Student view:

Ilene Gould: Spartan Marching Band and its legacy

Nov. 20, 2019

Ilene Gould is a senior majoring in media and information in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, but one of her key roles on campus is serving as vice president and mellophone squad leader in the Spartan Marching Band. MSU is celebrating 150 years of bands on campus.

There is something special about the East Lansing bubble. The minute you enter the city limits, you know you are in Spartan Nation. Game days are particularly unique, beginning with the sounds of the MSU fight song at our early morning rehearsal. It feels as though for just a few hours, the rest of the world stops, and East Lansing celebrates all the Green and White.

A year ago, I asked past and present members of the Spartan Marching Band who have had children, parents or siblings also in the band, to talk about what legacy means to them. In this historic year of celebrating 150 years of Michigan State Bands, it seemed a great time to reflect on the SMB legacy and some of the lives it has touched over the years.

SMB started as a ten-member ensemble in 1870; since then, it has evolved into today’s 300-member band. These 300 Spartans are a family on campus, but off campus the band has created long-lasting relationships, real-life couples and band families that span over generations.

Perhaps Phil Bertolini (tuba, 1981-1984), whose son Steve is now in the trumpet section, put it best when he said, “When you see different generations representing the same family, you really understand the impact the SMB legacy has.”

Having a son or daughter carry on the legacy means everything. The common bond created connects families in ways that would not exist otherwise.

For Holly Wilhelm (alto saxophone, 1983-1986), that bond is both nostalgia and pride. Wilhelm’s daughter, Annaliese Patenge, is a sophomore in the Big Ten section.

“I see her, and it takes me right back to those fall days on campus when I was her age. It gives me great pride knowing that she aspires to present her best for our beloved university as I did,” Wilhelm said.

Of course, I cannot leave out my own family!

My mom, Susan Gould (alto saxophone, 1987-1991), and dad, Bob Gould (trumpet, 1988-1990), have a daughter who is proud to march in the mellophone section. As my mom told me, “There is so much pride in that band, and I’m thrilled that you get to experience being a part of it — a part of something bigger than yourself. Part of a legacy. Part of a stable, constant success story.”

For those of us who have experienced Spartan Marching Band, I am confident we all agree that one of the greatest things is that it really hasn’t changed much. It’s still an organization that values excellence both on and off the field. And, above all else, it feels like family.