Adorning SMB Members with Jackets

Alumni raise funds to provide jackets for new members of MSU Spartan Marching Band.

Members of the Spartan Marching Band Drum Line sport their jackets with pride.
MSU Head Basketball Coach Tom Izzo addresses members of the 2014 Spartan Marching Band at a recent band practice.
Tom Izzo and his family received a signed, framed photo of the SMB in honor of their support. Left to right: Steven Izzo; David Thornton, assistant director of bands; John Madden, director of the SMB; Tom Izzo; Raquel Izzo, and Lupe Izzo.

When Greg Pell attended Michigan State University in the 1960s, he paid his way through college by working one or more part-time jobs. But after taking care of his tuition and bills, Pell says he had little left for extras—including the jacket that symbolized his membership in the MSU Spartan Marching Band.

Today, Pell is on a quest to ensure that no incoming band freshman will ever have to worry about how they will afford their jacket. It’s a cause that the incoming president of the MSU Alumni Band takes seriously. And it’s evident others do too, based on the response to the fundraising campaign he helped set up through a popular charitable giving mechanism at MSU.

“Students earn and deserve that jacket,” Pell says. “Being in the band has always been about history, tradition and a commitment to excellence—something you can feel privileged to have been allowed to be a part of. ”

Pell is not alone in his thinking. Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Izzo and his wife Lupe are the principal and lead donors who support the Spartan Marching Band’s effort to provide the coveted band jacket to incoming members. Their generous support over the last four years provided funding to partially or fully cover costs of new members jackets from 2011-2014.

“College marching bands are one of the things that make college athletics unique, and at Michigan State we are fortunate to have one of the very best in the country,” says Tom Izzo. “I’ve always been impressed by the hard work and hours put in by the band members and the pride they take in their performance. As a coach, I can really appreciate their dedication to their craft. So when the opportunity arose to assist them with funding for their jackets, it was really a no-brainer for me.”

Pell worked with other board members of the MSU Alumni Band to launch a campaign for the Spartan Marching Band Jacket Fund on September 1 through MSU’s CrowdPower site. The goal, he explained, is to raise enough to provide jackets free-of-charge to all incoming band members for the 2016 season.

Within weeks of the campaign going live, an SMB alum stepped forward to match all donations up to the initial goal of $5,000 and beyond up to $6,000—enabling the fund to rapidly meet then exceed its goal. By the close of the three-month campaign in November, the fund reached $10,960—or 219 percent of goal. Those on-line donations, Pell says, provided an enormous boost to the already $4,500 raised through other fundraising mechanisms and gifted by the Spartan Alumni Band in 2015.

Pell says plans are to apply all donations given through the CrowdPower campaign and other fundraising events to an ongoing fund that will support the purchase of jackets. Donations will be welcome year-round to meet the needs of incoming band members, with prompts provided through seasonal CrowdPower or other giving opportunities.

“Now that we’ve had some initial success, we’re confident that no freshman band member will ever have to buy their own jacket,” Pell says, citing the cost of the jacket at $150. “We’ll work to fund the cause every year from now on.”

Members of the SMB have worn the traditional style Spartan Marching Band jacket for more than six decades. A band jacket is earned after a first-year member has completed the freshman class dress rehearsal and the performance activities of the first home football game.

“These jackets are more than a symbol of membership in the band—they represent the history and tradition of many decades of MSU Band excellence,” says John Madden, director of the Spartan Marching Band and associate professor in the College of Music. “There are few things that compare to seeing the pride on a band member’s face when they wear their jacket for the very first time.”

The design and style of the jacket has remained constant since the 1950s, reflecting a commitment to upholding tradition. Pell says he still wears the jacket he earned after four years of playing under legendary band director Leonard Falcone, particularly when he performs with the MSU Spartan Alumni Band.

“Having that jacket shows you were part of something that upholds excellence,” Pell says. “I believe that once a Spartan, always a Spartan. I’m still overwhelmed by pride every time I wear it to perform.”

For information on how you can contribute to the Spartan Marching Band Jacket Fund, contact Development/Alumni Relations, Michigan State University College of Music at 517-353-9872.

See Campaign in Action

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