Spartans Marching

18 06 2012

The first Cadet Band, photographed here in 1884.

In the early months of every fall semester, the familiar sounds return of the MSU marching band’s daily practice, and our walks around campus double in length as we avoid Adams Field or risk being run down by a rogue tuba player.  The college has had to work diligently, however, in order to build our band to its present admirable institution.  When the first attempt was made to organize a music group in 1875, there was only enough money for seven instruments.  The students played for events on campus, but they also worked as a for-hire group around the area, which enabled them to expand and be able to purchase further music and instruments.

Faculty, students, and surrounding community members supported the band and its efforts, and so when the Military Department was

The Military Band posing in 1931.

formed in 1884, the band officially fell under its jurisdiction.  That year, the first Cadet Band was organized.  They provided martial music for the military students to march to, and they also played at parades and dances around East Lansing.  By 1913 their numbers had grown from seven to fifty-one, including the first African-American member who joined the previous year – Everett Claudius Yates, a percussion player.  The establishment also grew large enough to warrant the construction of an outdoor playing venue, which was created in the form of the Band Shell in 1938.

The marching band forms a stick-man during a half-time performance in 1955.

With the onslaught of World War II, the nature of the Michigan State Marching Band changed.  The uniforms themselves even reflected the atmosphere, bearing a rather military air about them in the early part of the 1940s.  Declining numbers due to military inscription at this time were detrimental to the band’s survival, so for the first time the organization’s director, Leonard Falcone, admitted women.  Falcone himself enlisted and had to spend a few years going to and from campus, fulfilling his duties around the country.  MSU saw the benefits of female members: all-female bands were organized to travel around the state and provide entertainment for soldiers, and the women were allowed to remain in the music groups after the end of the war.

MSU’s students at the World’s Fair in 1964, performing in Rockefeller Center.

The band has also been involved in a number of important events since that time.  They were the only group from Michigan to play at

the inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington, D.C.  They also performed at the Rose Bowl in 1954, 1956, and 1966.  In addition to this, they played at the World’s Fair in New York City during the year of 1964.  These facts are only one testament to the MSU Marching Band’s skill, the real proof comes from seeing these dedicated musicians enter Spartan Stadium before thousands of fans.  Their commitment to excellence only serves to add to the incredible MSU spirit and pride of all students and alumni in the venue.




One response

18 07 2012

Spartan Brass The 120 members of Spartan Brass perform on campus at men’s and women’s basketball games and at hockey games during regular play and post-season tournaments. Spartan Youth Wind Symphony The Spartan Youth Wind Symphony (SYWS) is an honors wind ensemble for high school students. SYWS is under the direction of Cormac Cannon, assistant director of bands, and is open to the most outstanding Michigan high school instrumentalists (woodwind, brass, and percussion). It provides students with the opportunity to rehearse in a university setting. Students perform with peers from around the state and receive instruction from College of Music faculty and students. They enhance their skills as musicians and ensemble performers through the exploration of advanced-level repertoire in an inspired rehearsal atmosphere. The experience culminates in joint concerts with the MSU Wind Symphony and Symphony Band at the end of the fall and spring semesters.

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