A one-of-a-kind marching band halftime
SMB and Alumni Band join forces for an amazing show.
For 150 years, Spartans have loved the bands at Michigan State University, and the Homecoming festivities of this past weekend gave the Spartan Marching Band a chance to celebrate this milestone anniversary in grand style.
With what is believed to be the largest halftime show in MSU history, nearly 1,200 current and alumni marching band members joined forces for a display of school spirit like no other. The annual reunion began with a goal to get a thousand people on the field at once, and enthusiasm for the opportunity made that goal easily reachable. Alumni came from all over the state and country, and attendees included the welcome return of past band directors Ken Bloomquist, Dave Catron, and John Whitwell.
Phil Bertolini marched with the tuba section in the early 1980s, and his son, Steve, marches in the trumpet section now.
“When you see different generations representing the same family, you really understand the impact the Spartan Marching Band legacy has,” he said. “Watching your children fulfill their dreams and engage their passion is an amazing feeling.”
For band alumni, the weekend began with Friday evening rehearsal in Jenison Fieldhouse following the unfortunate cancelling of the Homecoming Parade due to inclement weather. But spirits remained high as they gathered to practice together and enjoy a reception. Saturday morning found the MSU Alumni Band rehearsing again, being joined by the current Spartan Marching Band. A family atmosphere permeated each event.
Ann Simons Holt and her husband, Blake, met when both played alto saxophone in the band in the 1990s. Their daughter, Erin, is now in the Big Ten section, and Ann treasures what the band has meant to her family.
“Her first march to the Stadium, and seeing her kick-step onto the field, were moments that will be etched in my memory, much like her first words and first steps,” she said. “I’m not a terribly emotional person, but I got tears in my eyes and was speechless.”
The uniqueness of a Homecoming weekend like this stems in part from legacies like the Holt family and alumni marchers honoring band traditions that have lasted generations. It took a well-coordinated effort by the entire University Bands team, led by Associate Director of Bands and Director of the Spartan Marching Band David Thornton.
“Last Saturday’s reunion was a memorable experience for all involved,” Thornton said. “I am incredibly grateful to our alumni members who came back to campus to participate and also to all of the individuals who made this event possible, including the support of the Alumni Band executive board. The weekend was a perfect display of SMB tradition and excellence as we celebrated the 150th anniversary of MSU Bands.”
Tradition and excellence are hallmarks of the Spartan Marching Band, traits that are essential to the loyal alumni who return for special events such as this.
“The great thing about the SMB is that it really hasn’t changed that much since we were in band,” Ann Holt said. “It is still an organization that prides itself on excellence on and off the field. The hard work and pride that goes into preseason, rehearsals and performances is still evident. Most importantly, the fact that the SMB is truly a family is what makes it special.”