Meet the Band

Meet the Band

SMB Mellos: Little Moments

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by Ilene Gould

The band is standing in the tunnel anxiously waiting to burst out on the field for their pregame performance. There’s 37 minutes left on the clock before game time. SMB director Dr. David Thornton steps up to the ladder, raises his arms, and says, “Let’s sing.”

Instruments are placed on the ground or stuck between legs; arms are lifted over each other and the band begins to hum the opening E flat of Shadows. The band sings in beautiful four-part harmony, coming together in this moment to “sing our love for Alma Mater.” On the word “love,” Dr. Thornton places his hand on his heart, whether on purpose or by accident, and smiles at the band.

It’s a humbling experience for those of the SMB to stand in a place where so many have come before them, but the Gameday Experience is surrounded by little moments like this. It’s a routine that never gets old.

While every section experiences Saturdays in East Lansing a little differently, we talked to the Mellophones about these little moments and what makes Gameday so memorable to them.

Senior Mellophone Nathan Doss, says that on his very first Gameday he remembers “walking across a dead quiet Adams field, a faint haze over the grass, with the sun barely starting to rise. The energy in the air was spine chilling. It was almost as if Adams field itself was trembling with anticipation.”

This anticipation is often called the “Christmas Eve Syndrome” – the inability to wait another moment. Junior Mellophone Section Leader Joey Essenburg says, “You know whenever you’re on vacation and you have something super exciting the next day so you wake up at 5am to get ready for it? That’s what Gamedays are like for the Mellos.”

On these early morning Gamedays, the Mellophone squad leaders bring treats and snacks for their squad, while waiting on the sidewalk to watch the color guard and drumline march “the series” from Dem Hall to the Practice Field. With cell phones out to record these moments, everyone is cheering, smiling, and laughing, forgetting for just a moment that it’s 6:30 in the morning.

Doss says, “the Gameday experience as a Mellophone is the ultimate team experience.” It’s about making sure everyone is there for each other, supporting each other every step of the way. To demonstrate their teamwork, every Gameday on Adams Field, the Mellos make one long line, reach over each other’s instruments, and play Pregame Fight while fingering the tune on the instrument to their left.

But perhaps the most poignant moment for the Mellos on Gameday, is shortly after they play Pregame Fight during their warmup. They get into two circles with the squad leaders in the middle, kneeling down on the grass. Squad Leaders hold hands and pass around a kiss on the back of each hand, and then the section leader says, “inside to the right, outside to the left.” The squad leaders stand, wrap their arms around each other and they all begin the infamous Mello chant.

“Spartan Mellos, brass playing war machines, trained to fight, trained to kill, trained to die, but never will.” This is repeated three times as the section sways and jumps back and forth gaining in intensity each time. Senior Bailey Barry says that “the words inspire strength and power- two qualities that are essential for everything that follows.”

This chant is something that’s gone on so long, no one is really sure anymore as to where it started, but it represents something much larger than just the chant itself. Freshman Madeline Steffke says that “the Mello chant is about our dedication to the band and to each other. It means that we are ready and willing to sacrifice it all for the group, but we will never surrender in the face of a challenge.” Essenburg follows with, “when you are a Spartan Mello you are a part of something much greater than yourself. You have the opportunity to be an amazing force within the ensemble.”

The energy from the Mello chant carries through the section onto the full band warm-up, through “the series,” and into the tunnel. As the clock reads 25 minutes, the band runs into the tunnel to line up, and the chaos begins to ensue. People are cheering and shouting, hyping each other up for the iconic kick step into pregame.

Doss says that “the tunnel is the most electric environment that I have ever experienced. Adrenaline is flowing so fast that you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or maybe do a combination of the three. There isn’t any one emotion that can describe it, but I like to think of it as riding the line between anxiety and crippling excitement. It’s my favorite place to be in the whole world.

Senior Mel MacLachlan says that “everyone is pumped up and ready to get out on the field to show everyone what we are made of. We are such a hard working ensemble and it feels so good to show everyone that our hard work pays off!” At 19 minutes, the drum-line begins the cadence, and the Spartan Marching Band kicksteps out of the tunnel into a sea of 75,000 fans.

