The 300 member Spartan Band is one of the oldest and most recognized university marching bands in the country. The band was founded in 1870 as a 10-member student group, and since then has grown into one of the premiere college bands in the nation.
The SMB has played for five U.S. Presidents and performed at four Rose Bowls, two world's fairs, and one world series. The Spartan Band has toured the United States extensively, winning the hearts of band fans everywhere. The band has appeared in concert and on football fields in such far-flung cities as San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Denver, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Tokyo, Tucson, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
Note: the band was run by students and Military Officers for it's
first 37 years (1870-1906)
Directors of the Spartan Marching Band
A.J. Clark (13 years)
1907-1916, 1918-1919, 1922-1925
Frederic Abel (2 years)
J.S. Taylor (3 years)
Carl Kuhlman (2 years)
Leonard Falcone (40 years)
Harry Begian (3 years)
Kenneth G. Bloomquist (7 years)
Thad Hegerberg (1 year)
Carl Chevallard (1 year)
Dave Catron (9 years)
William Wiedrich (1 year)
John T. Madden
Assistant Directors of the Spartan Marching Band
C. Oscar Stover (7 years)
William Moffit (9 years)
Joseph Parker (1 year)
Dave Catron (4 years)
Thad Hegerberg (3 years)
Carl Chevallard (1 year)
William Wiedrich (6 years)
Directors of Bands
Stanley DeRusha (5 years)
Dave Catron (1 year)
Eugene Corporon (3 years)
Kenneth Bloomquist (6 years)
John Whitwell (13 years)
"On the banks of the Red Cedar there's a
school that's known to all. Its specialty is farming, but those
farmers play football..." So began the Michigan Agricultural College
in the early part of this century. For Michigan State
University, now world-renowned as a leading research institution and an
international center for studies in the arts and sciences, this began
its history as a tiny agricultural school where farming was the main
subject for study.
First Band Formed in 1870
Michigan Agricultural College was founded as the nation's first
land-grant college in 1855. The first college building,
College Hall, centered around where
Beaumont Tower stands today. In 1870, the
very first MAC Band was formed: a student and Civil War veteran
named Ransom McDonough Brooks created a ten-member student brass
band and led them in parades and at drills. This tiny group was
the ancestor of the nationally-renowned Michigan State University
Spartan Marching Band. From 1874 to 1878 R.H. Gulloy, class of
78', was the band leader.
The First Uniforms
In 1885, with the establishment of a permanent military department at
the college, the band became a Cadet Corps unit and appeared for the
first time in uniform. The uniforms were gray with black braid trim.
The band performed at military drills and at public concerts. In 1888,
I.E. Hill was the leader and 1st
The President Visits MAC
A highlight of the band's early history was the visit
of President Theodore Roosevelt to MAC on the occasion of the
college's semi-centennial in 1907. The band escorted and
played for the President during his stay in East Lansing. B.G.
Edgerton was the leader during this parade.
The First Faculty Conductor
Also in 1907, chemistry professor A.J.Clark was appointed by college
president and Jonathan L. Snyder as the band's first faculty conductor.
Under Clark's baton, the band began playing for school functions,
including athletic events (the football band was known as the "MAC
Touch-down Band"), and expanded from 25 to 60 members.
The Aggie Band
In 1910, Sgt. Patrick J. Cross drilled the band for military functions.
When the band accompanied the MAC football team to the Ohio State game
of 1912, a Columbus newspaper reported, "Never has there been a band on
Ohio Field that can compete with the Michigan Aggie." Frederic L.
Abel served as band director from 1916 to 1918, and A.J. Clark returned
in 1918 - 1919.
In 1919, J.S. Taylor was appointed faculty director of bands,
succeeding Clark. Taylor was a prolific composer of marches, many of
which were very popular in the early part of this century. Taylor
directed until 1922. A.J. Clark returned for the third and final time
from 1922 - 1925, and Carl Kuhlman served as director from 1925 - 1927.
