Spartan Marching Band Joins Latin IS America Celebration

Popular works featured including rhythm performances on hand-crafted drums.

Percussionists (light green shirts) join the SMB Drumline. Instruments (left to right) abês, gourd with beads; cowbell or gonguê; small snare drum (center) is a caixa; and large drums at right, made of wood and rope with goatskin heads, are alfaias.

Latin IS America, an annual MSU festival that officially began in 2013, is a celebration of intersections between the cultures of Latin America and the United States. 

The past two festivals, which have been held in the spring, have featured many aspects of Latin culture -- music, art, theater, literature, and scholarly activity -- in hopes of helping the MSU community understand how Latin American culture is intertwined through American culture.

Offering an exciting addition to the College of Music’s connection to Latin music, Spartan Marching Band Director John Madden led his 300-member ensemble in a performance of all things Latin on Saturday, Oct. 25, during the MSU vs. U-M football game’s halftime show.

Kicking off the show was Grammy Award-winning tune Vivir Mi Vida (trans. Live My Life), by Latin pop star Marc Anthony, followed by We Are One, which was recorded by the Cuban American rapper known as Pitbull. “This tune hit it big in the summer as the official anthem of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” said Madden.
The SMB moved to Brazilian music next from Antonio Nobrega called Maracatu Misterioso, featuring the MSU Drumline and a group of College of Music percussionists who played on authentic Maracatu or alfaia drums, also known as rope-surdos.*   

Closing the show, the marching band performed Cuban piano music by classical composer Ernesto Lecuona. “His Malagueña is a standard around the world,” said Madden. “We performed it in a driving jazz style reminiscent of the Stan Kenton Big Band.” 
The October 25 show was arranged for the SMB by Scott Boerma, John Madden, Jon Weber, Steve Wulff, and Alex Smith.

For information about the 2015 LIA Festival, which runs from April 11 to May 2, visit

* Special thanks to Claudio José Araujo de Souza for serving as a liaison to the Spartan Marching Band in getting the alfaia drums, which were handcrafted by Abilio Sobral Instrumentos Musicais.

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