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.
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.
I am from Traverse City and went to Traverse City West Senior High School. Rachel Linsmeier (the 2nd SMB female Drum Major) was my band director when I was a drum major in high school. My sister, Kali Sanford, is currently an Osteopathic Medical Student at MSU. I am going into my fourth year in Music Education in the French Horn studio and formerly played Mellophone in the SMB (like Evan). My interests in music span a wide variety of areas. Currently, I am focused in Early Childhood Music and Music Therapy, however I am open to anything having to do with teaching music. I work at the Community Music School and am hoping to go to graduate school after teaching for a few years in early Music Education or Music Therapy.
Do you already know Evan?
Evan and I know each other well! He was a squad leader my freshmen year and took me under his wing, mentoring me through my first year in the SMB. Being in the same studio in the College of Music and in ensembles, we spend a lot of time together. We are really looking forward to working together because we already know each other well and will have of fun! Although he will be spending a lot of time teaching me the ropes, Evan is very relaxed and has welcomed me right into the role. Our leadership styles complement each other and will allow us to function efficiently on the field. Given our prior friendship we feel comfortable and trust each other, which is important when you’re strutting full force at each other in the stadium! We are both passionate about band but love to laugh and be goofy. We spent the past few weeks as instructors at the PAC Drum Major camp with many of the former SMB drum majors and got a chance to work together, which got us excited for the season!
What was the audition process for drum majors like?
The audition process is stressful. The past Drum Major spends a couple of months prior to the audition teaching the fundamentals of the pregame routine, back bend, strut, commands, and marching. This year we had the largest number of people ever come to audition. The audition itself consists of fitness testing, back bending, doing the pregame routine with the strutting entrance and marching. After narrowing it down to just a few, the audition process is completed by performing with the current drum major, and finally an interview. Then the wait begins to hear the results.
What motivated you to try out for drum major? Can you describe how you felt when you found out you were selected?
Rachel Linsmeier is my main inspiration. I auditioned for Drum Major in high school and wasn’t sure what to expect as I was young and fairly quiet. Pat Brumbaugh, my director at the time, believed in me and placed me in the role. Rachel, a student teacher at the time, mentored me through my first year. I received leadership training from her and from the MSU PAC camp and started to grow into the role. The next year Rachel became my band director and I was able to improve even further on my leadership skills. She was not only a role model for leadership but also an advocate for women in Music Education and Leadership.
Hearing the news about becoming a drum major in the SMB was unreal. I was training for a half marathon at the time and was out for a long run. I came home and got the email and was so tired I dropped to the floor. It was incredibly relieving and exciting at the same time. I called my mom and the entire conversation was her screaming at work!
Any interests outside of music/band?
My interests outside of band include playing IM soccer, running, hiking, and traveling. I love golf, however I’m terrible. My brother was a golf pro and my sister went to state finals for golf in high school. The genes somehow missed me.
Anything else that you would like to share?
I love the SMB and I am honored to step into the role of Drum Major!