Published: Nov. 9, 2010

Spartan Marching Band 'bowl' bound

Contact(s): Kristen Parker University Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709, John Madden College of Music office: (517) 355-7650

EAST LANSING, Mich. — What would Michigan State University football be without the band playing the Spartan Fight Song at every touchdown? Unthinkable says Spartan Marching Band Director John Madden.

It’s a package deal.

So as the MSU football team experiences one of its best seasons, it’s fitting the band follow suit.

For the first time in its history, the Spartan Marching Band will perform at the most prestigious high school marching band competition in the country Nov. 12-13 in Indianapolis. It’s also one of the best college band recruiting events.

The Bands of America Grand National Championships is celebrating its 35th anniversary, welcoming 90 high school marching bands from across the country to compete at Lucas Oil Stadium. There are about 1,000 high school marching bands in the country, but only the best make the cut.

The Spartan Marching Band will be one of two exhibition bands to play at the event.

“This is a once-in-a-career opportunity,” said Madden, who has directed MSU’s 300-member band for 22 years. “We are honored to be chosen, and it confirms that Spartan Marching Band has a reputation of excellence across the country.”

The band’s 15-minute performance at the end of the competition will include traditional pre- and post-football game selections. But it will also include a medley of songs by the 1970s and 1980s band, Journey.

“The whole band will have that ‘rock star’ feeling,” said Madden, associate professor of music. “Our students typically perform for football, but now, thanks to this event, they can use their talents and skills to perform for band connoisseurs.” 

And these connoisseurs could be future Spartan Marching Band members, he said. Students choose colleges for many reasons. These students, inspired by the opportunity to play with one of the oldest and most recognized university marching bands, could choose MSU.

“This is a chance for people to feel the Spartan spirit,” Madden said. “Some kid’s life will be changed because of this. It’s what we do.”

Spartan Marching Band was founded in 1870 with just 10 members. Since then, it has performed at four Rose Bowls and has made nine other bowl appearances.


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

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Spartan Marching Band director John Madden leads the band into Spartan Stadium. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz

Spartan Marching Band director John Madden leads the band into Spartan Stadium. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz