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.

Spartan Alumni Drum Majors Organize Campaign to Endow Glen Brough Leadership Award

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Since 1975, Glen Brough has served MSU, the Spartan Marching Band (SMB) and MSU Performing Arts Camp (PAC) in many influential roles from drum major and student leader to world-class marching and visual instructor sharing his expertise to develop young leaders with an unwavering commitment to the traditions and excellence of the SMB. This year (2018) is Glen’s last season with the SMB, as he has announced his retirement from MSU effective Aug 2019.

SMB Alumni and friends are working to raise $50,000 to fund the Brough Leadership Award Endowment to provide tuition scholarships to SMB members who meet criteria serving in leadership positions and those who demonstrate a capacity to achieve educational and professional goals, along with the motivation to seek personal growth and development.

Early donors have established a matching gift opportunity for the first $20,000 pledged toward this endowment. The impact of your individual contribution will be doubled with a pledge which can be paid over a five-year period.

Contributions at any amount are welcome. Please support the campaign to endow the Brough Leadership Award and support SMB student leaders for years to come! Make a secure online donation today by clicking below, OR to make a multi-year pledge, please feel free to contact Madison Dugan, Assistant Director of Development / Alumni Relations for the MSU College of Music at or by calling 517-432-4888.

URL do donation page:

SMB 2020 Audition Dates Announced

The Spartan Marching Band is open to all university students by audition only. You must be accepted to Michigan State University in order to audition. You do not need to be a music major to qualify for the Spartan Marching Band (SMB). Approximately 10% of the SMB population studies music, while the other 90% come from all other colleges and majors in the University.

Register for your audition (required for all sections)

To register for an audition, please fill out this google doc. If you have any questions, contact the band office at or (517) 355-7654. Dr. Thornton will send out an email with final information before each audition.


Any questions about the audition process? Be sure to visit the SMB audition FAQ page.

You may also e-mail the Director of the Spartan Marching Band, Professor David Thornton at with any questions related to Spartan Marching Band auditions.

There is one scheduled audition day for instrumentalists interested in membership in the SMB:

  • Saturday, June 13, 2020
  • Start time: 8:30 am meeting, Music Building, room 120
  • 9:00 am audition times begin
  • Lunch on your own
  • 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Marching Audition – location TBA
  • 3:00 pm: audition day concludes

What to Expect

The instrumental audition should consist of one prepared solo piece or etude involving contrasting styles (3 to 5 minutes in length). A piece that you might perform at a “Solo and Ensemble Festival” would be appropriate. You do not need an accompanist. This piece does not need to be memorized.

Please also prepare the following major scales; C, F, B flat, E flat, A flat, G, D, A, E. Perform these scales by memory.

There will be brief sight-reading at the live audition.

Wear appropriate “work out” type clothing for the marching audition, including proper footwear (running shoes, sneakers, etc.). No sandals. Wear comfortable, not formal, clothing for your “playing” audition. You will have time to change clothes for the marching audition.

Video Auditions

Those who can’t be on campus for the regular audition day may submit a “video audition.” However, it is highly recommended to attend the audition day. Videos must be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo. Email the video link to with the subject line; SMB Video Audition.

The video audition must contain:

  • Solo piece from beginning to end (may be video of recent solo and ensemble performance with accompanist, or other solo performance).
  • If making a solo performance video, accompaniment is not required, but is welcomed.
  • All scales listed above from memory.
  • Display of marching technique on a football field – 10 yards of forward march “8 to 5” and 5 yards of backwards march “8 to 5.” iPhone video is fine here.
  • Introduction of yourself.
  • Email with video link(s) must contain name, address, phone, and on-campus housing assignment (if known).

Brass and Saxophone Music Majors:

If you plan to be a music-major, your MSU College of Music audition will satisfy for automatic membership in the Spartan Marching Band. These music majors will receive an invitation letter from the Marching Band Office in early May. If you would like to participate in the SMB as a music major, simply fill out the form in the early May mailing and return it to the MSU Band office. You will then be included in our July mailing for all new SMB members.

Flute, Clarinet, Oboe and Bassoon Music Majors

Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, and Bassoon music education majors typically perform on alto or tenor saxophone in the SMB. If you are interested in participating in the SMB, you must audition on your preferred “marching” instrument or by video as described above.


Drumline auditions will be held on Saturday, April 25 and Saturday, May 9 2020, from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. More information can be found on the drumline website.

Percussion Music Majors:

Percussion music majors must still audition for the drumline.

Questions about drumline auditions should be directed to Professor Jon Weber, MSU drumline instructor.

Color Guard

On Campus Auditions

SMB Color Guard auditions will be Saturday, June 27, 2020 from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM at Demonstration Hall. 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.

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.

Video Auditions

Those who are unable to attend auditions with a reason deemed acceptable by the SMBCG instructor or SMB Director are able to submit a video with that demonstrates the following requirements:

  • Movement: 60 second routine that demonstrates basic knowledge of movement fundamentals including moving across the floor
  • Flag:
  • o Drop spins
    o Peggy spins
    o Thumb flips
    o Pull hits
    o Pop, Pole (crank), Prayer, Wind-­up, 45 tosses

To submit audition videos, please upload to Youtube and mark as ‘unlisted’. Email the unlisted link to Emily Rogers
Deadline: Friday, June 26 at Midnight. This deadline is non-negotiable. We will not accept late submissions.


Please feel free to reach out to any of the following people with questions:

David Thornton, SMB Director:
Emily Rogers, SMB Color Guard Director:

Big Ten Flags

Big Ten flag auditions will be Saturday, June 13, 2020 from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM at Demonstration Hall.

Any questions should be directed to Rachel Hogan (

Feature Twirlers

Feature Twirler auditions will be Saturday, March 7, 2020 at Demonstration Hall. Applicants who have been invited to campus for a live audition should report to Demonstration Hall at 2:00 PM.

Any questions should be directed to SMB Director David Thornton (

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.”

The SMB at Bands of America (BOA) National Championship

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By: Ilene Gould

During a college football game, not everyone is interested watching the halftime show; many see halftime as an opportunity to head towards concessions or use the restroom, and many are talking as the band takes the field.

It’s very rare that a college band gets to experience a venue where every single fan is there to watch them perform. But every year, Bands of America (BOA) hosts events like this dedicated to the marching arts. Thousands of high school band members and their families gather to watch nothing but marching band.

Nobody is leaving their seats in the middle of the show and the crowd is completely quiet. Everyone sits anxiously awaiting for the next band to perform, no interruptions, no football, just music.

This is what it was like for the Spartan Marching Band as they performed as an exhibition band at the Bands of America Grand National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on November 9th.

BOA hosts marching competitions all over the country, but this weekend’s competition included 108 of the nation’s best ensembles performing over the course of three days.

And this year, the SMB got to be a part of it.

This performance was the start of a marathon weekend for the SMB. The SMB traveled to Indianapolis that Friday, only to have a quick turnaround in order to be back and ready for the Michigan State vs. Ohio State Football Game the very next day. But despite the exhaustion, performances like BOA are what fuel these hard-working musicians.

As the entire crowd, including all those high school band members eagerly awaited the announcement of who made it into the semi-final round, the SMB took the field…

Performing their tribute show to the Circus featuring music from the movie The Greatest Showman, as well as music from Cirque du Solei, and the 1941 Disney Classic, Dumbo, with the song “When I see an Elephant Fly,” (featuring a flying Dumbo made by the band). For some, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. For others, this was not their first time performing at Lucas Oil Stadium. Many SMB members have competed at various BOA events during their high school career, and many have spent their summers marching with Drum Corps International (DCI) performing at the DCI Finals in August.

Junior Baritone Ryan Malburg says this was his 8th time performing at Lucas Oil between various DCI performances with the Cavaliers over the past two years. He says, “there’s a special kind of feeling being inside this stadium, and stepping on that field feels incredible every time I’m able to. I had some of the best moments of my entire life, and have had many emotional performances at Lucas Oil. Being able to share this experience with the Spartan Marching Band was truly special, and was a memorable experience in an entirely new way.”

Sophomore Tenor Sax Dan Schneider shares a similar experience, but he has been fortunate enough to perform at Lucas Oil Stadium three times for the BOA Grand Nationals with his high school, as well as three times with the Legends Drum and Bugle Corps, making this performance his 7th at Lucas Oil. He says that “each performance is one of its own. Each time you take away a different experience that can change yours and other people’s lives.”

Freshman Tuba Shimon Likhtman was a member of a competitive marching band in high school that would perform at the BOA Regional in St. Louis, but he says that Lucas Oil felt different. “Lucas Oil holds a significance for competitive marchers; it’s where the best of the best go to compete. Although we weren’t competing it was quite the rush marching on that field of champions.”

Sophomore Color Guard member Alaura VanNest performed at BOA three times while in high school, and she said, “it was a great chance for me to actually experience the venue, rather than just experience my performance. It was a lot of fun knowing that there were high schoolers in the stands waiting to see us, and that my performance could really impact their future marching career.

While some had BOA or DCI experiences, others remember performing at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa. Senior Trumpet Anneliese Petersmarck, says that “The Big Ten Championship game was amazing, but I don’t think anything will compare to an entire audience who are there to watch bands perform, and who know exactly what goes into what we do.”

Senior Mellophone Bailey Barry says that “The Big Ten Championship game was like nothing else. It was my first performance in Lucas Oil and one I will never forget. Being back in Lucas Oil for BOA was amazing. The energy was just the same.”

Senior Trombone Adam Mackey adds that “It was a completely different experience. There’s a lot more commotion when it comes to the Big Ten Championship game, a lot more practice time, lots of fans from many schools, and it makes for an easy transition to it being such a big game and still on a Saturday.”

However, for the majority of the band, they had never performed at Lucas Oil before. A lot of people noted the differences in the acoustics that came from playing inside a large dome. Sophomore Trumpet Thomas Zambiasi said that he was most surprised by how much of the sound got lost in the dome. He said, “I haven’t performed in a band competition for two years, so it was definitely a little weird not having the big crowd noise or reactions that we’re used to in Spartan Stadium.” Senior Kelsie Montgomery adds that “The way the stadium was laid out was a little weird because mostly all you could hear was yourself and not the others around you. Normally I can hear our announcer just fine at the stadium but at Lucas Oil it was harder to hear him.”

However, Sophomore Alto Sax Nick Confer would say otherwise. He said that, “The acoustics were incredible! This was one of the first times I’ve been able to really hear myself playing during a performance with the SMB.”

Fifth Year Snare Jack Tallman adds that, “it was an echo chamber. The field feels bigger than what we usually perform on. The amount of seats is also incredible. There’s a very cool energy to the place; it makes you amplify the intensity you bring to the field.”

But despite the acoustics many band members loved every moment of their experience in Lucas Oil just the same. Junior Baritone Braedon Halle says, “it was really fun. The crowd was excited to see us and I was really amped up to perform for all the high school students. I think it was a really good experience and despite the lack of sleep I would definitely want to do it again.”

Freshman Tenor Sax Emma Bush says that “My first time experience at Lucas Oil was pretty unbelievable because I never thought that I would get the opportunity to perform in a situation like that. It was amazing to be able to make such an impression on high school bands that had never seen the SMB perform before.”

Freshman Trumpet Ryan Koschay says that “just walking out of the tunnel onto the field was exhilarating. The big ‘Bands of America’ logo hung up at the back of the field, all the people watching in the stands, and hearing them when we hit our big chords or made Dumbo; it all was quite a lot to take in at once.”

The SMB is filled with amazing opportunities and members get to experience events from an entirely new perspective. Performances like BOA create memories that will last forever…

And to think that they left Indianapolis Friday evening at 9pm, drove for five hours in the snow, got stuck on Farm Lane coming home, slept on the floor of Dem Hall, had a large family breakfast in the morning, then had an 8am rehearsal all to get ready to perform an entirely new show for the noon game against Ohio State. Regardless of however many hours of sleep everyone got, these are the memories that the members of the SMB will always remember, these perspectives that no one else in the world gets to experience day in and day out.

Remembering Maggie St. Clair

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Family is at the heart of what band is all about. Beyond rivalry and pride is a common bond that unites all of our programs together. In this, we mourn alongside our fellow band members in times of tragedy. On Saturday, November 24, our brothers and sisters in the Michigan Marching Band lost one of their own.

Maggie St. Clair, longtime Director of Operations for the University of Michigan Bands, passed away Saturday morning. We know firsthand the work that goes on behind the scenes to make a successful band run. Maggie was an exemplary model of all that goes into the administration of a band program. She interacted with the Spartan Marching Band many times – always a beacon of professionalism and pride in her work. Beyond that, however, she was simply a wonderful
person – devoted, passionate, caring, and loving.

The Michigan Marching Band shared this about Maggie St. Clair:

It is impossible to encompass everything that Maggie meant to the Michigan Marching Band in a short statement. She has been the heart of this organization for decades. The high standards that she held herself andMa those around her to helped shape the MMB into what it is today. Maggie has touched the lives of thousands of individuals within the University community. Her commitment and unrelenting passion for the organization will be greatly missed. Her contributions will be a part of the fabric of the Michigan Marching Band forever. She was a Leader and she was the Best.

Our thoughts are with her family and her family in the University of Michigan Bands.

2019 Feature Twirler Audition Information

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Audition packets with cover letter, three letters of recommendation, resume, and DVD or website link to video at the bottom of your resume are due by January 1, 2019. Please send these to:

Dr. David Thornton
Michigan State University College of Music
333 West Circle Drive
Room 118
East Lansing, MI 48824

Call Back for Live Auditions:
o Date: TBD
o Location: Demonstration Hall Arena
o What to wear: Costume of choice, comfortable athletic clothes to change into
o What to have prepared:
* 3-4 minute routine to the music of your choice
* Down the field routine showcasing your ability to twirl/march/travel similar to part of the pregame routine at MSU; we will provide this music
* Improvisation routine to music we will provide
* A list of tricks that will be sent to you via email with your live call back invitation
o Running will also be a part of the process, and an interview will conclude the audition

Questions? Please feel free to contact either of the following people:
Sarah Bennett, Instructor of Feature Twirlers:
Dr. David Thornton, Director of SMB:

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.”