Opening Game to be a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

By Tony Phifer, CSU External Relations

The Colorado State University Marching Band performed at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. It regularly dazzles Denver Broncos fans at Mile High Stadium. And every year it leads the way in Denver’s Parade of Lights.

All are impressive feats. And all have helped establish CSU’s 267-member ensemble as one of the premier marching bands in the country.

But on Aug. 26, the band will do something both new and historic. Those 267 students – including color guard and Golden Poms – will provide the musical backdrop for the opening of CSU’s on-campus stadium. And they could not be more jazzed.

“Everyone in the band is extremely excited,” says Peter Gaetz, a senior engineering major from Conifer, Colo., and a drum major. “Honestly, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a great time to be in the band, and it’s a great time to be a CSU Ram!”

Before the band can hit the field for the first time, however, much needs to be done. After all, they had 49 years to perfect the game-day process at Hughes Stadium, and everything will be different at the new stadium.

“We’ve spent months going over various details with our partners in Athletics to create a new game-day experience, and we’re excited to put it all together,” says Richard Frey, band director for the past six years. “We think it’s going to be a great experience for our fans.”

Logistical Details

Frey has already fielded requests for the band that would pretty much require a 12- to 14-hour game-day commitment. He’s looking to pare that down so the band is involved in activities for about the same as the typical home game at Hughes.

“Band takes a lot of time,” Frey says. “There are hours of rehearsals during the week, plus nine hours on Game Days. It’s a big commitment, and 81 percent of our members are non-music majors. We try to find a balance between making it fun and making sure our students have enough time for academics and other activities.”

Among the logistical issues is figuring out the best way to perform in the tailgating area before games and still be available for the pregame show. The band also plays a key role in Ram Walk, as the players enter the stadium, and Frey is working with coach Mike Bobo to work out those details.

In the meantime, he’s got most of the music picked out for the inaugural game against Oregon State. The playlist includes patriotic tunes (it’s Military Appreciation Day) and a mix of upbeat songs to celebrate the first game – with a few new wrinkles.

“We see this as a chance to revitalize our traditions and maybe add some,” he says. “It’s going to be a total relearning process for the band, which will require extra rehearsal time before the first game. Overall, there’s great enthusiasm within the membership.”

For upperclassmen in the band, who have watched the stadium rise from the ground up over the past two years, the first game can’t get here soon enough.

“I don’t know what to expect but I’m really excited for it,” says senior music major Kathy Wagner, a Windsor, Colo., native who is a section leader. “I think there will be a real element of school pride that we didn’t get at Hughes with it being three miles from campus. And here’s the thing that’s really great: It will be new for every single person there. How often does that happen?”