Gameday isn’t just about the performances for the fans, it’s about the little moments and the little traditions throughout each section and throughout the band that make this day special. Whether it’s singing Shadows in the tunnel, warming up on Adams field, or watching the guard and drumline march over, throughout all of this, there is one thing present – the sense of family. Singing Shadows and looking around the ensemble seeing not only friends, but seeing family is what makes Gamedays so special. MacLachlan says, “Game days are hard work but at the end of the day, it’s worth it. All the support from friends, family, and fans is overwhelming. I am very thankful.”

SMB Altos: At the end of the day

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by Ilene Gould

The Spartan Marching Band rehearses every afternoon from 4:30 to 6:00, in preparation for Gameday, with extra practice on Monday nights from 7-9 and sectionals from 4-4:30 on Wednesdays and Fridays That’s 10.5 hours of rehearsal a week – plus the 6:30 am call time for a noon football game. Many people ask not only how band members balance SMB commitments with school, classes, extra-curricular activities, a social life, and occasionally some food and sleep, but why they do it.

While many would say “time management” or “keeping a planner,” others say it’s much more than that.

Members of the alto saxophone section helped us answer these questions

It starts with the incoming freshmen class. They come from all walks of life with various backgrounds, experiences, and degrees of skill; but amongst their differences, everyone has one thing in common: They know almost no one in this 50,000-member university.

Junior alto saxophone squad leader and Las Vegas native Eric Jenceleski said, “Coming from out of state I quite literally had no one upon my arrival at MSU. Being in the Spartan Marching Band instantly provides you with a 300-person support group.”

Freshman alto Matt VanLinder said, “members go out of their way to make you feel accepted, which means the world to me. No part of the band is left out, there is a culture of acceptance and inclusiveness that is extremely hard to find. The family that I’ve started my college career with is already one that I’ll never forget.”

Family. The word is used often to describe the culture within the band. While many of its members are far from home without a biological family nearby, band members have found ways to choose their own families, to create their own home, and create a support system for themselves.

Freshman alto Ashton Jordan said that all throughout her life she struggled to find a great group of friends in which she could trust and talk openly to, but found something quite different within the SMB. She said that members of the SMB “will listen to whatever you have to say and support you with whatever. Need a friend? You’ve got 300. Need someone to talk to? You’ve got 300 to choose from. It’s so relieving to know that I have true friends and that I’ll have wherever I go for the rest of my life.”

It didn’t take long for Jordan to realize that the entire band is there to support her. Whether it’s a band jacket from years ago, or a bright and shiny new one, band members realize that this family is generations long. People in the SMB are connected for nearly a hundred and fifty years. Senior alto saxophone section leader Andrew Acciaioli says, “From the first day you enter the band, you are gifted with hearing hundreds of stories. You learn about the incredible traditions and the people who made this organization as one-of-a-kind as it truly is.”

“I haven’t met a single band member, past or present, who hasn’t been inspired by these stories, and that inspiration is what drives us to preserve and build upon the great legacy that we are so privileged to be participants of,” Acciaioli said.

It’s also traditions like the “Hoolah Cup,” an eight-year-long rivalry game of kickball played between the Altos and the Baritones (Hooahs), and traditions like the “Absolute Mayhem” chant, as well as referring to themselves as the “Otlas” (altos backwards), that help keep the alto saxes feeling connected to their alumni throughout various generations of the SMB.

So when asked, “Why are you in the SMB?” or “How do you manage your time?” It has nothing to do with checking an item off of a list. Junior alto saxophone section leader Lisa Lachowski says, “For me, it comes down to this: mastering our art, and engaging in the community established through that art. Not everyone gets to experience music like this. . . not only is the music itself great, but it’s also accompanied by innovative drill and physically challenging technique. Add onto that a group of passionate people that care so deeply for one another. That’s the environment the SMB and its alumni create.” It’s section and squad leaders like Lachowski, Acciaoli, and Jenceleski that have truly helped continue the family culture not just within their own section, but throughout the entire ensemble.

