Researched and Written by Jacob McCormick
Starting with the band’s establishment around 1870 and spanning through 1907, the Agricultural College Band was under the leadership of students. When the band became a unit of the College Cadet Corps in 1885, the ensemble reported to the Cadet Corps officials but had no designated director. Numerous times, the head of the Military Department recommended that the College hire a band director, but that recommendation was not heeded until 1907 when band members went on strike and demanded payment for their performances. As a result, in 1907, MAC President Jonathan LeMoyne Snyder appointed chemistry faculty member A.J. Clark as the first director of the band. Since 1907, the band has had thirteen directors.
From 1907 through 1919, the band director was a general position within the College. The creation of the Department of Music in 1919 created the director of bands position. From 1919 through 1977, the director of bands was also the director of the Spartan Marching Band. It is noteworthy, however, that from the era of assistant director Oscar Stover, beginning in 1953, through the Department of Music’s reorganization in 1977, the director of bands acted more so as an overseer of the band, leaving the day-to-day operation of the Spartan Marching Band in the hands of an assistant director of bands. For more information and history on assistant directors of the Spartan Marching Band please visit the Assistant Directors history page.
Since 1977, the directorship of the Spartan Marching Band has been assigned to a specialist holding the title associate director of bands. The assistant director of bands also acts as the associate director of the Spartan Marching Band. The directors of bands since 1977 have not had formal directorial duties with the Spartan Marching Band, but have conducted the ensemble on occasion. Those individuals include: Stanley DeRusha (1977-1983), Eugene Corporon (1984-1987), Kenneth Bloomquist (1987-1993), John Whitwell (1993-2006), and Kevin Sedatole (2006-Present).
John T. Madden
P. Carl Chevallard
A. Thad Hegerberg
Kenneth G. Bloomquist
Carl F. Kuhlman
1907-1916, 1918-1919, 1922-1925
Director, 1907-1916, 1918-1919, 1922-1925
Arthur John Clark was born in Chicago in 1880. He spent his youth in Janesville, Wisconsin. Clark attended the University of Wisconsin and played cornet in the UW band. He graduated with the Class of 1904. In 1906, Clark was hired as an instructor of chemistry at Michigan State.
In 1907, following a band strike and ruckus surrounding the College’s semi-centennial, President Jonathan L. Snyder appointed Clark to serve as the first director of the Cadet Corps band. He taught chemistry and directed the band simultaneously. In 1916, Clark became the head of the Chemistry department and left the band directorship due to his expanded duties. Clark returned as band director in 1918-1919 and 1922-1925. In 1925, he resigned as director of the band for the final time due to his role in the planning of the construction of the new chemistry building (Kedzie Hall).
Clark retired from Michigan State in 1946. He continued an active life in the East Lansing community and died in 1954.
Frederic Laurence Abel was born in Ohio in 1855 and spent portions of his youth in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit. He attended the Frankfort Conservatory of Music in Germany. Abel came to Detroit in 1881 to work as an instructor of piano, cello, and harmony at the Detroit Conservatory of Music. In 1900, he assisted with the organization of the Michigan Conservatory of Music in Detroit, an organization for which he served as director, secretary, and treasurer.
During the Spanish American War, Abel served as adjutant general of the 31st Michigan Regiment. He was also a 28-year member of the National Guard. For a period, Abel was on the music faculty at the University of Michigan.
In 1916, Michigan Agricultural College hired Abel as the director of the band, chorus, and glee club. With no music department, Abel’s salary from MAC was budgeted as “miscellaneous.” Despite Abel’s orchestral background, MAC did not have an orchestra. Abel left MAC in 1918.
In subsequent years, Abel and his wife May Leggett-Abel, a noted violinist, operated their own music school in Detroit. Frederic Abel died in Detroit in 1943 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
John Siebert Taylor was born in Pennsylvania in 1869. He was educated in music at Oberlin College and first taught in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1895.
Taylor was hired as director of music at Michigan Agricultural College in 1919. He oversaw the creation of the Department of Music upon his arrival. Taylor remained as director of bands through 1922 until his other duties as department director became too demanding. J.S. Taylor remained as director of the Music Department until his resignation in 1927. He taught one more year, through 1928, then left Michigan State College. Throughout Taylor’s tenure, his primary teaching duties were of vocal music courses.
J.S. Taylor was a renowned composer of marches, many of which were performed widely in the early twentieth century. In 1928, Taylor opened a private lesson studio for the Lansing and East Lansing community, which he operated until his death in 1948.
Carl F. Kuhlman
Little is known about Carl F. Kuhlman. In the early 1920s, Kuhlman resided in Lake Odessa, Michigan where he directed the school bands in Lake Odessa, Nashville, and Charlotte.
