Meet the Band

Meet the Band

Meet the officers – John Scharf, Band President

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John Scharf – Band President (second from left above)
4th Year, Lake Orion


I am most excited for what the band can bring in 2018. We had a great start with Dr. Thornton and It will be exciting to see the continued growth. We have a planned trip to perform at Bands of America. The production for that show is going to be very fun and I’m intrigued to see the creative juices that go into the show. Lastly, there is also a huge buzz around the football team. When 19 of the 22 starters are set to return for the football team, that always draws interest.


My favorite part of being in the SMB would have to be all the opportunities we have to perform and cultivate relationships. Some of my life-long friends were met through this ensemble. The support we have from each other and the community is truly what gives this group a family-like environment.


Growing up, I knew that the MSU drumline was one of the top college drumlines in the country. A handful of my instructors, and friends had been a part of it and I did not want to miss out. It was also a great opportunity to learn from Dr. Jon Weber, someone I had known about since I was 14. Since then, Dr. Weber has been one of the largest influences throughout my time here at Michigan State.


The SMB has taught me that this group is much like a strong tree. The roots are strong, and we continue to grow taller and stronger. It is a welcoming group with individuals that will go out of their way to make sure your experience is one that you won’t forget.


My advice to those auditioning would be to have fun. Auditioning is very scary, I understand that. But, the more you can be yourself and allow your personality to shine through, the more enjoyable it will be. Everyone is rooting for you and we all want to see you at your best. Also, if you know people in the band, reach out! Those people are good resources and would be more than willing to help out.

Meet the officers – 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!

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!

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.

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.