The second verse of the MSU alma mater is often associated with leaving MSU and saying goodbye. It says, “When from these scenes we wander, and twilight shadows fade, our mem’ry still will linger, where light and shadows played.” We often think of a shadow as a remnant left behind, a piece of a memory, a moment in time. Being in the SMB is about leaving behind a legacy, or leaving behind a shadow for future generations to come. Despite all of the hard work, and the long hours each member dedicates to this ensemble– it never feels like work to them. Because at 4:30, the members of the SMB know they get to come home to their family at the end of each and every day.

Marching into a New Season: Trumpets and Preseason Traditions

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By Ilene Gould

As the army of trumpets charge down the field, you can hear the four part harmonies of the “Eef, Beef, Deuce, and Roosk” also known as the E Flat Cornet, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd parts of the trumpet section. They are the musical leaders of the ensemble and the fiercest of fighters in the Spartan Marching Band.

A family of 60, the Trumpets are often joined at the hip. Junior Section Leader Jake Bronson says that “despite the size of our section, we spend so much time together that we really consider each other family.” Even if it means that “we have to claim an entire section of the cafeteria in order to sit together.” And if that wasn’t enough, every year after picture day, the entire section always goes to Cracker Barrel, nearly taking over the entire restaurant.

Rooted in pride for not just for their section, but for the entire history of the SMB, every Gameday the trumpets play the Michigan State College Alma Mater during their warm-up, a song not traditionally played anymore with the full ensemble. But before they can reach the ever-awaited Gameday, there’s an immense amount of hard work and dedication throughout the 12 days of preseason.

With 22 freshmen this year, over a third of the section, the leadership has not only stressed the importance of family, but the importance of building a “foundation” early on in the season. Bronson says, “everything we do during preseason is building for the rest of the season, whether it’s building skills and fundamentals for marching and playing, or learning the traditions and building the relationships that allow us to perform with such pride and passion at every game.”

With all of the hard work from Preseason culminating at Freshman Dress, the final rite of passage into the SMB, Freshman Joel Burns says that “it’s a time where freshmen are pushed to their limits,” and that it’s a time “to show the upperclassmen and squad leaders that we can do this on our own.” Junior Peter DeRoche says, “It’s such an awesome thing for the freshman to experience. I know I’ll never forget that night, and I can safely say I’m not alone in that statement.”

Preseason is so much about learning what it means to be a member of the SMB, embracing Spartan pride, and learning about the ensemble’s history and long-standing traditions. Bronson says, that his favorite memory from preseason was hearing the freshmen sing shadows after their first night of learning the series, the infamous SMB March to the Stadium. “We were all pretty exhausted and sweaty, but hearing them sing after putting in all that work together really filled me up with pride, and I got serious chills during the swell on ‘sing our love for alma mater.’”

The Spartan Marching Band is so deeply rooted in traditions and history, and the Trumpets will forever be charging down the field, as an army of sixty, but a family of one.

Photo credit- Kim O’Connell

Meet the band: Dr. Arris Golden, Associate Director

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Dr. Arris Golden – Assistant Director of Bands
Associate Director, Spartan Marching Band

WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE 2018 SEASON?

I am excited about the shows that we have planned for the group, but I am even more excited to work with the students and staff of the SMB!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE SMB?

Two parts actually. The camaraderie and community that exists within the SMB as well as the traditions that make the SMB the group it is.

WHAT BRINGS YOU BACK TO MSU?

The opportunity to be involved with a total band program that is progressive, that is on the cutting edge both artistically and musically. Also, the opportunity to work within the MSU College of Music, was not an opportunity I could refuse.

WHAT ARE YOU EAGER TO BRING TO THE BAND IN YOUR NEW ROLE?

I am very much looking forward to creating new musical arrangements for the SMB and Spartan Brass. I am also looking forward to working with Dr. Thornton and the rest of our instructional staff in creating presentations that are both exciting and innovative.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE NEW TO THE SMB?

Get involved and get to know people ASAP! The SMB is filled with amazing people from all around the MSU campus. Getting to know them means that you are not just a member of the SMB, you are also a member of the Spartan family.