The MSU Fight Song
Michigan State’s first victory over the University of Michigan occurred
October 18, 1913, when the “Aggies” beat Michigan 12-7. One of the MAC
students in attendance was Francis Lankey of the Class of 1916 and an
assistant yellmaster (cheerleader.) After the game the MAC students and
fans paraded up and down the streets of Ann Arbor celebrating their victory
by singing “The Victors”, Michigan’s Fight song. The following week MAC
played and beat the University of Wisconsin, champions of the Big 9, by
the identical score of 12-7. At that game he heard the Wisconsin fans
sing their fight song, “On, Wisconsin.” As a matter of fact, the 1913
season was the first undefeated season for MSU; the next one would be in
1951 under Coach “Biggie” Munn.
As a yellmaster and student Lankey was bothered by the lack of a fight
song for MAC. He was also an accomplished pianist as well as a composer.
While at MAC, Lankey played primarily ragtime and he often played at
dances and other events on and off campus. In the winter and spring of
1915 assisted by Arthur L. Sayles, an engineering senior who helped primarily
with the words to the song, the original MAC fight song was composed by Lankey.
However, it would not be until the fall of 1919 when the Varsity Club was
looking to raise money, that copies of the song, then in the possession
of one of Lankey’s many girlfriends, were sold at 50 cents apiece at the
homecoming pep assembly. In 30 minutes they sold all 770 copies. J.S.
Taylor, the new director of the Military Band, heard the song and thought
it should be orchestrated for the band. That was done and the following
year the new MSU fight song was played at football games and other sporting
events. Ironically, Francis I. Lankey would never know that his song
would become the MSU Fight Song, as he perished in a plane crash on May 1,
1919 in St. Petersbug, Florida.
The Spartans are Born
The college's new nickname was chosen
in 1926, shortly after the name of the school was changed to Michigan
State College. The "block-S" was adopted in that year as the athletic
award letter, and it was felt that a new nickname was needed for MSC to
reflect the new goals and aims of the college. A campus-wide contest
was held, and "Michigan Staters" was picked as the winner among the
However, sportswriter George Alderton of the
Lansing State Journal
disliked that nickname,
and, on his own, selected another of the entries: Michigan State
SPARTANS. He put the nickname into print in the paper on April 2,
1926--and the students and public loved it. So the Michigan State
Spartans were born.
That was the nickname for the students
of MAC and also for the Michigan Agricultural College athletic team,
reflecting the school's still-agriculturally-based curriculum. But the
small college was growing, and changes were occurring in the band as
well as in the school.
Visit the online Falcone exhibit from the MSU Archives.
In 1927, an event took place which was to have a profound and
important effect upon the history of the Michigan State Band:
was appointed Band Director.
Falcone was to become noted not only as the Michigan State
band director but also as the world's leading euphonium horn
soloist. He would remain Director of the Spartan Marching
Band for the next forty years.
During his tenure, the Michigan State College of 2,700 students
became Michigan State University of
under 40,000 students. Under his
baton, the Spartan Marching Band grew to 144 members and performed for
three U.S. presidents, at the New York World's Fair, at the 1954, 1956,
and 1966 Rose Bowl games, and for countless fans both at home and away.
The Spartan Band truly became Michigan State's musical ambassadors.
The SMB & The ROTC
Throughout the 1930's and 40's, the band remained part of the college
ROTC program and wore military khaki and olive uniforms. Besides
playing for football games in the fall, the band performed year-round
at ROTC weekly parades and drills, and at public concerts. The band
was based in the MSC Armory building, which coincidentally stood where
the Music Building
stands today. The military parade field occupied
roughly the same space that Landon Field occupies today. Concerts were
also given in an elaborate band shell that had been built on the banks
of the Red Cedar in 1937. The shell stood until 1960 when it was
demolished to make way for construction of
A word should be said here about the introduction of MSC's new Alma
Mater, "The Shadows". Arranged by the MSC Music Department Professor
H. Owen Reed. It is based on a tune from the Donizetti opera "Lucia di
Lammermoor," with words by former Spartan coach Bernard "Barney"
Traynor. "The Shadows" was introduced by the band in 1948, and it
replaced the old alma mater, "Close Beside the Winding Cedar," which
had been borrowed from Cornell University. "The Shadows" took its
place alongside the "Fight Song" (composed back in 1919 by MAC
"Yellmaster" F.I. Lankey) as favorite songs of Spartans everywhere.
