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MSU Museum Preserves Spartan Band History

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Photo Credit: Perl Yes Wong

By Jacob McCormick

As a History major, Museum Studies minor, and Spartan Marching Band member, I have had the unique opportunity to combine my studies in history and museology with a Spartan Band focus. During Fall 2016, I began an internship with the MSU Museum History Collection through the MSU Museum Studies Program. This internship afforded me the chance to gain valuable real world hands-on experience in the Museum. Given my membership in the Spartan Marching Band and my familiarity with its history, the opportunity to take inventory and assess the Museum’s collection of MSU Band materials was exciting, educational, and rewarding.

The Michigan State University Museum, among the earliest established museums in the United States, is the steward of approximately one million objects reflecting disciplines and fields such as Natural Science, Archaeology, Anthropology, Folk Arts, and History. The History and Culture Collections consist of about 100,000 artifacts, of which less than five percent is on exhibit at any given time. The Spartan Band materials are among the objects carefully housed for research and preservation when not on display in the MSU Museum, located at 409 W. Circle Drive.

The MSU Band was established in 1870. The earliest band-related materials in the MSU Museum’s collection date to the early twentieth century. A large portion of the band collection is ephemeral paper material, such as concert programs and photographs. Exploring the selection of band photographs, one might find a large panoramic photograph of the Michigan Agricultural College Military Band or a snapshot of an early band member dressed in his khaki uniform.

Most directors of the Michigan State Band are represented in the Museum’s collection through snapshots, uniforms, and personal belongings. Materials include numerous awards and medals from Leonard Falcone, mementos of William Wiedrich’s years as a member of the band and as director, and a plethora of photographs documenting John T. Madden’s 28 years in the position.

Aside from the paper and photograph portion of the collection, the MSU Museum also maintains numerous band-related textiles. Primarily composed of uniforms, the Band textile collection includes early Cadet Corps Band uniforms and the first green and white Spartan Band uniform worn from 1952 through 1964. This inaugural green and white uniform is now accompanied by nearly every successive Spartan Band uniform from the last 65 years.

Many directors’ uniforms, like those of Leonard Falcone, Kenneth Bloomquist, and John Madden, are also featured in the Museum’s collection. Several Band Jackets, including an early 1950s prototype, find their home in the collection as well, many adorned with varying section and bowl game patches. Michigan State’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 1954 is commemorated with a Band Jacket patch, the original artwork for which can be found in the collection.

Aside from the Spartan Marching Band materials, the museum collection also houses objects related to the MSU Alumni Band, Swartz Creek Band, Spartan Brass, and various concert ensembles.

Did you know that the Spartan Marching Band has performed for five U.S. presidents? Did you also know that the 1988 Rose Bowl game ball was gifted to the Spartan Marching Band by head coach George Perles? Answers to these questions and more can be found in the extensive collections of the Michigan State University Museum.

To learn more about the MSU Museum and for information on how to access collections for research, visit museum.msu.edu.

Information and access to collections courtesy of Michigan State University Museum.

2017-18 Spartan Brass Auditions: Thursday, October 5, 2017

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Auditions for the 2017-18 Spartan Brass will be Thursday, October 5, 2017, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the Music Building. Sign up for audition times on the board outside the MSU Band office (room 116) in the Music Building.

Spartan Brass is a second semester, 1 credit ensemble. All students who earn a position in the Spartan Brass must enroll for one credit.

The 1st rehearsal is Thursday, October 12th, 2017
7:00 to 9:00 PM in Demonstration Hall – Band Hall
Music, uniforms, procedures, and season schedule to be discussed.

Spartan Brass will be accepting auditions for the following instruments:

Alto Sax (10), Tenor Sax (6), Trumpet (30 = 10 1st, 10 2nd, 10 3rd), Mellophone (10), Trombone (20 = 6 1st, 7 2nd, 7 3rd), Baritone (12), Tuba (6-8), Electric Bass (2), and Drum Set (3-5).
Note: instrumentation is flexible

What to prepare?

Instrumentalists should prepare a solo or etude, no longer than two minutes. Contrasting styles are recommended. A marching band excerpt is acceptable, but NOT ADVISED.

Percussionists (drum set players) must exhibit mastery of all styles and sight reading ability. All Drum Set players will play for Dr. Jon Weber on or before Oct 11 at Dem Hall. Email or see Dr. Weber for details (drumline@msu.edu).

Electric Bass players All E. Bass players must attend the first rehearsal on Oct 12th in Dem Hall and perform with the band (sight read). Bring your own E. Bass, we will supply the amp. Send email to thorn155@msu.edu to confirm your spot.

2nd Annual SMB Pancake Breakfast – Saturday, August 26, 2017

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The 2017 Spartan Marching Band recently enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast thanks to the sponsorship of 40 band families, and many early morning volunteers.

