Making Dreams Come True for the SMB

Ed and Wanda Eichler help fund new Spartan Marching Band practice field

“What’s next?”

Ed Eichler’s question was like music to the ears of John Madden, director of the Spartan Marching Band. In the fall of 2010, Ed was in touch with John and asked him about instrument needs for the 300-member Spartan Marching Band. At that time there was a pressing need for new trumpets. Though Ed played tuba (and still does at least once a year), he and his wife Wanda agreed to purchase 62 silver, custom-designed trumpets. Madden indicated that this purchase completed his dream for a purity of sound the likes of which had never been heard in Spartan Stadium.

Ed and Wanda are helping to make another one of Madden’s dreams a reality. When Ed asked John “What’s next?”, John had a bold answer: “A turf practice field. We will need to fund it entirely with private support.” That conversation was the starting point of an 18-month effort to put a plan in place and secure the $1.3 million in private support for this transformational project.

The Spartan Marching Band (SMB) has earned a level of popularity among students, alumni, donors, and friends that is matched by few other units on campus. Their credo is, “tradition, innovation, and excellence.” While their performances are viewed with pride by hundreds of thousands of spectators each fall, it may not be widely known that the Band has practiced in substandard conditions which at times, are unsafe, detrimental to excellent performance, and not on par with other Big Ten marching bands.

The current practice field, located at Demonstration Hall, is the classroom space for the 300 students enrolled in the SMB—a one-credit course in the College of Music. While the Dem Hall Field has a wonderful ambiance, the issue is this: each fall, as the Band practices on the field, sometimes in inclement weather, the field is churned into mud. In very cold weather the rutted field freezes. The safety of the SMB members, who come from 13 colleges across campus, will be enhanced by the creation of this smooth and weatherproof field. The project will also include a two-level instruction tower, a sound system, and accessible bleacher seating for 500.

In addition to the numerous benefits that will be realized with a lit, artificial field for the SMB, this field will also benefit the broad MSU student body. Nearly 20,000 students who participate in intramural sports activities will also use this complex annually.

“This new field is a game-changer for us,” stated Madden. “We continue to be grateful to the Eichlers for their love of the Spartan Marching Band and for all they do to enhance the student learning experience.”

Ed and Wanda’s generous $300,000 commitment to name the Eichler Family Teaching Tower and Gallery provided the second and final gift to fully fund this project. The Forest Akers Trust provided the lead gift of $1 million to name the Forest Akers Trust Practice Complex at Munn Field.

“We are looking forward to this fall when the Spartan Marching Band steps onto their new turf field,” said James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “We are so grateful for Ed and Wanda’s passion for the SMB and their challenge to think about the next big project. Thanks to their query, we will soon have a practice field that is commensurate with the talent of our beloved SMB.”

If you would like to learn more about supporting the Spartan Marching Band, please contact Director of Development Rebecca Surian at or at 517-353-9872.

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