MSC Enters the Big Ten
In 1948, Michigan
State had been admitted to the Big
Ten athletic conference, with
competition beginning in fall 1953. MSC firmly took its place in the
Big Ten in its very first year of competition: the Spartans won the
1953 Big Ten football championship, and the football team and band went
on to the 1954 Rose Bowl. The Band's trip to Pasadena--by train--was
sponsored by the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. Along the way
West, the Spartan Band stopped to perform parades and concerts in
Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, El Paso, and Tucson.
the Band's appearance in the six-mile Tournament of Roses Parade and at
pregame and halftime of the Spartan's Rose Bowl victory over UCLA, the
Band traveled to San Francisco to perform at the Jan. 2 East-West
Shrine game. Fans and press lauded the Spartan Band everywhere. On
the way home to East Lansing--again by train--the bandsmen presented
more concerts and parades in Salt Lake City and Denver. A weary but
happy group of Spartan musicians arrived back in East Lansing on
The Band's First Non-Military Uniforms
The Spartan Band donned their first non-military uniforms in 1952,
following a two-year fundraising drive by students, faculty, and
alumni. These were the first green-and-white uniforms ever worn by the
MSC Marching Band. Accented with a decorative white cross-strap, white
hat, and green-and-white plume, these uniforms would be worn for the
next twelve years.
Falcone had hired C. Oscar Stover
as his Assistant Director in 1953 (the band called him "Oscar the
Charter" because he ended up charting the drills) to help with the
extra work MSC's busier athletic status brought the band.
MSC Becomes MSU, Roses are Green
1955 brought the celebration of Michigan State's centennial year--and
another big change. After years of debate, Michigan State College's
name was officially changed to Michigan
State University, to reflect
the new universal goals and responsibilities of this rapidly-growing
And what better way to celebrate that new name than with another Big
Ten football title? For the second time in three years, the Spartans
were on their way to the Rose Bowl. Again sponsored by Oldsmobile, the
band traveled to California by train, whistle-stopping for concerts and
parades in Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tucson, Dallas, and St.
Louis en route to and from the West. The 130-member band also made a
guest appearance on the CBS-TV "Bob Crosby Show." The Rose Bowl game,
held that year on Jan. 2, 1956, resulted in another Spartan victory
over UCLA. It was the first Spartan Rose Bowl in 1954 where the now
famous "Kick-Step" was first introduced.
Patterns in Motion
In 1960, William Moffit became
Falcone's Assistant Director of Bands. Under Moffit's drillmanship,
the Spartan Marching Band became internationally famous for its
distinctive "Patterns in Motion" marching style. A Moffit brainchild,
"Patterns in Motion" featured constantly-changing kaleidoscopic
patterns which could be seen and appreciated by nearly all viewers in
the stadium. Based on a four-person squad system, "Patterns in Motion"
would sweep the nation as the new style in marching with college,
university, and high school bands everywhere adopting the style.
Spinning the S
none could quite match Moffit's special brand of fancy footwork coupled
with special musical arrangements (he was later to become famous, too,
for his "Soundpower" series of published marching band arrangements,
many of which were pioneered by the MSU band). The influences of
"Patterns in Motion" are still being felt today, and have led to many
more changes in marching band style. Moffit is also credited with
inventing the "spinning of the block-S" with which the Spartan Band
still traditionally opens its pregame show.