The 2nd Annual SMB Preseason breakfast was held on Saturday, August 26 outside of Dem Hall and included fresh pancakes off the griddle, hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage, juice and coffee. Sparty joined the band in these early morning festivities, mingling with everybody, twirling batons, playing the trombone and flipping pancakes himself.

We are looking forward to the 3rd annual event next August. As a result of the many generous contributions, enough money was raised to donate $300.00 back to the marching band jacket fund for 2017.

Here are some pictures from the event.

Second Color Guard Audition – Saturday, August 12, 2017

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On Campus Auditions

The SMB Color Guard will hold one (1) additional audition day for the 2017 SMB season. All prospective members will experience a morning group class in movement and flag that includes fundamentals along with choreography. After lunch, there will be a brief review and then the audition will proceed in small groups. Auditionees will meet with staff immediately following the audition to receive feedback and results. Those selected for the color guard will report to SMB preseason training on August 21st.

To register, please fill out the following Google form.

Date: Saturday, August 12, 2017
Location: Band Hall in Demonstration Hall.
Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

What to wear:
Please wear darker clothes that you move well in and are able to properly show your skills.
Ladies, a hair tie is expected to keep your hair out of your face.

What to bring:
Water, gloves and a great attitude! We will provide all equipment.
What we are looking for:
We are looking at grace, poise, attention to detail, athleticism, connection of body with equipment, quick adaptability to style + technique, strong performance, strength, consistency, attitude.
The desirable candidate will have all of the above attributes or the right-mix along with a strong desire/passion to improve and grow into the skill set necessary to succeed at Color Guard at MSU.

Contact information:

Mindi Murray, SMBCG Director – mindo217@gmail.com
David Thornton, SMB Director – thorn155@msu.edu

David Thornton named 13th Director of the SMB

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In announcing the appointment, James Forger, dean of the College of Music, praised David Thornton for the experience, energy and artistry he will bring to his new role.

“We look forward to welcoming David in this important leadership position,” Forger said. “We are confident that he will execute this new role with great skill and imagination, while building on our distinguished marching tradition here at MSU.”

The 300-member band was founded in 1870 and has grown into one of the premier college marching bands in the nation. Thornton has been part of the band’s leadership team for the past five years. He came to MSU as a graduate student in 2012 and joined the faculty of the College of Music in 2015 as assistant director of bands and assistant director of the SMB.

As part of his duties, he will also conduct the Symphony Band and Spartan Brass. Thornton succeeds Professor John Madden, who has announced his retirement from the university, effective Aug. 16.

Kevin Sedatole, MSU professor of music and director of bands, has worked closely with Thornton, first as his conducting mentor and more recently as a colleague.

“I’m very excited to welcome David as the new director of the Spartan Marching Band and conductor of the Symphony Band,” Sedatole said. “He has done exceptional work as the associate director, and I know that he is ready to take over the helm of the SMB. I’m thrilled that one of the best young conductors in the country will now be joining me in leading our band program.”

A native of Springfield, Va., Thornton received master’s and doctoral degrees in wind conducting from MSU and holds bachelor’s degrees in music education and clarinet performance from Florida State University, where he held the position of head drum major of the FSU Marching Chiefs.

Thornton began his teaching career leading middle school and high school band programs in Melbourne and Tallahassee, Fla. Under his leadership, bands from Tallahassee’s Leon High School received peer-reviewed invitations to appear at the College Band Directors National Association Southern Division Conference, the Savannah (Georgia) Music Festival and the Florida Music Educators Association State Conference.

From his very first SMB rehearsal in 2012, Thornton was impressed with the band’s culture of comradery and its performance excellence.

“I have great respect and appreciation for the rich tradition and history of the Spartan Marching Band,” Thornton said. “I place tremendous value in the century-long heritage that has been established, and I am eager to continue that culture in collaboration with our outstanding students. I am excited to embrace my role as director within the SMB family of students, alumni, directors, and donors as we carry on the time-honored commitment to excellence.”

Read the full article on the MSU College of Music website.

David Thornton, assistant director of bands was appointed director of the Spartan Marching Band effective June 14, 2017. Photo by Mark Hansen.

2017 Staff Announced

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The SMB is pleased to announce our staff for 2017. Pictures and bios for new members will be coming soon. Go Green!

2017 SMB Staff
Director – David Thornton
Associate Director – Simon Holoweiko
Announcer – Peter Clay
Visual Instructors – Glen Brough and Jon Schwarz
Percussion Instructor – Jon Weber
Percussion Graduate Assistant – Kathryn Irwin
Conducting Graduate Assistants – Tyler Austin, Travis Higa, Hunter Kopczynski, Branden Steinmetz
Color Guard Instructor – Mindi Murray
Assistant Color Guard Instructors – Bryan Ayala and Emily Rogers
Twirling Instructor – Sarah Bennett