Marching band to sum up season with Bandorama

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
The GVSU Laker Marching Band performs at a football game

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter The GVSU Laker Marching Band performs at a football game

Grace Sterenberg

Three home games. Three different shows. Three weeks. That was the challenge facing Grand Valley State University’s marching band this fall.

With a band consisting of around two-thirds freshmen, Director John Martin battled inexperience from the band as well as himself, with it being his second year on the job. Martin came from the University of Tennessee and said a lot has changed since his first year at GVSU in 2009. Where as in his first year he had no idea what to expect, this year Martin said he felt much more prepared, which had an effect on the students as well.

“If I have stress, the kids have stress,” he said. “This year was just better all around for everyone involved.”

For those who missed a show or two this season or for those who would just like to relive them, the music department will hold a Bandorama event on Sunday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Louis Armstrong Theatre.

“It’s a concert that is a review of all the music from the season,” Martin said. “We’ll march in and we’ll move quickly.”

Admission to the event is free, but donations will be accepted for music scholarships.

Along with getting the band more organized, Martin has learned to constantly keep the budget in mind as well. Coming from a school such as the University of Tennessee, where budget is never an issue, to one with a smaller marching band program and less money was a big change and he said it took some adjustment.

“You have to be creative and resourceful about how you approach things,” Martin said.

Martin has developed those creative skills and adapted to the changes from his former school’s program, such as differences in the source of funding.

“The one thing people have to realize is that the majority of funding for this program comes through the music department, not through athletics as opposed to some other schools,” Martin said.

With this year being GVSU’s 50th anniversary, money coming out of the music department must cover an increased variety of shows and events. However, with a new director’s tower on the field and brand new equipment for the drum line this year, Martin believes that despite budget restrictions the band is always in good hands.

“We are well taken care of,” he said. “If we need something to run this band, we will find a way to get it. They are completely supportive of this program.”

Only meeting for a short time three times a week, another thing Martin hopes people will realize is the work put into each show in the time allotted. Martin said the band is often criticized for shows being imperfect or even judged on how well the team is doing at halftime. He said they do their best in putting together a show in such a short time.

Athletic Director Tim Selgo said the work the band puts in does not go unnoticed at the football games.

“Not only are they terrific in their performances as a band, but their enthusiasm helps energize the crowd and certainly helps our team immensely,” he said. “There is no question that our band is a tremendous enhancement of all of our athletics and we certainly appreciate that.”

One stigma about GVSU that Martin dislikes is that D-II is somehow less-important than D-I and believes this affects the students.

“I tell the students that our football field is the same size as any other school, and we are held to that same standard,” he said. “We are a Division I marching band. You have to constantly convince them of that, but it’s important for them to understand that and I think we’re on the road to more appreciation.”

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