Tradition, innovation, excellence, and scholarships
Donors and their support of Spartan Marching Band members.
What began as a ten member ensemble 150 years ago has grown into the 300 strong Spartan Marching Band. It is a family connection that lives on in the lives of alumni long after they leave the field.
While grand celebrations are happening in this anniversary year, band members continue to dedicate time to the band that can make it difficult to earn money for school. Thankfully, the band has friends and admirers that recognize this dedication and reward it with scholarships.
“Having the peace of mind that my tuition for marching band is covered makes it easy to focus on improving the quality of the band,” said trombone section leader, computer engineering senior, and scholarship recipient Troy Anderson in a letter he wrote to donors Dave and Sue Krawczyk of Bay City, Michigan.
The Krawczyks have enjoyed the Spartan Marching Band (SMB) and its traditions for years, and the excellence they have witnessed motivated them to create the David S. and Susan M. Krawczyk Endowed Scholarship in the Spartan Marching Band.
“The SMB and its members have never disappointed us in their performances and individual behavior. Thus as part of our estate planning, we desired to fund scholarships for individual band members,” Dave Krawczyk said. “We decided to partially fund that desire now so we could meet student recipients and see their enthusiasm and appreciation for the scholarships.”
They also desired to motivate students to also give back one day, something Troy acknowledged he hopes to do.
Inspiring future generations was also on the mind of Dr. Jim Billman when he and second year MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine student, Meredith Herman, jointly established the Meredith K. Herman and J. K. Billman, Jr., M.D. Spartan Marching Band Endowed Scholarship.
As an undergraduate, Meredith earned a scholarship that Dr. Billman created in the College of Natural Science. As the two got to know one another, Meredith’s dedication and hard work in the SMB as a baritone horn player inspired Dr. Billman to establish the Herman/Billman scholarship with a commitment from Meredith that she will continue to help it grow during her medical career. It is a built-in, pay-it-forward objective to support the SMB that Meredith has taken to heart.
“Receiving the scholarship created an opportunity to know Dr. Billman, who has been an incredible mentor and inspiration to me through the years,” Meredith said. “Dr. Billman’s generosity and joy in philanthropy, at MSU and beyond, have inspired me to also give back to my alma mater and support students throughout my life’s work.”
Dr. Billman also supports the College of Music as the lead contributor to the Billman Music Pavilion. The state-of-the-art music facility is less than $1 million away from the college goal of $17.5 million raised from private sources, with construction continuing and a planned opening in spring 2020.
The fact that Meredith embraces the need to give back is an outcome that makes Dr. Billman very happy, especially since he knows she will continue to help students in the band that he said has thrilled him since his early days at MSU.
“SMB students work very hard at their craft, auditioning to earn a place, Band Camp in the summer heat, section rehearsals, weekly practices, and travel to represent MSU,” Dr. Billman said. “Rain, wind, heat, or cold and snow, every SMB routine sparkles, but this labor of love may limit the hours a student who needs money can be available to work, increasing the need for scholarships.”
David Thornton, director of the Spartan Marching Band, knows first-hand the difference scholarships can make in the lives of band members.
“I am grateful to all of our scholarship contributors,” Thornton said. “The financial stability provided by our generous donors reward some of the most talented and brightest students in the Spartan Marching Band. These gifts allow students to pursue so many opportunities on campus, in addition to participating in our program.”
While the need is certainly there, to donors like Carol and Bob Wiegand the main motivation to create a scholarship came from a special place that the SMB family has in their hearts.
Their son, Troy Wiegand, went to MSU from 2000 to 2005 and marched in the drumline for two years. According to his parents, he absolutely loved it. After graduation he lived and worked in California and Nashville where he started successful businesses, but in 2015 he unexpectedly passed away.
The Wiegands say it took about a year for them to come out of the fog of losing their son, but one thing that helped them was the idea of doing something to honor his memory. They loved the idea of a commemorative tree, and in 2016 one was planted near the Spartan statue on campus.
“Troy was a wonderful young man who loved his friends, band, and music,” Carol Wiegand said. “He had such a good time and came back to campus for alumni weekends. He just loved music. So, the tree was planted and a plaque placed there, but then we thought, ‘what else can we do?’”
That something else was to create the Troy Wiegand Memorial SMB Drumline Scholarship which they have grown over the past few years to include awards for three students. A highlight of their year is meeting the recipients along with Drumline Director and MSU Percussion Instructor Jon Weber near Troy’s tree on Demonstration Hall field.
“The kids are just wonderful. They are the nicest people,” Carol Wiegand said. “Jon Weber does a great job of picking kids who are nice, passionate and funny – just like Troy. It’s always so nice to meet the students, and doing it by the tree makes it feel like Troy is part of it, too.”
Appreciating the tradition, innovation and excellence of the SMB while understanding the need to support students is something all of these donors have in common. Band alumna and now donor Meredith Herman understands first-hand the need and the appreciation of scholarship recipients.
“SMB is an unforgettable experience that students carry with them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Having been in the band, I know the hard work, dedication, and self-sacrifice that students give to be a part of this elite group. Students who are in the SMB develop critical life skills in leadership, teamwork, perseverance and a strong work ethic which will serve them well in their future endeavors.”
That, donors hope, inspires the thousands of other band alumni to do what they can in support of today’s band members. As Meredith said, “Once a part of the band, always a part of the band.”