Way-back Wednesday: Creating a Legacy: The first women of the SMB

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Creating a Legacy: The first women of the SMB
by: Ilene Gould

On June 23rd, 1972, a federal civil rights law, called “Title IX”, was passed. It stated that “no person in the United State shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded form participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Beth Mlynarek, 1972

Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Beth Mlynarek was about to embark on her sophomore year at Western Michigan University, until one day she saw an article posted in her hometown’s newspaper that discussed the passing of Title IX and how it was about to create more opportunities for women in the workforce, in schools, and in athletics. It also happened to mention that the Spartan Marching Band would now be accepting women in the ensemble after nearly 102 years of being entirely male.

At this time, Beth was a feature twirler at Western Michigan, and had been twirling since she was seven, almost twelve years. For the fall of ‘72, Western decided to eliminate the Twirlers and move towards having a rifle line, leaving Beth without an opportunity to pursue her love for twirling, even if it was for just a few more years.

So, on a whim without even being accepted in Michigan State, without even really knowing where MSU was, and without having any clue what kind of statement she would be making, Beth Mlynarek called the band secretary and set up an audition, all in the name of her love for twirling.

The next day she drove up to East Lansing to audition. Today, her audition would’ve taken place, right on the sidewalk that cuts through Adams Field. She performed for Marching Band Director Dave Catron and the current Twirler Dan Williams, who would eventually go on to be a Drum Major of the SMB. In record time, Beth was accepted, enrolled, and moved over to East Lansing before she really had any clue as to what kind of journey lay before her.

Lynne Charboneau, 1972

Beth wasn’t the only woman admitted into the band in the fall of 1972, a junior Alto Saxophone named Lynne Charboneau was her counterpart. A Music Education major, Lynne had an easier time adjusting to the ensemble since she already knew many of the members; but Beth was moving in from Western and didn’t know a single soul.

To them, it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, yet, at the beginning, both women were constantly asked by reporters and journalists to talk about what it was like to be one of the first two women in the Spartan Marching Band. Beth recalls feeling embarrassed because they didn’t want to draw attention to them while upsetting the men of the ensemble. The amount of publicity was unsettling, especially when their original intent was never to make a statement, but more about pursuing a love for twirling, a love for music, and a love for performing.

It was a rocky start at first, but Beth’s goal was to perform to the best of her ability, keep her head down, and prove to everyone that she deserved to be there. Within a few weeks a lot of the struggle and negativity lessened, and eventually she found a very supportive group of guys that helped her settle into MSU, and even helped her sign up for classes. Beth says that despite the challenging start, being in the Spartan Marching Band was the greatest decision of her life, and wouldn’t trade any moment of it for anything.

The next year, in the Fall of 1973, a few more women joined the band totaling up to five, and after that, the number of women increased significantly year after year

Beth marched with the SMB from 1972-1976 with three years in the band as an undergrad studying Special Education, and two years as a graduate student getting a Masters in Reading Instruction. Lynne marched from 1972-1973 and went on to teach high school band down in Texas. In 1987, Lynne was in a car accident, and passed away. On October 13th, 2012 at the MSU-Iowa homecoming game, the band celebrated “Title IX at 40 – Saluting the Women of the Spartan Marching Band,” where Beth, and Lynne’s husband Tony Grigsby, as well as their daughter Megan Grisgby were honored during halftime for their historic representation in the SMB.

Kick-stepping into Spartan Stadium

Beth says that over the last 47 years, a lot has changed and evolved, yet some of the things she created, choreographed, and started, are still present today with our Feature Twirlers. The routine done to Falcone Fight is nearly identical, as well as the pregame entrance and routine. Beth says she smiles every time she sees the Twirlers march down the street doing her routine. There was never an intent for the routine to stay the same forever, yet somehow, it keeps getting passed down year to year, becoming another deeply rooted tradition in the SMB.

Today, Beth is retired after 35 years of teaching and working in administration at Mason Public Schools. She lives in Traverse City with her husband and former SMB French Horn player, Mike Kaufman, (At the time, they used Peck Horns, and Mellophones were not introduced until 1981). They love traveling, working on their house, and for over thirty years, they had season tickets to every Spartan Football Game.

1976 Glen Brough, Mark McKeon, Kathy Skelton, Beth Mlynarek

These two women started a long tradition of creating strong women within the SMB. In 1992 the first female band president, Janet Murray was elected. In 1995, Mary Hulliberger became the first female drum major (F1), followed by Rachel Linsmeier (F2 – 2008), Shannon Black (F3 – 2014) Nikki Sanford (F4 – 2017), and Lisa Lachowski (F5 – 2019). In 2018, Dr. Arris Golden became the first female Associate Director of the Spartan Marching Band.

The Spartan Marching Band has certainly come a long way in its historic 150 years, making it one of the oldest bands in the Big Ten.

In 1870, the SMB was started by a group of ten students, all male.

In 1972, Beth and Lynne became the first two women in the SMB. At the time, there were 180 members in the SMB, making them only 1% of the band.