In 1964, the Spartan Band received new uniforms: a dark forest green
with a white vinyl overlay. A large block-S appeared on the front of
the overlay, and a shield-MSU on the back. The overlay could be
removed, resulting in a concert dress uniform. White hats with
green-and-white plumes completed the marching uniforms.
Also, in 1964, the Spartan Band had the opportunity to perform at the
New York World's Fair during Michigan Week activities. Sponsored by
Oldsmobile, a delegation consisting of most of the bandsmen traveled to
New York to give concerts at the Fair, at Rockefeller Center, and at
the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. For the first time, the Band traveled by
air in converted cargo planes.
Falcone steps down, Begian is Hired
In 1967, Falcone's 40 year tenure as director of the Spartan Marching
Band finally came to an end, and Harry Begian became the sixth
director of the band. Begian stayed on as SMB director for the next
three years, until 1970.
In 1969, William Moffit left MSU to become Director of Bands at the
University of Houston. Joe Parker was named Assistant Director of
Bands by Dr. Begian in the 1969-70 school year. He left in the fall
of 1970 to become the band director at Royal Oak Dondero High School.
The Bloomquist Years: 1970-1977
Kenneth Bloomquist became 7th director of the Spartan
Marching Band in 1970. He would keep the post for seven
years. Bloomquist's assistant director from 1970 to 1974
was David Catron, who would return in 1979 to become
the 10th director of the SMB.
The first women join the SMB
1972 was a landmark year in the history of the Spartan
Marching Band: it was the year that the first women were
admitted to the ranks of the band. Until 1972, the band had
been all male (even the twirlers were male). The first women
members of the band were Beth Mlynarek (twirler) and Lynne
In 1974 Catron accepted the position of Director of Bands
at Wichita State University and A. Thad Hegerberg, a 1964
graduate of MSU and a former band president, took over the
Assistant Director position. The Spartan Marching Band
now numbered 188, and included a corps of colorful Big Ten
Flags, incorporated some years earlier.
Also in 1974, the old overlay uniforms were replaced with a
unique design made especially for the MSU Band by Ostwald.
These new uniforms eliminated the hot vinyl overlays, and
included a forest green front with the shield "MSU", and
silver accents. These uniforms would remain in use until
In 1976, the Spartan Band began to add new dimensions to their
traditional "Patterns in Motion" style. Various techniques borrowed
from competition drum and bugle corps were put into use, and the music
began to be correlated more carefully with visual aspects of the drill.
Corps style percussion (including pitched bass drums and tri-toms),
new silver tubas, stride maneuvers, oblique marching, expanded
full-field mirror drills, and curvilinear drills became integral parts
of the new Spartan style. 1975 and 76 also marked appearances of the
SMB at the Pontiac Silverdome, the brand new home of the NFL Detroit
The Color Guard is Added
1976 brought another addition to the Spartan Band: a working Flag
Corps (or Color Guard) of 24 members. This first MSU flag corps was
co-ed, and both men and women wore the regular marching band uniform.
New white flags with a green shield "MSU" were designed by the first
flag corps instructor, Steve Batdorff, who had formerly marched as Big
Ten flag captain. The Spartan Band's block size had increased to 212.
The band performed at its first pro football game in 1976 when it
accepted an invitation to appear at a Detroit Lions game at the Pontiac
In 1977, P. Carl Chevallard was appointed Assistant Director of
the Spartan Marching Band. Thad Hegerberg became Associate Director
of Bands, a move necessitated because Director of Bands Bloomquist
was under consideration for appointment as Chairman of the Music
Department while remaining Director of Bands. Hegerberg and Chevallard
directed the Spartan Marching Band that year, with Bloomquist often joining them on the tower.
The Catron Years: 1979-1987
Catron Returns to MSU
David Catron returned from Wichita State in 1979 to take
the position of Associate Director of Bands and Director
of the Spartan Marching Band. Chevallard resigned to take
the post of Director of Bands at San Jose State University.