In 1925, Kuhlman was hired as director of bands at Michigan State College. He remained at Michigan State through 1927. His resignation came due to his inaction related to the Swartz Creek Band and its abuse of college-owned instruments. In 1927, Kuhlman became the director of the newly-organized East Lansing High School band. He remained at East Lansing for just one year.
Leonard Vincenzo Falcone was born in Roseto Valfortore, Italy in 1899. In his youth, Falcone studied conducting, violin, and alto horn in Naples under renowned maestro Donato Donatelli. He came to the United States in 1915 and enrolled in the University of Michigan music school part-time in 1917. Falcone graduated from Michigan with a violin degree in 1926. Leonard’s brother Nicholas, a clarinetist, also studied music at the University of Michigan. In 1927, Nicholas and Leonard were each offered the band director position at both Michigan and Michigan State. Nicholas, the eldest, was already well established in Ann Arbor and chose Michigan, leaving Leonard to take the job at Michigan State College.
Leonard Falcone arrived in East Lansing in 1927 as the new director of bands at MSC. In 1928, the Interlochen National Music Camp opened and Falcone joined the faculty. During the eight-week summer camp of 1928, Falcone learned to play the baritone horn. Very quickly, he became an internationally known baritone soloist. On the Golden Crest record label, Falcone recorded three solo baritone horn albums throughout his life. A fourth volume was released following his death.
Falcone made an immediate indelible impact on the Michigan State band program as its director. In the mid-1930s, Nicholas Falcone tragically lost his hearing while director of the University of Michigan band. For the duration of 1935, Leonard directed both the Michigan and Michigan State bands. William Revelli was hired by Michigan to fill the position in 1935, relieving Leonard of double duty.
During the Second World War, Falcone took a leave of absence from MSC and subsequently served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. This affected the band’s directorship and, due to the War, there was no marching band for a period in the 1940s.
Throughout his decades at the band’s helm, Falcone developed a band program that became widely known for its high quality musical and visual performances. Falcone directed through MSC’s admission to the Big Ten Conference and oversaw the evolution of the band from a purely ROTC-based ensemble into a flashy Big Ten marching band. His bands performed at three Rose Bowls, for three U.S. presidents, and across the United States. During his tenure, Falcone had a few successive assistants, including Don Jackson, Oscar Stover, and Bill Moffit.
In addition to his association with Interlochen, Falcone was also active with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lakes, Michigan. He also maintained professional affiliations with Kappa Kappa Psi, American Bandmaster’s Association, College Band Directors National Association, and Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association. Today, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp holds the annual Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival.
Falcone wrote many articles on the baritone horn and on topics related to music education and conducting. He is also known for his musical arrangements and transcriptions, especially of Italian works. Falcone arranged Michigan State’s fight song, an arrangement still played by the band today, colloquially known as “Falcone Fight.”
Falcone retired as director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band in 1967 after 40 years leading and building the ensemble. He remained on the faculty of Michigan State University as professor of euphonium and tuba for the remainder of his life. In 1978, Falcone was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts by Michigan State University. Falcone died in 1985. A plaque honoring Falcone’s career graces the wall outside the band office in the Music Building.
Harry Begian was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1921. His parents were Armenian immigrants. He started studying music in the fifth grade, playing the cornet. Begian studied music on a band scholarship at Wayne State University. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he completed his master’s degree at Wayne State and became a special instructor of conducting and music education for a single semester.
Begian moved on to Tanglewood in Massachusetts where he learned in the atmosphere of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Bernstein. In 1947, he was appointed director of bands at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, taking over a large and prosperous music department. There, he developed one of the finest high school bands in the nation. In 1954 and 1961, Begian brought Cass Tech’s band to the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference, both times catching the attention of collegiate music departments from across the country. In the early 1960s, Begian taught at Interlochen Center for the Arts while also working on his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan. After graduating with his Ed.D., he began receiving offers from collegiate music departments.
Dr. Begian left Cass Tech in 1964 and was appointed as director of bands at his alma mater, Wayne State University. Begian remained at Wayne State from 1964 to 1967. In 1967, Begian was approached by Michigan State University, among other institutions, to lead its band program. Begian accepted the offer from MSU, honored to succeed Leonard Falcone, whom he called one of his heroes. He began as MSU’s new director of bands in 1967.
With a reputation as one of the world’s preeminent wind band conductors, Dr. Begian was highly sought after throughout his career. Begian remained at MSU through 1970. In 1970, he became the director of bands at the University of Illinois, where he remained until 1984. While at Illinois, Begian commissioned the now-famous “Armenian Dances” by Alfred Reed. Dr. Begian came out of retirement to direct the Purdue University Symphonic Band, 1985-1987.
