If you’re a Ram fan, you’ve probably participated in at least one of these CSU traditions at a football game:
- Chanting “I’m proud. To be. A CSU Ram.”
- Jingling your keys right before the game’s kickoff and again before a kickoff after the Rams’ scoring play
- Attended rivalry games like the Border War and Rocky Mountain Showdown
And you may also know about these other longstanding CSU traditions:
- CAM the Ram, CSU’s mascot since 1954.
- Students have been painting the “A” since 1924.
- ROTC firing the cannon during football games since 1920.
- CSU celebrating Homecoming since 1914.
But one of the longest standing traditions — if not the longest — is the is the CSU Marching Band. Formed in 1901, with just 13 students, the marching band’s mission has remained intact: to represent the University, support our athletic teams, and entertain fans.
“The CSU Marching Band is a big part of the game-day traditions at Hughes Stadium. They do a great job of creating an exciting atmosphere in the stadium, and there’s great pride for our team and for our fans in the way they perform and represent Colorado State University,” football coach Mike Bobo said. “From the time we arrive, when they march with us into the stadium on Ram Walk, to the postgame tradition when we join with them for the fight song and the alma mater, they are a big part of our game-day experience and we are extremely thankful for all of the talent and energy they provide to us and our fans.”
The CSU Marching Band — now 250 students strong — continues to bring entertainment and CSU pride to the community at large. The band will help officially close Hughes Stadium on Nov. 19 when the Rams host New Mexico.
What they do
Each fall, the marching band and a subset called the Presidential Pep Band perform 35 times around the state and nation. This includes a variety of CSU events, six home football games, travel to a few away football games (like Wyoming, Air Force and a bowl games), high school exhibitions, the Parade of Lights, Denver Broncos halftime shows and more.
In the spring, the CSU Pep Band, made up of many of the same students, plays at the men’s and women’s home basketball games and NCAA tournaments.
Who they are
The marching band has two directors, several staff members and graduate teaching assistants — and 250 student performers. Those performers include 12 different sections: flutes, clarinets, alto saxophones, tenor saxophones, trumpets, mellophones (a brass instrument like a French horn), trombones, baritones, Sousaphones (a type of tuba), drumline, color guard and the Golden Poms.
How they do it
Though fans may think that marching band practice in August, the band directors, staff, and student performers are working year-round to get everything ready for the fall season.
- January to April: State- and nationwide player recruitment.
- May: The student leadership team, including drum majors and section leaders, are selected via application. And, the band directors are working with CSU Athletics to determine special show themes for certain games, including Ag Day (Orange Out) and Military Appreciation Day. As the director of the marching band, Richard Frey begins writing custom musical arrangements for the band.
- June: Auditions are conducted. Students come from every college and most departments on campus to be in the band. In fact, only 20% of the band members are music majors. All of the students then register for MU 204 – the class component of being in the marching band.
- July: Leadership training for the student leadership team begins
- August: Preseason camp starts. Once classes begin, students practice and play 10-20 hours a week, in addition to maintaining a typical complement of classes and jobs.
Each year, it’s a collaborative effort for the marching band to create different halftime shows. While the band director gets the plans started and arranges all the music, students often suggest the music that turns into a halftime show. They create choreography for parades, and a dance committee works to create a unified look for all of these elements in the stands. For example, when the football team links arms and sways together, the band follows suit, bookending the stadium in CSU support.
Once football game day arrives, the band is at the stadium five hours before kickoff for rehearsal. With rehearsal, Ram Walk and post-game playing, a typical football game day lasts 9 to 10 hours for the band.
Why they do it
The hours and hours of practice and performance, marching with instruments that add 10-50 pounds of weight, the travel to and from games and other events — all of these things can add stress to a student’s busy life. But the marching band members are dedicated to representing the University in this unique way.
“While it takes a lot of effort to do what we do, the people that we meet, friendships that are formed, performances that we give, and the smiles that we put on people’s faces make it all so worth it,” said Karla Rogers, a sophomore trumpet player and drum major.
Katherine Wagner, a junior who plays mellophone and is section leader, said, “I do marching band because it makes me happy and proud to be a part of the CSU community. We are able to support our school in all that we do, while serving as entertainment for those in the school and community to watch. This in itself makes marching band 100 percent worth all of the hours.”
And, the marching band is a great place for students to find a community and build friendships.
“My favorite part of marching band is definitely the people I meet and the friendships that have come from participating in this program. Regardless of age, where people come from, or any other aspect of who they are, marching band is a place where we can all get along and develop the friendships that we have. Many of the most genuine and important people in my life have been met through marching band,” Wagner said.
“My favorite part of band is seeing how so many diverse people that come from every college on campus can come together so easily to create something that is bigger than all of us. It’s incredible to see that while everyone is leading such different lives and going through different things, we can work together as a team to entertain audiences, support Athletics and represent the University,” said Rogers.
They also establish friendships that last a lifetime.
“Some of my closest college friendships arose from CSU Marching Band,” said Kevin Kowalski (BS, Computer Science, ’13). “After spending multiple years of service and many hours of practice together, you learn a lot about your fellow members of the band community. You see their high and low points and how they react to physical and mental challenges. You are there for each other when times are rough. There’s something to be said for the bond created through shared challenges. You grow to deeply trust and cherish these friendships. Many of these friends are still an integral part of my post-college life.”
Because of the band’s reputation and dedication to excellence, and generous support of donors in the form of scholarships, retention of band members has also increased significantly. Though school work is demanding, many students maintain their involvement in marching band as a way to have a creative outlet, continue their strong friendships and carry forth their University pride.
“This scholarship is important because it has helped me to pay for the education that I am here for, and it shows that all of the hard work and dedication that we have put into the marching band program does not go unrecognized,” Wagner said.
The Tradition Marches On
Though the chapter at Hughes Stadium is ending, the band will carry on its tradition, entertaining fans and disseminating CSU pride to the thousands of people who will hear them at each performance in the new stadium.
They continue to work on routines and music that will entertain the crowd. They’ve recently reintroduced the Aggie Boom Song (the fight song when CSU was Colorado A&M) and the formation of the Aggie “A” into the pre-game show, while also including more current hits, traditional formations, dance components and other ways to add visual appeal to their shows.
A fond farewell
Join us for the final game at Hughes Stadium, where the band will perform “1968: A Tribute to Hughes Stadium.” They will be using music from the late ’60s, as well as visual ideas that represent the popular culture from that era. There will be a few surprises for the audience so you won’t want to miss this spectacular salute.