One of Catron's first moves upon his re-arrival at Michigan State was
to change the look of the Spartan Band Flag Corps. New white satin
skirted uniforms were designed, and the Flag Corps became all women for
the first time.
Catron kept the Spartan Band's traditions of excellence: a respect for
the old traditions coupled with a quest for innovations and spirited
showmanship. Under his direction, the Spartan Marching Band expanded
to nearly 300 members, and the use of new marching techniques and more
styles based on drum corps techniques continued.
In 1982, William Wiedrich, a 1980
graduate of MSU and a former band president and band manager, was
appointed to the position of Assistant Director of Bands. Wiedrich
aided Catron in on-field drilling of the Spartan Marching Band and
charting drills and arranging music for the band.
1984 - the World's Fair and the World Series
In the summer of 1984, a delegation from the Spartan Marching Band
was invited to perform at the New Orleans World's Fair. The 25-member
uniformed delegation was sponsored by the Chrysler Corporation, and
presented three concerts at the Fair.
More good things were to happen in the fall of 1984. The Detroit
Tigers had swept to a stunning American League pennant victory and
invited the Spartan Marching Band to open Game 3 of the World Series in
Detroit with a pregame concert appearance on the outfield of Tiger
Stadium. The band attended that game and saw the Tigers emerge
victorious. Two nights later, the Tigers won the World Series over the
San Diego Padres.
The Spartan football team also had a good year, and in December 1984,
the Spartan Marching Band accompanied the team to its first bowl game
since the 1966 Rose Bowl. It was the first annual Cherry Bowl game,
held at the Pontiac Silverdome on Dec. 22, 1984, and featuring a
gridiron clash between the Spartans and Army. Though the football
team was narrowly defeated, the Spartan Band attracted national and
international attention when its complete halftime show was broadcast
to one of the largest syndicated audiences in the history of sports
The SMB Loses a Leader and Friend
In May 1985, the MSU Bands and the world of music suffered a great
loss; Leonard Falcone, Director Emeritus of Bands at MSU, known as "The
Dean of the Big Ten Band Directors," died. On the night before his
death, a delegation of Spartan Marching Band members had visited him in
the Dimondale nursing home where he was staying, serenading him with
the "Fight Song" and "The Shadows". To the end, Falcone was revered by
the Spartan Band, and this last concert was a touching tribute to him.
His funeral service was attended by former and current MSU band members
from across the nation.
The successful 1985 football season led to the Spartans accepting an
invitation to the All-American Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama, on December
31, 1985. New uniforms were premiered to a national audience
watching the game on Superstation WTBS, which broadcast the entire
Spartan halftime show. The Spartan team was defeated by the Georgia
Tech Yellow jackets. The band traveled home on New Year's Day.
1987 - A Big Ten Championship & Rose Bowl Victory for the Spartans
The 1987 season brought more changes to the Spartan Marching Band. A
fundraising drive throughout the 1986 season, carried out by the
Spartan Marching Band Fan Club, the band's support organization,
allowed the band to purchase a giant, 100-foot American flag, which was
premiered to the public at the MSU-USC game of Sept. 7, 1987 (this also
had the distinction of being the first-ever nighttime game in Spartan
Stadium, and was telecast to a nationwide ABC audience). Marching
styles continued to evolve, and the Spartan Band utilized some of the
newest marching developments, including the concept of "floating
drills" (pivot point off center of the field during a rotation).
In the 1987 season finale, MSU defeated Indiana to clinch the Big Ten
Championship, sending the Spartans to their first Rose Bowl in 22
years. The Spartan Band flew to California via chartered American
Airlines for a week of intense rehearsals and appearances at Universal
Studios, Disneyland, Sea World, and the Century Plaza Hotel in Los
The streets of Pasadena were lined with millions as the band rose at 4
a.m. to depart for the starting line of the Rose Parade. The chill of
the early morning was soon forgotten as the band performed to high
acclaim during the 5.7-mile Rose Parade.