A charter member of American School Band Directors Association, Begian was also a member of College Band Directors National Association, Omicron Delta Kappa, and was an honorary member of Phi Beta Mu and Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association. Additionally, Begian served as president of the American Bandmasters Association.
In retirement, Begian was active in the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He also had the opportunity to conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which had made an indelible impact in his youth. He was the recipient of numerous honors, including the National Band Association Citation of Excellence, American School Band Directors Association Edwin Franko Goldman Award, Notre Dame St. Cecelia Award, Grainger Medallion, was elected to the Academy of Wind and Percussion Arts, and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame of Distinguished Band Conductors. Dr. Begian died in 2010.
Photo courtesy of the Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.
Kenneth G. Bloomquist
Kenneth G. Bloomquist is a native of Iowa. In his youth he chose trumpet as his primary instrument. He attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a bachelor of music education degree (1953) and a master of music education degree (1957). He worked as a trumpet instructor at the University of Illinois as a graduate assistant, also teaching public school band part time. Bloomquist joined the faculty of the University of Kansas in 1958 as the assistant director of bands, a position he held for a decade. In 1968, he became the director of bands at the University of Kansas.
In 1970, Bloomquist was appointed director of bands at Michigan State University, where he directed the Spartan Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, and Symphony Band. Along with Bloomquist in 1970 came his hand-picked assistant David Catron. In 1977, the Music Department was reconfigured, assigning the associate director of bands the directorship of the Spartan Marching Band and leaving the director of bands with no formal duties with the SMB. In 1978, Dr. James Niblock resigned his longtime role as chairperson of the Department of Music and Bloomquist was chosen to replace him. In chairing the department, Bloomquist resigned as director of bands and hired Stanley DeRusha for the position.
Bloomquist continued as chairperson of the Department of Music from 1978 through 1984, when the Department of Music became the School of Music. From 1984 to 1987, Bloomquist served as the first director of the School of Music. In 1987, he took up his former position of director of bands while continuing as department chairman with a group of assistant chairs. Bloomquist remained as director of bands, 1987-1993, until his retirement from Michigan State University.
Bloomquist’s many professional associations include National Band Association, Lansing Symphony Orchestra, and American School Band Directors Association. Among his numerous awards, he was the recipient of the Midwest Clinic’s prestigious medal of honor and has been inducted into several halls of fame including the National Band Association. Bloomquist was awarded membership to the American Bandmasters Association in 1973. Kenneth G. Bloomquist is currently director of bands emeritus at Michigan State University and remains active with the MSU Alumni Band.
A. Thad Hegerberg
A. Thad Hegerberg is a native of Boyne City, Michigan. He attended Michigan State University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music education (1964) and master of arts degree (1970). While at MSU, he was a member and president of the Spartan Marching Band.
In 1964-1965, Hegerberg taught elementary wind and string music and served as the assistant band director in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In 1965, Hegerberg became the band director at Traverse City High School, a position he held until 1974. While in Traverse City he built a respected and award-winning band program, tripling its size in his nine-year tenure.
In 1974, following the resignation of David Catron, Hegerberg was appointed assistant director of bands, a position he held for four years.
Hegerberg is noted for his musical arrangements for band. He started arranging for the Spartan Marching Band around 1970. His arrangement of the “Star-Spangled Banner” is still played by the SMB today.
In 1977, upon the restructuring of the Department of Music, Hegerberg became the associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band, a position he held for one year. This was the first season in which the associate director of bands position was formally assigned duties as director of the Spartan Marching Band. He resigned from MSU in 1978.
In 1980-1981, Hegerberg was director of bands at Southeast Missouri State University. In 1982-1983, he became the assistant director of bands at the University of Hawaii. From 1985 to 1991, Hegerberg was the department head of the Mid-Pacific School of the Arts in Hawaii.
P. Carl Chevallard
Phillip Carl Chevallard is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and studied violin and voice in his youth. Chevallard earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ohio State University (1972) and a master of music degree and Ph.D. in music from the University of Iowa.
In 1972, Chevallard first taught music at the Walnut Township Schools in Millersport, Ohio. He then moved on to Iowa Wesleyan College.
Chevallard joined the faculty of Michigan State University in 1977 as assistant director of bands and associate director of the Spartan Marching Band. His first year coincided with the beginnings of the restructured Music Department, in which the assistant director of bands was formally assigned duties as associate director of the Spartan Marching Band. After one year in that position, he was promoted to associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band, a position he held in 1978-1979.
