Ann arbor – When the Big Ten turned the tide and re-established a cut short football season last fall, it hardly signaled a return to normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited sports seasons, but it completely wiped out a year of the Michigan Marching Band. Almost 100 seniors lost a chance to perform one last time. Now the group returns with 411 students – the low is usually 380 – after a two-week camp to prepare for the football season, which begins Saturday when the Wolverines host Western Michigan.
âWe are ready to bring the group together, both figuratively and literally,â said John Pasquale, director of the Michigan Marching Bands and Orchestras this week. âWe’re just ready to go. We are ready to distribute it. “
Pasquale said the group are ahead of what he thinks are considering the long layoff and look forward to returning to Michigan Stadium, although there has been some practice. Last season there were no fans, no groups at games, no pageantry, no electricity in the barren and cavernous stadiums of the Big Ten.
âWe didn’t know what to expect, as probably every entity on campus trying to figure out how this was going to go,â Pasquale said of the return of the group members and the addition of 100 freshman participants. âBut it turned out so much better than I thought it would, just in terms of how they came back ready to go, their level of excitement and their level of performance. It was a bit overwhelming at first. It almost suffocates you a bit.
Drum Major Walter Aguilar is back in fifth grade. To honor the seniors who did not have the chance to perform last year other than virtually, he engraved the initials of these band members on his staff.
âWhile we can never fully make up for the loss suffered by the 2021 class, it is a special way to honor those who have overcome so much,â Aguilar said in a statement. “With every backbend, goal post, twirl, rehearsal and game day, the Class of 2021 will be there with us in mind.”
Had Aguilar decided not to return for a fifth season, he would have been the only Michigan drum major in school history to never perform at Michigan Stadium in that role.
Due to the one-year hiatus, good changes have been made internally in terms of department and group management. The changes will be long lasting, Pasquale said, but fans won’t notice. Zoom connections will be used more to try to free students. In terms of safety protocols, band members should wear masks indoors when practicing, only removing them when they need to play their instruments, and outdoors they don’t. to hide.
What he also produced was more opportunities to plan half-time shows.
The group will perform “Welcome Home” at halftime of the Michigan-Western Michigan game, but Pasquale is particularly excited for the Michigan-Washington game on September 11th. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Washington DC area, and the show is called “We Remember”.
âIt will be a one of a kind show that has never been done before in the history of the group,â Pasquale said. âIt’s a surprise. It’s going to be pretty intense and really special. It’s a show that will demonstrate the strength and unity of the American spirit. We will obviously honor and pay tribute to those who made the sacrifice. ultimate and to the first responders who have helped all three sites, but it’s going to be done in a way that’s sure to be unique.The show could be in the dark, we’ll see.
At halftime of the September 25 return game against Rutgers, the group will honor the 50th anniversary of the Spectrum Center on campus, which strives to educate and advocate for the LGBTQ + community.
What will also change this year is travel, which will be limited. The group will travel by bus to the Michigan-Michigan State game at Spartan Stadium on October 30, and the two groups will have a combined show at halftime, as they did in 2017 at Michigan Stadium. Groups learn the show separately, then proceed early on game day.
âObviously there is a competitive spirit there, but when the students in the group are together they are one big happy family,â Pasquale said. âThe fans love it. When we did that in 2017, the reaction was overwhelming. By far the funniest email I got was, âJust so you know I sent this to our members of Congress to let them know if these two teams can do it, why can’t you? “
Western Michigan will bring a small group to Saturday’s game, Washington will send a group of 50 to the 9/11 game, and the Ohio State group will be at Michigan Stadium for the regular season finale. The opposing team’s groups will not be sidelined during matches and will instead be seated in the section with their fans. They will play on the field for half-time.
What won’t change is the Michigan squad’s pre-game parade at the stadium.
âEverything is going to be alike,â Pasquale said. “Whoever is here, we’re going to have a good time, watch them do a kick-ass match, and our performances will be great.”