2018 Auditions

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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.


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 9, 2018
  • Start time: 9:00 am meeting, Music Building, room 120
  • 9:30 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 28 and Saturday, May 12, 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 23, 2018 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
Deadline: Friday, June 22 @ 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:
Mindi Murray, SMBCG Instructor:

Big Ten Flags

Big Ten flag auditions will be Saturday, June 9, 2018 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Demonstration Hall.

Any questions should be directed to David Gerada (

Feature Twirlers

Feature Twirler auditions will be Saturday, April 7, 2018 at Demonstration Hall. Applicants who have been invited to campus for a live audition should report to Demonstration Hall at 1:00 PM.

Any questions should be directed to SMB Director David Thornton (

50th Anniversary of the Big Ten Flag Corps

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by Jacob McCormick

In Fall 1967, following the retirement of longtime Spartan Marching Band director Leonard Falcone, renowned conductor Dr. Harry Begian was named director of bands at MSU. Dr. Begian came to MSU from his alma mater Wayne State University where he had been director of bands for three years. Begian together with SMB assistant director William Moffit directed the marching band from 1967 to 1969.

The end of Falcone’s tenure as director marked the end of one era and the beginning of another for the Spartan Marching Band. A number of changes were made in 1967 with Dr. Begian’s arrival at MSU. “The word among the music trade is that Mr. Moffit and I will hit it off as a team and should have a band second to none, and that is exactly what we hope to do,” Begian said in a September 1967 interview with the State Journal. Among Dr. Begian’s first actions as director was to add eight E-flat trumpets to the ensemble to enhance the soprano voice in instrumentation. Begian also decreased the number of clarinets in the Spartan Band and increased the number of alto and tenor saxophones.

Perhaps one of Begian and Moffit’s most innovative additions to the band in 1967 was the Big Ten Flag Corps. The Spartan Marching Band debuted ten new flags in its 1967 Homecoming performance according to the program from that game. Each of the ten flags represented one of the Big Ten Universities, emblazoned with the name of the school and its colors. Flags have been added over time to reflect the additions of Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers to the conference. The fourteen Big Ten flags lead the SMB in all parades, including the gameday march to Spartan Stadium. The Flag Corps also leads the band on to the field of Spartan Stadium during the band’s famous kickstep field entrance. The Big Ten Flag Corps typically do not perform during halftime, however the section participated in the “Summer of 1967” halftime show this season to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

While the flags are a beloved tradition in the SMB, it is important to note that they are not unique to MSU. Purdue University originated the display of flags representing its Big Ten counterparts. Longtime Purdue director of bands Paul Spotts Emrick introduced the Big Ten Flags to the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band in 1919. The SMB and AAMB happen to have more in common than just the Big Ten Flags. The two bands share a director in William C. Moffit, who was the assistant director of the SMB, 1960-1969, and director of the AAMB, 1981-1988. Moffit made an indelible impact at MSU with his musical arrangements, including his arrangement of Victory for MSU, popularly known as “Pregame Fight” by band members. Moffit is also the innovator behind Patterns in Motion, the constant-motion four-person squad marching system, still used by the SMB in its pregame routine today.

With the 1967 season now 50 years behind us, the current Spartan Marching Band and its alumni can look back on the impacts a single season had on the band’s growth and future. Directors Begian and Moffit certainly left their mark on the band program at MSU. Moffit’s arrangements of many tunes are still performed by the SMB today and the band’s current instrumentation is a direct result of the changes Begian made during his first season. The most apparent impact on the band from 1967 is the addition of the Big Ten Flag Corps, a section of dedicated band members who carry the colors of our opponents and set the tone of intensity as the Spartan Marching Band moves down the street and onto the field of Spartan Stadium on gameday.

Photographs Courtesy of Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.

Feature Twirler Auditions for 2018: Audition packets due by January 1, 2018

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2018 Feature Twirler Audition Information

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, 2018.

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: Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm
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:

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

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 (

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 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 –
David Thornton, SMB Director –

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