In 2012, 120 out of the 300 members were female, around 40% of the band.

In 2019, 132 out of the 300 members are female, making them 44% of the ensemble. Nearly half, almost fifty years later.

This article is written today in honor of this week’s halftime show entitled Ladies of the 80’s featuring “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters, “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” by Whitney Houston, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, a medley of Madonna songs including “Material Girl,” “Express Yourself,” and “Open Your Heart,” and the show closes with “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher and “We Belong,” by Pat Benatar.

Beth says that both she and Mike will be at Alumni Band on September 28th for our homecoming game against Indiana; and as we finished our conversation she said, “I could talk forever about the SMB.” If you asked her about the SMB during Alumni Band, she would tell you the same incredible stories, making you feel even closer to the historic 150 years of SMB history.

2012 – Beth Mlynarek Kaufman, Megan Grigsby, Tony Grigsby, and Alumni Band President (at the time) Jim Barry

2021-22 Spartan Brass Auditions

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Auditions for the 2021-22 Spartan Brass will be Wednesday, September 29, 2021

6:45 PM to 9:30 PM at the College of Music

A second semester 1 credit ensemble. All students who earn a position in the Spartan Brass must enroll for one credit. Sign up for audition times here.

The 1ST REHEARSAL IS SUNDAY, October 3rd, 2021
7:00 to 9:30 PM in Demonstration Hall – Band Hall
Music, uniforms, procedures, and season schedule to be discussed. Rehearsal is mandatory.

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 3rd at Dem Hall. Email or see Dr. Weber for details (

Electric Bass players All E. Bass players must attend the first rehearsal on Oct 3rd 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.

Meet the 2019 SMB: Lisa Lachowski

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After an extensive audition process, we are excited to have Lisa Lachowski join current Drum Major Jaren Scoggins as the newest Drum Major of the Spartan Marching Band. Previously she was an Alto Saxophone section leader in the SMB, and a high school Drum Major for two years. Being a Drum Major of the Spartan Marching Band has been a long dream for Lisa, and she is extremely excited to be dubbed as “F5”, the Fifth Female Drum Major in SMB History. “I am just so honored to follow the four amazing women that have led our band, and I hope to continue to positively impact other young women in and outside of the SMB.”

Her dream of being a college Drum Major, all started with her middle school band director…

“He was a Drum Major at Eastern Michigan back in the day, and would share stories with us. It was pretty early that the “dream” of becoming a Drum Major in college began. Granted, I didn’t know nearly enough about it! It continued through high school, learning invaluable amounts from fulfilling the role there.

The interest in SMB Drum Majors came alive when attending the MSU Performing Arts Camp, and meeting Rachel Linsmeier (“F2”). The DM staff gave us wide-eyed high school students a look into the SMB, as well as what it means to be a leader in it. Throughout that week and onward, Rachel set a strong example and was a constant inspiration. I couldn’t wait to learn more from her, and join the band she spoke so proudly of!

Flash forward to the last three years marching in the SMB, and I think I’m understanding what an SMB Drum Major is and can be! Spending the most recent season as an Alto Saxophone Section Leader humbled and taught me so much. . . having that chance to be part of our team that serves, gives back, and brings up the next generation of SMB members. Thinking back on the culture, work ethic, and musicality that our section improved together made me wonder what could be done on the full band level. Then, looking at the Drum Major position, I saw room to share these experiences and continue serving our band.”

Lisa is excited to find new and innovative ways to develop and expand the position of the SMB Drum Major. She says that “with changes in the visual staff, we’ll need to step into new teaching roles – with both fundamentals throughout Preseason, and drill on the field.”

Another goal of hers is to continue to find ways to bring sections closer together. “We can begin to inspire meetings and mutual support. We can engage in hornline and drumline sectionals, attend Color Guard rehearsals, and learn more from our Big Ten Flags.”

There is a delicate sense of care to everything she does. She pays attention to everyone, and is invested in everything you have to say. She says that she is determined to learn all 300+ names of the members of the SMB, and when it comes to Lisa, you know she will do more than just learn their names.

As someone who has known Lisa since Day One of Freshman year, I can honestly say that from the moment I met her, I knew she was destined to be an SMB Drum Major. You feel yourself smile whenever you’re around her, and she exudes kindness, optimism, and a passion for music wherever she goes. She is driven by helping others and her love for music education.

Lisa was originally adopted from Moscow, Russia, but grew up in Rochester Hills, Michigan. She is currently studying Music Education and Clarinet Performance in the MSU College of Music. After graduation, she hopes to experience living and teaching abroad. She says that South America is one of her favorite places, and would love to spend some long term time there. But after that, she hopes that her career will lead to teaching music at the high school and college levels. Outside of band, Lisa likes to cycle, run, and swim.

Spartan Percussionists to Perform in Taiwan

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Several MSU percussionists will head to Taiwan this weekend to perform at the 2019 Taiwan Percussion Arts Alliance (TPAA) meeting. This year, the TPAA has coordinated with the Taiwan Band Directors Association and Taiwan Band Clinic to create a five-day Taiwan Winds and Percussion Music Festival. It will be the largest international music competition and conference in Taiwan this year. In March of this year, the MSU student ensemble won First Prize in the 2019 TPAA Online Percussion Ensemble Competition with their performance of a piece written by ensemble member and 2019 College of Music graduate Darrien Spicak.

