“Tradition, Innovation and Excellence”: A look at gameday on the Red Cedar with the Spartan Marching Band

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As summer draws to a close, the students of Michigan State University buy their expensive textbooks and pack up their backpacks as they head back to the lecture halls for a new cycle of classes. All across East Lansing, freshmen are anxiously peering at their schedules, returning students are meeting up with the friends that they haven’t seen in nearly four months and seniors are counting down the days until they’re donning their caps and gowns.

Meanwhile, over on Munn Field, 300 top-notch musicians have just finished up one of the most challenging and rewarding weeks of the year: preseason for the Spartan Marching Band.

Founded in 1870 with 10 members, the Spartan Marching Band (SMB) has grown into one of the top collegiate bands in the nation. Now capped at 300 with the drum majors, Big Ten flags, drumline, color guard, twirlers, and the horn and sax line, the SMB is known for being both elite and exceptional. Their motto, “tradition, innovation and excellence,” outlines how important these traits are to the members and the countless SMB alumni throughout the world, many of whom still make the pilgrimage every fall for Alumni Band day.

Marching bands everywhere are full of traditions. Whether in high school or college, some of the most remembered moments come from the small things. Preseason rituals, weekly practices, section bonding, senior night — these are memories that marching band alumni will remember for the rest of their lives.

Right now at MSU, 80 freshmen are still shaking from the annual Freshman Dress march that marks the end of preseason week. Soon they will be introduced to the many traditions of gameday. They will be marching alongside their best friends in front of 75,000 of their biggest fans, and that is a feeling that will never go away.

What the audience sees in that moment is only a small part of being in the marching band. Those few minutes on the field for pregame and halftime come at the end of hours of hard work, often at the reward of nothing else. The band has to put on the best possible show, regardless of whether they have three weeks or three days to perfect it. While one-week shows are not normally as elaborate as shows that get more time, the audience still expects to see a top-notch halftime performance, and that’s what the SMB delivers. Time after time, they—and every marching band on the planet—march back to the field, ready to take on the world.

And when the whistle blows at the end of the Series, when the Big Ten flags first kickstep onto the field for pregame, when that initial impact note sounds through the stadium at halftime, when the drumline jumps around at the final chord of “Everybody’s Everything” at post game, when the members of the band put their arms around each other to sing their harmonies during MSU Shadows at the end of a very long day…those are the moments that make it all worth it.

Even during a tough loss or a rough season, the members of the SMB are still there, doing their job and working as hard as they possibly can in order to provide the service that they devote their fall to creating. No matter what happens during a game, at the end of the day, they’re still a family. They’re still the Spartan Marching Band. And that’s something that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.



Holly Bronson is a senior studying professional writing and arts and humanities, with a minor in peace and justice studies. In her rare free time, she loves to drink Earl Grey tea while thoroughly analyzing Harry Potter and telling lengthy stories from her various adventures around the globe. 🙂 Check out her portfolio at hollybbronson.com!


Tags: Big Ten, football, Holly Bronson, marching, music, spartan marching band