Party with the marching band

Courtesy Photo
The Castleton marching band rehearses in a circle.

It’s halftime during the 2016 homecoming football game. The crowd is roaring and it’s time for you to get some Roxy’s Fries. Just as you get up from your seat you hear the marching band playing “We Found Love” by Rhianna and stop in your tracks.

Now you wish you had done marching band too.

The Spartan Marching Band, the only collegiate marching band in Vermont, will kick off its 2016 season Aug. 17 with a week-long band camp – and anyone is encouraged to join, regardless of previous experience.

Although some members have been marching for a decade or more, most have no previous experience and several don’t even have to know how to play an instrument.

“About 60 percent of the students are non-music majors and 40 percent have never done any marching activity, no parades or anything. Several students have never even played an instrument,” said Stephen Klepner, second-year music graduate assistant.   

Although senior sousaphone player Jason Irish has been marching for nine years, he has seen many beginners learn quickly.

“It seems like everyone picks it up really easily. It’s not as hard as everyone thinks it is. It takes time, but it’s worth it in the end,” he said. “You get a sense of fulfillment and a better work ethic. It teaches you a lot of life lessons.”

The band is expected to grow by about 10 members this year, and the hope is that the group will continue to grow even more in coming seasons.

This fall’s marching show, titled sParty Mix, will feature the popular songs “We Found Love” by Rhianna, “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii and “Geronimo” by Sheppard and is about partying and having fun.

“We want people who like dancing and goofing off,” Klepner said. “It’s a show about partying. If you can do something creative, we want to showcase it.”

“It’s a different experience. It makes you think both musically and physically, and I see it as a fun challenge,” Irish said. “Not many people can say they were in a marching band. You can be in a dance group and you can be in a music ensemble, but it just brings it to a whole new level.”

The camp, from Aug. 17 to Aug. 25, offers a chance to learn the music, learn how to march, and most of all, bond as a group, said Klepner.

“I found that it’s kind of a family that you don’t get anywhere else,” Klepner said. “It is equivalent to a sports team in the way that it’s that kind of bond you get through having fun and becoming good at something. Plus, I love performing and being goofy in front of people.”

Marching band is also a good way for new students to become part of the campus.

“It was a really good way for me as an incoming freshman to meet new people and establish myself in a group of upper classmen, so when I started classes I had a group of people I could go to if I had problems,” said freshman saxophone and mellophone player Sarah Dickey. “It wasn’t difficult to get involved because everyone was like ‘hey, I’ll help you!’”

Junior Tony Sawyer agrees.

“The day I arrived for the first day of band, I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know, the group of people standing before me were about to become the first friends I made at Castleton. Every year when new people join, they are treated like family and we all get close really fast,” Sawyer said.

Besides the instrumental ensemble, students can also participate in drum line or color guard. Sawyer joined the band as a trumpet player and has since joined the color guard.

“Color guard involves flag, rifle and saber spinning, but it is also so much more than that. Guard is what adds a major visual effect to the band. It is partially where the story of the show is told,” Sawyer said. “It takes a lot of work, but it is very rewarding at the same time. It tends to be more female dominated…I really wish more guys would give it a shot.”

There’s a stereotype that people who do marching band are boring and only do band related things, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“I’m just like look at me. I play a varsity sport. I’m an ecological studies major,” Irish said. “We get a lot of people who are in sports and all that. It’s a dumb stigma that band is all nerds.”

Klepner agrees.

“It’s a really diverse group. I think in a lot of ways it’s very far from the stereotype. I think it’s closer to an athletic team than it is to a music ensemble,” he said.

The ensemble will rehearse Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. throughout the fall semester, and students can receive credit for their work. Klepner stressed that if a student is interested, but the schedule doesn’t work for them, accommodations can be made.

Anyone interested should contact Klepner at or Director of Bands Paul Kafer at

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