June 25, 2017

The Bloomquist Years: 1970-1977

Kenneth Bloomquist became 7th director of the Spartan Marching Band in 1970. He would keep the post for seven years. Bloomquist’s assistant director from 1970 to 1974 was David Catron, who would return in 1979 to become the 10th director of the SMB.

The first women join the SMB

1972 was a landmark year in the history of the Spartan Marching Band: it was the year that the first women were admitted to the ranks of the band. Until 1972, the band had been all male (even the twirlers were male). The first women members of the band were Beth Mlynarek (twirler) and Lynne Charbonneau (saxophonist).


In 1974 Catron accepted the position of Director of Bands at Wichita State University and A. Thad Hegerberg, a 1964 graduate of MSU and a former band president, took over the Assistant Director position. The Spartan Marching Band now numbered 188, and included a corps of colorful Big Ten Flags, incorporated some years earlier.

Also in 1974, the old overlay uniforms were replaced with a unique design made especially for the MSU Band by Ostwald. These new uniforms eliminated the hot vinyl overlays, and included a forest green front with the shield “MSU”, and silver accents. These uniforms would remain in use until 1985.

Expanding Horizons

In 1976, the Spartan Band began to add new dimensions to their traditional “Patterns in Motion” style. Various techniques borrowed from competition drum and bugle corps were put into use, and the music began to be correlated more carefully with visual aspects of the drill. Corps style percussion (including pitched bass drums and tri-toms), new silver tubas, stride maneuvers, oblique marching, expanded full-field mirror drills, and curvilinear drills became integral parts of the new Spartan style. 1975 and 76 also marked appearances of the SMB at the Pontiac Silverdome, the brand new home of the NFL Detroit Lions.

The Color Guard is Added

1976 brought another addition to the Spartan Band: a working Flag Corps (or Color Guard) of 24 members. This first MSU flag corps was co-ed, and both men and women wore the regular marching band uniform. New white flags with a green shield “MSU” were designed by the first flag corps instructor, Steve Batdorff, who had formerly marched as Big Ten flag captain. The Spartan Band’s block size had increased to 212. The band performed at its first pro football game in 1976 when it accepted an invitation to appear at a Detroit Lions game at the Pontiac Silverdome.


In 1977, P. Carl Chevallard was appointed Assistant Director of the Spartan Marching Band. Thad Hegerberg became Associate Director of Bands, a move necessitated because Director of Bands Bloomquist was under consideration for appointment as Chairman of the Music Department while remaining Director of Bands. Hegerberg and Chevallard directed the Spartan Marching Band that year, with Bloomquist often joining them on the tower.