Laker Marching Band kicks off new season

By Tasman Mattox | 9/17/17 9:17pm

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GVL / Emily Frye The Laker Marching Band leads the football team out onto the field for the game against Davenport University on Saturday September 9, 2017.

The Grand Valley State University Marching Band entered its 41st year of performance this fall. The band features more than 200 members who perform at Laker football games and other events in the Grand Rapids community. 

“Every band forms their own personality,” said John Martin, associate professor and director of athletic bands at GVSU. “This year, they are very working, very caring and very happy. They’re hard workers; they learn at a good rate. You take that into account when planning.”

Martin came to GVSU in the midst of the market crash when he was struggling to find a position as a music director. 

“A lot of the searches closed, but this one stayed open," he said. "I didn’t know much about the school. I started doing more research, and I was like, ‘Where did this school come from?’ Everyone said Grand Valley was up and coming, and the music department was all thumbs up. 

It was just a very appealing place. After I interviewed here, there were just so many good things about this place. It was a good vibe.” 

Ted Craig, assistant director of the Laker Marching Band, said he thinks much of what he learned in the marching band will be useful for today’s students as well. 

“I have a deep sense of pride for this group," Craig said. "To be a part of it again has been really awesome. The freshman coming in gain 200 friends right off the bat. We treat each other like family, and it’s a safe environment to succeed in. The camaraderie is a big plus. The games are just kind of icing on the cake.”

Martin said he thinks students in the marching band enjoy it due to the family feeling of it.

“You’re certainly not doing it for the one-hour credit,” Martin said. “It’s about being a part of a team. I think there’s a lot of lessons, but I do believe they get enjoyment. I think they enjoy being around one another. They have this support system in place.” 

Martin placed a lot of importance on representing GVSU well. 

“When we march and we’re out anywhere, we’re representing a greater organization,” he said. “I hope that we are entertaining the fans and they see the dedication and the work. For the most part, we have to understand that we’re there as a service for the fans.” 

GVSU students may not know what makes for a good marching band show.

“I don’t think people realize what goes into pulling off a successful marching band show,” Craig said. “They see us for 10 minutes at halftime and maybe 10 minutes of pregame, but there’s two weeks of preparation that go into that. It’s pretty intense and physically demanding as well.”

The marching band does not just perform at football games; there are also other places to see them.

“On our website, under the 2017 season, are all of our shows," Martin said. 

In the near future, the band will be performing for ArtPrize at Rosa Parks Circle. 

The annual “High School Band Day,” where high school students from all over Michigan come and work with the band, will also be held Saturday, Sept. 30.

“Every year, I learn something new from the students,” Martin said. “With any family, there’s always rough times, but you work through them. I always try to learn from them and listen to them and be open with them.”

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