The beat goes on

It happens every year. Each August, all 300 members of the Spartan Marching Band assemble on the MSU campus for what is known as “Preseason.”

The annual 10 days of preparation and practice—equal parts band camp and boot camp—are a respected and well-loved experience and tradition, much like the band itself, which is one of the nation’s premier college marching bands.

Under the expert eye of director John T. Madden, seasoned veterans set a high bar for new members who are welcomed into the ranks. Together they perfect and polish marching formations and music for the season ahead, enduring long days that often bring soaring temperatures and falling rain—and having the time of their lives.

It all leads to that glorious moment when they march onto the field in Spartan Stadium—a seamless stream of green and white and flashing instruments—to captivate an audience of more than 70,000 fans. It’s a moment that never ceases to thrill, season after season, as the beat goes on.

Spartan Marching Band freshmen begin preseason registration at Demonstration Hall.

A freshman band member, accompanied by proud parents, picks up part of her uniform during the registration process.

Spartan Marching Band Director John Madden (center) addresses the freshmen band members for the first time on Demonstration Hall field during preseason drills.

The Spartan Marching Band freshmen warm up for their first marching lessons on Demonstration Hall field led by drum major Frank Loomis (foreground).

Listen to the first day of practice

Visual and field coordinator Glen Brough instructs freshmen in the finer details of the Spartan marching form.

The first day on the field includes the mechanics of the band’s marching style.

Freshmen horn players learn their positions in the block formation.

Band members read their chair results in Demonstration Hall the morning after auditions.

Director John Madden jokes with some horn players as the band assembles for its first full rehearsal.

A general meeting later that evening gives the entire band a chance to hear the talented drumline and learn the history and traditions of the band.

Listen to the freshmen perform “the series”

After seven tough days of drills and memorization, the tradition of the freshman class dress rehearsal begins just before sunset as they march through a passageway lined with veteran band members. This is an unexpected beginning to the evening for the band’s newest members.

Drum major Frank Loomis looks ahead as he leads freshmen on a march through campus during dress rehearsal.

Freshmen trombone players show off their newly learned marching style.

Freshman trombone player Gerrit Gehrke yells during a march through campus to “The Series” as the freshman class continues its dress rehearsal.

Marching band veterans douse freshmen with water to celebrate the end of their final preseason drill.

Listen to the band sing “MSU shadows”

Freshmen snare drummers reach the Farm Lane bridge over the Red Cedar River, where they receive a well-deserved shower—and raucous cheers.

The tradition of the freshman class dress rehearsal ends with heartfelt congratulations from marching band veterans.

Director John Madden shares a special moment with the band before singing the alma mater, “MSU Shadows,” for the first time together near the banks of the Red Cedar.

The newly christened 2013 Spartan Marching Band cheers heartily when told the report time for the following morning has been pushed back to 2 p.m.

Two days before classes begin, the band runs through its game day warm-up routine, capped by marching to Spartan Stadium and having an “in-stands” rehearsal to prepare for Friday night’s opening game against Western Michigan University.

A final game-day uniform inspection before the march to Spartan Stadium requires special attention paid to freshmen about to experience their first live public performance at MSU.

The last attention to uniform detail before marching to Spartan Stadium is always putting on the spats.

Associate Director Cormac Cannon (far right) and Director John Madden share a word as they lead the 2013 Spartan Marching Band in its traditional march to Spartan Stadium before the game.

Listen to the football pregame performance

Color Guard member Hannah Walker is a model of intensity during the band’s traditional march between Adams Field and Spartan Stadium as they play “The Series.”

Members of the Spartan Marching Band huddle in the heat just outside the stadium tunnel as they prepare to explode onto the field for the pregame show.

Hot and dripping wet already from the steamy march to the stadium in wool uniforms, members of the band deal with pregame thoughts in their own way.

The student section at Spartan Stadium roars its approval as the band concludes its pregame show with the MSU Fight Song.

Stadium lights twinkle off the trumpet section during the halftime show.

All eyes are on Director John Madden as he signals the next song to the 300-piece Spartan Marching Band.

Listen to the moment in the rain

The trombone players bring forth a wall of sound from the stands.

Storm clouds roll in from the northwest as the Spartan Marching Band majorettes cheer on the MSU football team during the season opener against Western Michigan University on August 30.

Cymbal players Graham Goble and Kate Bailey happily endure a refreshing deluge of rain just before lightning delays the game. A little water is nothing to the battle-tested band.

Director John Madden—slightly drenched—smiles from his post.

Shining lights at Spartan Stadium act as a beacon for the 2013 Spartan Marching Band as it wraps a demanding, yet spirited preseason.

Drumroll, please

Merritt Lutz

A June birthday bash in New York City for MSU alumnus and financial services executive Merritt Lutz wasn’t intended to be a surprise party. But it was an unexpected and emotional moment when members of the Spartan Marching Band drum line performed a celebratory solo on drums emblazoned with Lutz’s initials to show their appreciation for his support.

More than 40 years ago, Lutz was able to fulfill his dream of playing with the Spartan Marching Band drum line at MSU with the support of a scholarship. Today, he and his wife, Candy, help current Spartans achieve their dreams by giving to the MSU College of Music, and Lutz has established the Spartan Championship Drums Endowment to fund travel for drum line competitions.

Lutz credits his alma mater for his personal and professional success and wants to help fellow Spartans experience what he did.

“I would say Michigan State had everything to do with any success I have now and a lot of my happiness,” says Lutz. “It changed my life.”

Although he no longer marches with the band, Lutz’s musical contribution can be heard every football game day. He helped write the drum cadence “The Series,” which is performed by the Spartan Marching Band every time they march from Adams Field to Spartan Stadium and back.