The prize money from the Taiwan competition will help fund the trip to perform there. A large portion of the trip is also funded through the MSU Championship Drumline Endowment, spearheaded by Merritt Lutz and other generous alumni and friends of the MSU Drumline. The students will be performing in a showcase of contest winners at the conference, which is expecting around 2500 – 5000 participants. The students will travel with MSU percussion instructor Dr. Jon Weber, who will be also be involved with the conference through performing, leading workshops, and teaching clinics and masterclasses.

Dr. Weber says, “It is a great responsibility to work with international directors, instructors, and students who are learning about drumlines. We are excited about this opportunity! The MSU Drumline members have worked hard on this; they have really been fantastic.” Darrien Spicak adds, “We are looking forward to connecting with percussionists from all over the world. I have enjoyed this whole process and an looking forward to experiencing the Taiwanese culture.” Jack Tallman, a music education senior, says, “This has been a great opportunity to prepare challenging music to share at the event. We are grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to perform and learn from watching the other performers.” The MSU Drumline Ensemble students are Darrien Spicak, Zach Flowers, Spencer Eaton, Jack Tallman, Micah Prior, Matt Kokotovich, and Patrick Blommel.

Special thanks to the Taiwan Percussion Arts Alliance, MSU College of Music, Yamaha, Connor Riegal, John Scharf, Sarah Hobson, Alice Pan, and the MSU Drumline Alumni for their help in making this trip possible.

Meet the Band: Color Guard

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by Ilene Gould and Leah Wright

Amidst all of the clean, militaristic lines of the SMB, the sparkles and glitter of the SMB Color Guard add a beautiful and colorful visual to every performance. But beneath the smiles, costumes, and flags, are some of the fiercest performers in any college band. Being in the Color Guard takes hours of preparation, hard work, and years of experience. We are lucky enough to have two fantastic color guard oriented organizations at Michigan State. The SMBCG that performs with the Marching Band, and State of Art, and independent winter guard that performs and competes during the spring semester all around the country.

Just a few weeks ago, State of Art competed at the WGI Finals in Dayton, Ohio and for the first time in Independent Open, a higher class ranking than in previous years. With a show entitled “I think…”, this theme surrounded the concept of how we form ideas and what do with them. Led by an instrumental and voice-over track, the show follows how we process ideas, how we figure out what to do with them, and eventually how collaboration and teamwork help ideas blossom and develop into fruition.

Junior English major Leah Wright, a member of both the SMBCG and SOA, says that she thinks this year’s SOA show really reflects the essence of color guard and marching band. She notes that the best part is when ideas help bring people together to collaborate and create the best performance and show possible.

The best part about collaboration is when you can really see the audience participate and engage in the performance. Wright says that one of her favorite shows from the SMBCG 2019 season was the “Breakout Artists” show featuring music from Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce. The entire band performed a dance during a drum break of the song “Single Ladies” and the Color Guard was extremely instrumental in teaching the choreography to the band. Wright says it was really cool “to get that big response from that big of a stadium. It’s fun and new and people really enjoyed it.”

Wright also talked about the differences between performing in a winter guard and performing with a marching band. She notes that it’s really cool to see the audiences faces during an SOA performance, versus performing for a crowd of 75,000 people. The choreography is a lot more intricate and detailed in SOA because you don’t have to project to a stadium full of people. In the SMBCG the choreography is a lot larger and simpler to increase its readability to a that large of an audience.

Wright says that one of her favorite parts about being involved in both organizations is the evolution of technique. Wherever you march, you learn different styles and techniques with different types of staff members and teaching styles. This diversity makes you able to adapt and march anywhere outside of Michigan State, whether it be drum corps or otherwise, it helps make you a more successful performer.

Like any other section in the Spartan Marching Band, the SMBCG has a lot of their own traditions that make them unique. Every year they give out the Maggie Martindale Award, in remembrance of a color guard member who passed away in the ‘80s, to a Junior in the guard who embodies her positive sunshine spirit. On their very first away trip every season, they take a moment to remember Maggie by taking a shot of peach juice before they get on the bus. Her favorite drink was Peach Schnapps and this is their way of keeping her spirit and memory alive. They also take a moment to remember former color guard director Orlando Suttles by passing out his favorite treat – lemon drops, as he used to say, “Life’s not that deep, have a piece of candy.”

The color guard is one of the most integral aspects of the Spartan Marching Band, and just over a month, they will be holding auditions to be a part of next year’s ensemble! Wright says to “Breathe and look up! One of the things we live by in the SMBCG is ‘fake it ‘till you make it.’ Color guard is fun and that’s what we’re all here to do.”

If you’re interested in auditioning, or looking for more information go to or check out the event on Facebook:

Auditions are June 22nd, 2019 and start at 8:30am.

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:

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.