TO READ MORE ABOUT DR. GOLDEN, CHECK OUT HER BIO!
https://www.music.msu.edu/faculty/profile/arris

Meet the band: Lupe Dominguez, Administrative Assistant

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TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF

I am a graduate of MSU (Public Administration and Public Policy, History 2011 ) and am the proud mom of a great 10 year old son, Aiden, who I am sure will be seen around the office once in a while. I am an avid reader, and am a HUGE Harry Potter fan! I have a book blog I run, am a co-moderator of a book group on Goodreads, and am a co-host of a book club that meets every other month. When I’m not reading, I’m running Aiden around to his various sports activities and going on all kinds of field trips with him.

WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT IN YOUR NEW POSITION?

I am so excited to be in this position because I basically get to surround myself with the one of the things I love (band) and those I’ve always admired (the Band). One of my friends, as I was describing my job, interrupted me and said, “So basically, this is your dream job” and I had to stop and think about it and say, “Huh, you know what? You’re absolutely right!”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT MSU?

My favorite thing about MSU is just the campus. This campus, to me, is the most beautiful place. I love the sense of community that we have here and how we are able to spread that to not only East Lansing, but the greater Lansing area as a whole. I’ve been part of the MSU community since I was a child, my mother worked here and I had other family members who worked/work here as well, and so I feel a deep connection to MSU and East Lansing. I absolutely love this place.

HOW HAS MUSIC BEEN A PART OF YOUR LIFE PRIOR TO THIS?

I’ve been a musician of some kind since I was 10 years old, between choir, a brief stint in orchestra and band. I played the flute, mainly, but self-taught myself the oboe and alto saxophone, in hopes of joining the SMB my senior year of high school. I’ve always been a HUGE fan of the SMB, watching practices and staying for post-game shows during football season.

Meet the band: Jaren Scoggins, Drum Major

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Jaren Scoggins – Drum Major
4th Year, Grand Ledge

WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE 2018 SEASON?

Helping the freshmen grow throughout the season. One of my favorite things about being in the band is seeing the progression of the band and the freshmen from the beginning of the season to the end.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE SMB?

It’s impossible to choose one, but I’d say performing in Spartan Stadium. The energy that the audience puts out is electric and I love how loud the stadium gets when the band kicksteps out during pregame.

WHY DID YOU AUDITION FOR THE BAND?

I had the opportunity to see the SMB up close every year in high school at the Grand Ledge Marching Band Exhibition. The wall of sound that the band makes blew my mind and I knew it was something I had to be part of.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGH BEING A PART OF THE SMB?

I learned different ways to lead and teach. People learn in a lot of different ways and you have to be able to identify which ways of teaching will help different people learn to be an effective leader.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE NEW TO THE SMB?

Use every opportunity to just take in the moment. Your 4 or 5 years in college will fly by, and the marching band seasons will go by much quicker. Enjoy the moment because it will be over before you realize it.

Devon Davidson: Merging music and business

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SMB IN THE CAREER WORLD

The college experience is a transformative time for many people. Opportunities to participate in campus activities are significant in providing skills and experiences that are foundational in future employment. For many, participation in the Spartan Marching Band is formative is shaping leadership, communication, and life-skills. An added bonus is when students are able to connect these skills immediately through their schooling or summer opportunities, like internships. As we begin the fall 2018 season, we are going to take a look at some ways our members apply their experience in the SMB in real-world.

Devon Davidson is a trombone squad leader in the SMB and, this summer, he has worked as a Legal Audit Intern for GreenStone Farm Credit Services. As a squad leader, Devon teaches and reinforces marching fundamentals and leads a squad of four during pregame and in parades. In his role as legal audit intern, he works with Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data making sure the company complies with regulations. Additionally, he assists in the financial reporting group with monthly financial reports.

We asked Devon about his time in each organization and how his experiences relate.

WHAT SIMILARITIES ARE SHARED BETWEEN YOUR LEADERSHIP POSITION IN THE SMB AND YOUR WORK WITH GREENSTONE FARM CREDIT SERVICES?

