GV welcomes a new voice for the Laker Marching Band

Joel Paauwe, 15, pictured in front of the Laker Marching Band during Fan Fest August 23. Courtesy / Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Joel Paauwe, ’15, pictured in front of the Laker Marching Band during Fan Fest August 23. Courtesy / Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Amanda Rogers

After 23 years, Grand Valley State University is welcoming a new Voice of the Laker Marching Band. Joel Paauwe, a GVSU alumnus, is here to step up and fill the shoes of Tom Yackish, who retired from the role after 23 years. 

In the role of the Voice, Paauwe introduces the Laker Marching Band to the crowd during pregame and halftime at football games. Occasionally, Paauwe will also travel with the band to some of their other events such as Bandorama and Art Prize. 

Paauwe is there to make sure the crowd knows who the band is and what they are performing. He starts by setting everything up, and then the band delivers. 

“If we didn’t have [the Voice,] people wouldn’t know who we were,” said John Martin, Associate Professor and Director of Athletic Bands at GVSU. “He helps create that identity with the way he presents us.” 

The band was looking for someone to bring a fresh outlook on the position and build off of what had been laid out by Mr. Yackish. Auditions for the position were held over the summer, and Paauwe was hired at the end of the process. 

“Through the audition, when we heard him, it was almost jaw dropping,” Martin said.

Paauwe graduated from GVSU with a degree in broadcasting. He got more comfortable behind the microphone while spending his time talking on GVSU’s student run radio station, The Whale.

Paauwe plans to pursue a career in professional voice-over talent, so this volunteer position is a great first step in the direction of what he would like to do in the future. 

“This is a huge milestone for me,” said Paauwe. “I am going to take in as much as I can.” 

Paauwe was not a part of the Laker Marching Band during his time at GVSU, but his brother was, so he still has a sentimental connection to the band.

He kicked off his first performance announcing at Grand Valley State University’s home opener football game on Thursday, Aug. 30. 

“I thought to myself, no matter what happens tonight, this night is going to be a part of history,” Paauwe said. “That is basically what got me through the night.” 

The night ended up going smoothly for Paauwe, and the atmosphere of the game really caught the attention of Paauwe when he was announcing.

“I really like getting that immediate reaction from the stadium audience and student section,” Paauwe said. “I like hearing the cheers and the audience response. I love hearing the pride we all have when attending a Laker game.”

Even though Paauwe has big shoes to fill after Yackish, he hopes he can contribute as much as he can. 

“We feel he will set a new performance level for this position and bring a new atmosphere and new kind of excitement to it,” Martin said.

Paauwe will continue to convey the energy and excitement for the band, and for the university.