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.