Many similarities they share is in marching band you have to pay extreme attention to details and this is also true when working with large data sets such as the HMDA data. Another obstacle is that when trying to teach another person how something is suppose to be done or how something works you have to explain it in many different ways. This is especially true with teaching new marchers as everyone learns things differently. I use this in my internship because not everyone understands data results the same way. Some people are more graph oriented but others may just want to see the numbers behind the graphs. When explaining your process you have to explain it differently depending on how the person you are talking to learns the information. Effective communication is key in both marching band and at GreenStone. This allows everyone to understand what is being done and how to get to that point.

HOW HAS YOUR TIME IN THE SMB ENABLED YOU TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE IN YOUR INTERNSHIP?

In the SMB you have to learn how to manage your time extremely well between class, exams and marching. Learning how to manage my time carefully over the past few years in the SMB has greatly helped me balance my time between projects at work. Also paying close attention to details and being disciplined when working is a great skill that has been refined by the SMB. The band has also helped me with my communication skills. Being able to communication and teach in different ways and help people understand is a huge benefit on the field and in the work force.

WERE THERE ANY UNUSUAL SKILLS THAT YOU GAINED FROM YOUR TIME IN THE SMB THAT WERE SURPRISINGLY HELPFUL IN YOUR INTERNSHIP?

Being able to think quickly and effectively has helped me pick up on new information quicker. As a marcher you need to be able to multitask and adapt quickly to maintain uniformity and this helped with my transition into my first internship.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR TIME IN THIS INTERNSHIP AND THE SMB EFFECTING YOUR FUTURE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES?

This internship has given me tons of new skills that I can use in my future careers. My co-workers have shown me many new programs and process to help manage data and to work effectively within a farm credit system. The SMB and music as a whole has taught me how to be disciplined and function well under pressure. It has also advanced my communication skills and has prepared me for future success no matter what career path I choose. Also, the fan base and alumni base have built a strong network for me in my future goals in life.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT DEVON’S INTERNSHIP AND HIS TIME WITH GREENSTONE, CHECK OUT HIS ARTICLE!

http://www.greenstonefcs.com/newsandmedia/greenstoneblog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=345

Meet the band: Taylor Evon, Vice President

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Taylor Evon – Band Vice President
4th Year, Ithaca, Michigan

WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE 2018 SEASON?
I’m most excited about meeting all the new first year members coming into the band. Playing a role in their development is something I’ve enjoyed the past few years. Everyone comes in eager to learn and carry on our traditions.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE SMB?
My favorite part about the SMB is the sense of family everyone has with one another. It’s a big group, but if you ever need any help or advice someone is always willing to help. Whether you know people well or not, everyone is willing to help.

WHY DID YOU AUDITION FOR THE BAND?
I auditioned for the band because of the deep-rooted history and traditions the SMB has. The staff is historically excellent and I wanted to be a part of a group that was the best of the best.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGH BEING A PART OF THE SMB?
I have learned that you can always do more. You can always be a better marcher, musician, and person. You should always seek to lend a helping hand, improve yourself, and learn all you can.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE AUDITIONING FOR OR NEW TO THE SMB?
The advice to new members I have is to take risks and put yourself out there. If you do that, you won’t have any regrets. Breathe. It seems so simple but taking a deep breath when you are nervous goes a long way. Be open. Be open minded and seek to learn from others. And lastly, have fun! This is such a
special and unique experience… make the most of it! You are only in the SMB for a short period of time

Meet the band: John Scharf, President

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

WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE 2018 SEASON?

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.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE SMB?

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.

WHY DID YOU AUDITION FOR THE BAND?

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.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGH BEING A PART OF THE SMB?

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.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE AUDITIONING FOR OR NEW TO THE SMB?

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 band: Nikki Sanford, Drum Major

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Nikki Sanford – Drum Major
5th Year, Traverse City

WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE 2018 SEASON?

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.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE SMB?

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.

WHY DID YOU AUDITION FOR THE BAND?

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.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGH BEING A PART OF 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.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE NEW TO THE SMB OR THOSE PLANNING TO AUDITION?

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!