In 1979, Chevallard joined the faculty of San Jose State University as director of bands, where he remained until 1983. In 1983, Chevallard joined the United States Air Force Band in Washington D.C. as assistant conductor. From 1988 to 1998, he commanded Air Force Bands in California and Alaska. In 1998, he became commander and conductor of the United States Air Force Band of the Rockies, which was reestablished as the U.S. Air Force Academy Band in 2003. Chevallard retired from the USAF in 2004, after performing for five U.S. Presidents and leaving an indelible impact on the Academy Band. He remains active as a lecturer and presenter on topics of leadership throughout the United States.
David L. Catron holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western State College of Colorado. He taught secondary instrumental music beginning in 1959. From 1967 to 1970, Catron directed the band at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Kansas. Kenneth G. Bloomquist recruited Catron to join him at Michigan State in 1970.
Catron joined the faculty of Michigan State University in 1970 as assistant director of bands. In this period, the assistant director of bands did most of the day-to-day music and drill rehearsal of the Spartan Marching Band. From 1970 to 1973, Catron also directed the Spartan Brass. He remained at MSU through 1974.
In 1974, Catron was appointed director of bands at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas, where he remained until 1979. Catron returned to MSU in 1979 as associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band. During Catron’s tenure, many elements of the band were refined to their current state, including the size being fixed at 300 members and the introduction of curvilinear drill and some drum corps elements in marching techniques and instrumentation.
During 1983-1984, upon the resignation of Stanley DeRusha, Catron served as acting director of bands. He remained director of the Spartan Marching Band in that period. Catron resigned as associate director of bands in 1988 and was appointed associate director of the School of Music and head of undergraduate music advising and curriculum. Catron retired from Michigan State University in 2002. He remains active with the MSU Alumni Band.
William W. Wiedrich attended Michigan State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1980. During his undergraduate years at MSU, Wiedrich was a member of the Spartan Marching Band drumline and was a two-time president of the band. He subsequently attended the University of Oklahoma where he earned a master’s degree in 1982.
In 1982, Wiedrich returned from Oklahoma and joined Catron as the assistant director of bands and associate director of the Spartan Marching Band, a position he held through 1988. Wiedrich became the associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band in 1988-1989. During his single year as director, the band was the recipient of the prestigious Sudler Trophy from the John Philip Sousa Foundation.
Wiedrich resigned from MSU in 1989 and joined the faculty of East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where he directed the Wind Symphony. In 1995, Wiedrich was appointed director of band and wind ensembles at the University of South Florida. Wiedrich remains on the faculty of USF as the director of orchestral studies and associate professor of conducting, where he directs the USF Symphony Orchestra and opera theater.
John T. Madden
John T. Madden is a Michigan native. He attended Michigan State University, graduating with a bachelor’s of music education (1985). With trumpet as his primary instrument, Madden was a student of renowned trumpetist and professor Byron Autrey. At MSU, Madden was a member and vice-president of the Spartan Marching Band. Madden went on to Wichita State University, earning a master’s of conducting and music education (1987).
His education led him to Rutgers University, where he was associate director of bands and director of the Marching Scarlet Knights, 1987-1989. In 1989, Madden joined the faculty of his alma mater, Michigan State University, as associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band.
Madden’s tenure included performances nationwide, as well as an international performance in Tokyo, Japan in 1993. His leadership led to the first female band president in 1992 and drum major in 1995. The annual SMB for Kids Concert benefiting Sparrow Hospital was established under Madden in 2003, the band also updated its uniforms three times during his tenure. In 2014, Madden and the SMB attended the 100th Rose Bowl Game and 125th Tournament of Roses Parade.
Madden retired from Michigan State University in 2017 after 28 years as director of the Spartan Marching Band. Madden is the second longest-tenured director of the SMB, second only to Falcone. He is a member of the American Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, and Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association.
Photo courtesy of Mark Hansen.
David Thornton joined the faculty at Michigan State University’s College of Music as assistant director of bands in 2015 and was appointed director of the Spartan Marching Band in 2017. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in wind conducting at Michigan State University where he served an active role teaching and assisting with all aspects of the band program. Prior to coming to MSU, Thornton taught in the state of Florida where he was the assistant director of bands at Eau Gallie High School (Melbourne) and most recently the director of bands at Leon High School (Tallahassee).
A native of Springfield, Virginia, Thornton received his Master’s of Music degree in wind conducting from Michigan State University and a Bachelor of Music Education and a Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance from Florida State University. He has professional affiliations with the Michigan Music Educators Association, Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, Florida Music Educators Association, Florida Bandmasters Association, and the College Band Directors National Association.
Fifty Years of Spartan Marching Band Directors
Kenneth Bloomquist (1970-77), David Catron (1979-88), John Madden (1989-2017), and David Thornton (2017-)