Meet the Band

Meet the Band

Meet the Band: Color Guard

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by Ilene Gould and Leah Wright

Amidst all of the clean, militaristic lines of the SMB, the sparkles and glitter of the SMB Color Guard add a beautiful and colorful visual to every performance. But beneath the smiles, costumes, and flags, are some of the fiercest performers in any college band. Being in the Color Guard takes hours of preparation, hard work, and years of experience. We are lucky enough to have two fantastic color guard oriented organizations at Michigan State. The SMBCG that performs with the Marching Band, and State of Art, and independent winter guard that performs and competes during the spring semester all around the country.

Just a few weeks ago, State of Art competed at the WGI Finals in Dayton, Ohio and for the first time in Independent Open, a higher class ranking than in previous years. With a show entitled “I think…”, this theme surrounded the concept of how we form ideas and what do with them. Led by an instrumental and voice-over track, the show follows how we process ideas, how we figure out what to do with them, and eventually how collaboration and teamwork help ideas blossom and develop into fruition.

Junior English major Leah Wright, a member of both the SMBCG and SOA, says that she thinks this year’s SOA show really reflects the essence of color guard and marching band. She notes that the best part is when ideas help bring people together to collaborate and create the best performance and show possible.

The best part about collaboration is when you can really see the audience participate and engage in the performance. Wright says that one of her favorite shows from the SMBCG 2019 season was the “Breakout Artists” show featuring music from Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce. The entire band performed a dance during a drum break of the song “Single Ladies” and the Color Guard was extremely instrumental in teaching the choreography to the band. Wright says it was really cool “to get that big response from that big of a stadium. It’s fun and new and people really enjoyed it.”

Wright also talked about the differences between performing in a winter guard and performing with a marching band. She notes that it’s really cool to see the audiences faces during an SOA performance, versus performing for a crowd of 75,000 people. The choreography is a lot more intricate and detailed in SOA because you don’t have to project to a stadium full of people. In the SMBCG the choreography is a lot larger and simpler to increase its readability to a that large of an audience.

Wright says that one of her favorite parts about being involved in both organizations is the evolution of technique. Wherever you march, you learn different styles and techniques with different types of staff members and teaching styles. This diversity makes you able to adapt and march anywhere outside of Michigan State, whether it be drum corps or otherwise, it helps make you a more successful performer.

Like any other section in the Spartan Marching Band, the SMBCG has a lot of their own traditions that make them unique. Every year they give out the Maggie Martindale Award, in remembrance of a color guard member who passed away in the ‘80s, to a Junior in the guard who embodies her positive sunshine spirit. On their very first away trip every season, they take a moment to remember Maggie by taking a shot of peach juice before they get on the bus. Her favorite drink was Peach Schnapps and this is their way of keeping her spirit and memory alive. They also take a moment to remember former color guard director Orlando Suttles by passing out his favorite treat – lemon drops, as he used to say, “Life’s not that deep, have a piece of candy.”

The color guard is one of the most integral aspects of the Spartan Marching Band, and just over a month, they will be holding auditions to be a part of next year’s ensemble! Wright says to “Breathe and look up! One of the things we live by in the SMBCG is ‘fake it ‘till you make it.’ Color guard is fun and that’s what we’re all here to do.”

If you’re interested in auditioning, or looking for more information go to or check out the event on Facebook:

Auditions are June 22nd, 2019 and start at 8:30am.

Meet the Band: Drumline

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By Ilene Gould

One of the most iconic symbols of any marching band is the drumline. An essential aspect of the Spartan Marching Band, the drumline helps keep the beat and continues to propel the ensemble forward day in and day out.

A foundational root of the SMB, the traditions within the drumline go back almost to the very beginning of the band when it was founded in 1870. But the key date within the drumline is the inception of “The Series” created by Merritt Lutz in 1966. Known today as the infamous March to the Stadium, “The Series” is a four-minute drum cadence accompanied by movement, choreography, and various vocals throughout the band. It is an ever-evolving part of the SMB with little additions and revisions each year, but the core foundation remains the same.

Every year on Alumni Band Day, the current members of the drumline and the alumni members of the drumline have a “drum-off” and play “The Old Series” vs. “The New Series.” It’s an amazing display of history, tradition, and the evolution of the fifty-three-year old cadence.

Sophomore Tenor Drum Ben Faupel says “the best part of the MSU Drumline is the relationships that you make. The crazy experiences that you have on this Drumline creates a permanent bond that nobody can replicate.” He adds that the “Drumline is very fortunate to have such a strong connection with our alumni, and the support that they give us is very heartwarming.”

Other prominent traditions within the drumline include performing at the Student Book Store on Gameday, performing the “Third Quarter Cheer” filled with choreography, tricks, flips, and other impressive exploits during the Game; and they are also known for their many iconic pieces including Martian Mambo, Ditty, and X.

Part of what makes the SMB as a whole so exceptional, is the individual commitment to improve all year round. For example, many band members participate in Drum Corps International, where several different corps and marching bands work all summer to travel and compete around the country. Another outlet for musicians outside of the SMB, is Winter Guard International (WGI). WGI is an indoor version of marching band with three different categories – Color Guard, Winds, and Drumline.

Many of the SMB drummers participate in WGI every year, and during WGI season, drummers travel around the country for rehearsals and competitions and often dedicate 6 months worth of weekends to the activity. Right now, WGI ensembles across the country are preparing for the annual WGI finals that take place in Dayton, Ohio at the end of the April. Sophomore Cymbal Inori Nakamura says that she personally loves the amount of body, visuals, and storytelling within WGI shows.”

It’s a drastic change and adjustment compared to the militaristic style of the SMB. WGI is often very artsy, expressionistic, and filled with dance and choreography as well as the normal drill formations like in any marching band show. However, the work ethic and training are just the same, everyone is striving towards perfection.

A big force behind the push towards excellence is Dr. Jon Weber, the director of the SMB drumline. Nakamura says that “his teaching methods and personality makes this Drumline not only fun, but the best. He’s an instructor whom you trust indefinitely, and you know he cares about the line more than anyone else.” It’s mentors like Dr. Weber that help carry on the fundamentals and push the drumline to be the best they can be. Nakamura says that “At the end of the day, I’m always proud to be in the Spartan Drumline, marching with people who really matter, and carrying the name of the Drumline to the next generation.”

Meet the Band: Taylor Scheffer, Feature Twirler

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by Ilene Gould

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.

Meet the Band: Big Ten Flags

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By: Ilene Gould

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.”

Meet the Band: Tubas

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By Ilene Gould

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.

Meet the Band: Trombones

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By: Ilene Gould

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.”

Meet the Band: Baritones

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By Kim O’Connell

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.”

Meet the Band: Mellos

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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.”

Meet the Band: Alto Saxophones

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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.

Meet the Band: Trumpets

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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