A standing ovation greeted the pregame and halftime presentations of
the Spartan Marching Band in the 1988 Rose Bowl. Over 300 million
viewed the band worldwide during the day's activities. A Spartan
victory frosted this historical day for Spartan fans everywhere.
David Catron became Associate Director of the MSU School of
Music and head of undergraduate music advising and curriculum.
William Wiedrich assumed the title of Associate Director of Bands
and the Director of the Spartan Marching Band.
The Madden Years: 1989-Present
Madden Comes to MSU
On August 1, 1989,
John T. Madden
accepted the position of Associate Director of Bands and Director of
the Spartan Marching Band. Madden was a 1985 graduate of the
MSU School of Music and former
trumpet section leader and Vice-President of the Spartan Marching
Madden received his Masters Degree in Music
Education and Wind Conducting from Wichita State University
he served for two years as Graduate Assistant in the University Band
Department. Before coming back to MSU, Madden held the post as
Associate Director of Bands and Marching Band Director at
Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey from 1987 to 1989.
Having served on two DCI Finalist Drum Corps staffs, (the
Phantom Regiment and the
Cadets of Bergen County)
to incorporate greater color guard and visual coordination within
Band drill. Madden has labeled the Spartan Marching Band in the 90's
as an eclectic drill style band, incorporating the ultimate in high
step precision drill and tradition, combined with the newest
contemporary drill and visual techniques.
One of Madden's first acts as director was to establish leadership training for squad and section leaders. Each fall, this group of
elected student leaders participate in classroom sessions, as well
as workshops to further understand their roll as teachers of the
younger members of the Spartan Band. Additional programs have also
been designed for the SMB membership to help deal with the issues
of alcohol and drug education, hazing, and harassment.
First Female Band President and Drum Major
In 1992, Janet Murray of Sterling Heights, Michigan was elected
the band's first female Band President. Janet was a Music Education
Major and Alto Saxophone Section Leader. In 1995, The first female
Drum Major was Mary Houhanisin of Brighton, Michigan. Mary was the
3rd Brighton alum to serve as Spartan Marching Band Drum Major.
A New Director of Bands
The spring of 1993 marked the retirement of Director of Bands,
Kenneth G. Bloomquist.
John L. Whitwell came to MSU from Stephen F. Austin State
University to accept the position
of Director of Bands at MSU. Professor Whitwell concentrated
primarily on the MSU Wind Symphony and Symphony Band while
teaching Graduate Conducting students.
New Uniforms and a New Coach
The 1995 season opened with very special happenings. Nick Saban was
hired as the new football coach, and the band recieved their 5th set
of green and white uniforms. Additionally, for the first time,
all SMB drill charts were computer generated, using Advantage
Showare. The 1995 season ended with a bus trip to Shreveport,
Louisiana for the 1995 Independence Bowl vs. the L.S.U. Tigers.
The Spartans lost the game.
A Trip to Disney World
In 1999, the Spartan Band enjoyed a successful trip to South Bend
for a third consecutive Spartan victory over the Irish. Home wins
over Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State capped a great 9-2 season
with losses to Purdue and Wisconsin. The Citrus Bowl invited MSU,
its team and band to Orlando, Florida.
The SMB enjoyed the New Years Day spotlight on ABC Television as
well as parades at Disney MGM Studios, Universal Studios, and of
course the Magic Kingdom Parade on New Years Eve of the new
Millennium. The Spartans beat the Florida Gators by a field goal
on the last play of the game!
Looking to the Future
John Madden has continued to develop programs and methods to keep
the Spartan Marching Band on the cutting edge of the college
marching band world. TRADITION, INNOVATION, & EXCELLENCE: These
are the trademarks of the Spartan Marching Band. Throughout its
long and proud history, the SMB has adhered to these watchwords,
and will continue to do so in the years to come.