Chances are, if you’ve ever been on campus from 2 to 4 pm on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, you’ve heard the Spirit of the West Marching Band practicing behind the Outdoor Rec Center. The band is certainly present at football games, standing in the student section, surviving freezing temperatures and frozen mouthpieces just to add to the amazing game day atmosphere. Another notable fact, if you’ve been around for awhile, is that the band has been using the same exact uniforms for 17 years. So this year, amongst other changes, director of bands Nathan Stark has announced that the band will finally purchase new uniforms with monetary support from President Cruzado.
First, a quick history: a few years ago, the university decided to update the logos, complete with a new cat head and ‘M.’ With that logo change came a new rule for the stadium: no old logos are to be allowed in the stadium. The logos and signage all throughout had to be changed. The current band uniforms are in violation of this rule, as they clearly display the old logo prominently on the left breast in an ugly monotonous blue, not to mention they just look plain outdated and boring. The new designs are far more up-to-date, including an option for a replaceable logo should the university officially change it again. This has the potential to save the band significant money in the future and is an important step in keeping the band current with the University Master Plan.
Despite needing new uniforms for many years, the band has had a major problem raising the capital to fund new uniforms on their own. This year the band cannot even promise a full cash equivalent of the scholarship to those who cannot accept a tuition waiver. The price of a marching band uniform costs around “the price of a nice tuxedo,” Stark remarks. That equates to around $500 a piece, and when you are planning to purchase 200 new uniforms, that’s a lot of cash — totalling around $100,000. For reference, that’s enough to give three and a half in-state students a tuition waver through four years of college. How can the band afford this huge but extremely necessary purchase? Well, with the help of President Waded Cruzado and Dean Nancy Cornwell, who, according to an email sent out to band members by Dr. Stark, “have committed 70 percent of the funding for this project.” Specifically, 50 percent from President Cruzado, and 20 percent from Dean Cornwell.
So why the band? Why spend all this money on them? Well, a marching band is more than just a collection of people blowing into contraptions, banging on things and running around on a football field. A marching band is a group of people with the goal to perform something amazing. A marching band is the essence of synergy between music, marching, football, people, camaraderie and a well run university. The Spirit of the West has to be this essence at every occasion. As a member of the band every time I put on my uniform I am reminded of what it truly means to be in a marching band. It means hours and hours of work just for a mere 10 minutes of fame. It means that even though you get to watch the vast majority of fans in the stands leave to do some halftime tailgating, you get the unique satisfaction of seeing those true fans who are just overjoyed to see us. Or when a little kid comes up asking for me to sign his helmet, right next to all of the football players signatures, it is a sense of belonging and accomplishment that most people don’t get to experience at all in their life. To be adored by thousands of people you don’t know, truly remarkable.
The fact that this university, and its members and fans, supports us the way they do, it only makes me want to “bring the vim” more vigorously. To be put bluntly, our job at football games is to be the side-show. We’re there so the fans have something to look at when the football team is off doing something else. We’re there to show the fans what it means to have vim, and I could not be more proud to do so. The band puts countless hours of strenuous work into producing a show that MSU can be proud of, and the financial support of the university validates the importance of the band’s work.
I am already looking forward to the new uniforms, where the phrase “whenever you wear these uniforms you personify the Spirit of the West and the others who wore the uniform before you,” empowers you instead of making you go “eww.” But until we will survive, even if the Tubas are in temporary uniforms that look like chef outfits. We already look and sound good, all we need are uniforms to match.
The new uniforms will make their debut in fall 2016.