, Illinois (2012). The bands at Gravelly Hill also worked with numerous clinicians, including the premier of four commissioned works for band: “Kitsune: The Fox Spirits,” by Brian Balmages (2009), “The Machine Awakes” for young band and electronics by Steven Bryant (2012), “Freight Train,” by Pierre LaPlante (2013), and “The Cave Your Fear” by Michael Markowski (2014).

Golden holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She recently completed the doctor of musical arts in wind conducting from Michigan State University as a 2014 recipient of a Michigan State University Distinguished Fellowship.