The Spartan Marching Band has a rich history dating back to the 1870s. From its earliest days as a student-directed ensemble to a unit of the cadet corps, the SMB has become one of the most recognized college marching ensembles in the country. Much of the band’s rich tradition and history that is still embodied today is attributed to our long-time director, Leonard Falcone. Subsequent SMB directors forth continued evolution while sustaining beloved traditions that are still recognized in performance today. The Spartan Marching Band is currently lead by Dr. David Thornton, with a modernized vision and approach rooted in the history and tradition that has grown so special to the band and its alumni.
Dr. David Thornton is the current director of the Spartan Marching Band. Click here to learn about the all 13 directors in the SMB's history!
Discover the history of the instantly recognizable Spartan Marching Band uniform.
Band alumni - young and old - join together in musical performances and camaraderie reflective of the wonderful spirit of MSU Bands.
The founding year of the Spartan Marching Band, one of the oldest college marching bands in the country!
The SMB has performed for five U.S. Presidents
There have been thirteen directors in the 152 year history of the SMB
The SMB is the second oldest marching band in the Big Ten Conference
1870 - 1927
The Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was established in 1855 and classes began in 1857. There were no musical instruments on campus in the early years. If a student knew how to play an instrument, they arrived on campus already with the talent. The long-held story of the beginnings of the marching band on campus is that of Ransom McDonough Brooks and the band of ten Civil War veterans who assembled in 1870 for the first time.
1927 - 1967
The Falcone Era. In the summer of 1927, Leonard Falcone was hired by Michigan State College to replace Carl Kuhlman as director of bands. The MSC Band received new uniforms and instruments in 1928. Falcone moved the band in a fresh direction with new precision drill and introduced a new formation, the block-S, rather than the spell-out “MSC” formation as had been used the previous three years following the change to Michigan State College.
1967 - 1977
With the retirement of Leonard Falcone came a new era for the Spartan Marching Band. Michigan State University attracted and hired noted conductor Dr. Harry Begian to succeed Falcone as director of bands in 1967. Bill Moffit remained at MSU as assistant director of bands following Falcone’s retirement. While some changes occurred in this period, there was some structural continuity with the assistant director of bands retaining the day-to-day operation of the SMB. In a September 1967 interview with The State Journal, Begian said, “the word among the music trade is that Mr. Moffit and I will hit it off as a team and should have a band second to none, and that is exactly what we hope to do.”
1977 - Present
With the structural changes in the Music Department, the band had a new directorial structure for the fall of 1977. Former assistant director of bands Thad Hegerberg became the associate director of bands and director of the Spartan Marching Band. The new position of assistant director of bands and associate director of the Spartan Marching Band was filled by new faculty member Carl Chevallard. Though the director of bands no longer had formal duties with the SMB, Kenneth Bloomquist still frequently joined Hegerberg and Chevallard during rehearsals and gamedays.