New Spartan Marching Band twirler performs fresh routines
Ashley Burkin, the new Spartan Marching Band twirler, discusses her experience twirling and how to be successful.
Ashley Burkin can’t stand still.
As she waits for the music to cue her start, she repeatedly tosses her baton in the air.
Burkin’s face scrunches up in concentration as the sparkling silver baton weaves through the air.
Her face erupts in a smile each time she firmly catches it.
Since the age of 5, Burkin has been immersed in the world of baton twirling.
Chemical engineering freshman Ashley Burkin twirls her batons during a band practice Sept. 9, 2013 at Demonstration field. Ashley is the first baton twirler addition since 2010. Khoa Nguyen/ The State News
Today, she is the newest of the three feature twirlers for the Spartan Marching Band.
Burkin, a chemical engineering freshman, said there are many different aspects of twirling.
“Dance and gymnastics are a big part of the twirling,” said Burkin, the first new twirler since 2010. “Toes (should) always be pointed, leg lines (should) be straight.”
Burkin, who puts in about 10 hours of practice each week, said being a feature twirler enables her to choreograph her own routines most of the time. Improvisation also is a big part of her performances.
Burkin added that she typically sticks to twirling three batons at a time.
Burkin picked up baton twirling after her mother placed her in classes as a child.
She twirled through her youth and performed in the famed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008.
Burkin, a native of Mentor, Ohio, began looking for colleges with a good engineering program and a twirling program when she was a junior in high school.
One of her twirler friends was a feature twirler for MSU, so Burkin shadowed her to a football game in fall 2012.
“I fell in love with how beautiful the campus (is),” Burkin said.
Sold on MSU, Burkin then began researching the Honors College, various scholarships and the audition process to become a twirler for the Spartan Marching Band.
“I had to create a DVD of performances I had done to send in as a prerequisite for the audition,” Burkin said.
“The band director looked at the videos and chose three girls to be invited to come to the audition. They were only taking one girl this year.”
Burkin said performing in Spartan Stadium during football games is an exhilarating experience.
“The first game was amazing,” she said. “It was a truly surreal experience looking at the passion between the people in the stands and on the field.”
Kristen Scali, a kinesiology senior, has been a twirler for the Spartan Marching Band since she was a freshman.
“(Twirling) is something we’ve been doing our entire lives, (it takes) years of practice,” Scali said. “Twirling for a Big Ten university is the pinnacle.”
Scali said she has been impressed with Burkin’s performance so far.
“It’s really hard to pick up on the traditional style — the Spartan Marching Band is very military style,” Scali said.
“It’s not what most twirlers do, but she has a great dance, baton and cheerleading background. She has a well-rounded experience that has really helped her pickup and step in.”
Burkin already is anticipating the challenges of balancing twirling with her school work but isn’t letting the fear of feeling overwhelmed set her back.
“I know that it is a lot of time, but I feel like I walked into this campus practically knowing no one,” Burkin said.
“I haven’t felt alone since I’ve gotten here — I wouldn’t change it for the world.”