Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Spartan Marching Band fosters community through storytelling

September 17, 2023
Members of the Michigan State University marching band during the game against University of Washington at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 16, 2023.
Members of the Michigan State University marching band during the game against University of Washington at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 16, 2023. —
Photo by Donte Smith | The State News

The leaves' tips are beginning to curl and sway in the breeze of fall afternoons. Still clinging to branches, only blaring horns can break the grip of the mightiest oak leaves.

Since 1870, the Spartan Marching Band has been synonymous with Spartan pride and game day, but honing their craft takes more time than many would think.

“It's largely their commitment and passion for what they do — as performers, and as musicians,” David Thornton, director of the Spartan Marching Band, said. “People know we practice, but there is a lot of dedication and time that goes into being in the marching band. I take a lot of pride in that as the director.”

But the band's members' relationship are more than teammates, but rather a supportive community that makes time goes by quickly.

The band’s twirling coordinator, Sarah Cordeiro, seemed to find something special in the band — or a 300-person family all tirelessly working together.

“You quickly make bonds with 300 of your closest friends,” Cordeiro said. “On your first day of school when everything seems a little bit overwhelming, you notice these faces just sprinkled within the others.”

The band's creative process foundation is connection. Whether it be a moment with the football team after warmups or recognizing how to utilize each member’s unique skills, they put forth their art collaboratively in its truest sense.

However, following recent news, Mel Tucker's no-pay suspension has left an uncomfortable and apprehensive game day.

“I feel like we're almost a comfort on game day — people will be like, 'Okay, I know the marching band’s here. This is what game day feels like,’” Co-Drum Major Lacy Jewell said.

Thornton's sentiment around the Tucker suspension mirrored the drum majors alike. This week, and every week, their responsibility is to invigorate the MSU community through their musical storytelling, he said.

“The students that are in the band are peers with the football players," Thornton said. "They are the same people; we all just have different responsibilities."

With visuals at the core of the band's medium, the musical storytelling is heightened. Cordeiro said implementing movement that speaks to the emotionality of the piece is a core process. She'll add a jump to punctuate a moment that could impact audience closer to the field, even if they can't see the whole picture.

The Spartan Marching Band stirs creative conversation in the audience. Collaborative storytelling amongst peers, as simple as a shared jokes with friends, are signs of the band's influence working in real time.

 “They know we're going to be there," Co-drum Major Samantha Barringer said. "They know we'll show up.”

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