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MSU Marching Band: following the beat of a different drum

At Beaver home football games, there is something in the air. It is not just the colorful blanket of leaves or crisp autumn smells that create the atmosphere. It is electric. It pervades your subconscious, until you find yourself tapping, chanting, rapping and dancing with the MSU Marching Band. When the music ends and you regain composure, you realize something unique and fun has happened, you're grinning from ear to ear and you're not alone.

Devin Otto, director of bands, is largely the force behind this charge. New to MSU, Otto is an old hand in marching band culture. His philosophy is twofold: marching bands are responsible for a halftime show, and they provide music in the stands during the game. "Clean and precise" describes halftime performances, but during the game, he strives for fun and crowd connection.

"In the stands, we want the audience to feel included in what we're doing," Otto said. "We do less of a ‘performance' and more of being a part of the spirit community to get as many people involved as possible."

Through his involvement in marching bands over the years, Otto realized that more effort was put into halftime segments, while bands waited most of the game for opportunities to play. He decided to change this dynamic by considering student suggestions and researching new music.

"The band is an extension of the student body," he said. "So if one of the band members comes up and says ‘Hey, I have this great idea,' I assume that other students are going to think it's a good idea, too. I also listen to pop music on the radio a lot more now than I used to, because I'm always looking for ideas and something that would make a really cool, 10 second snippet in the stands," he added.

Otto quickly points out that creating a culture of MSU spirit hasn't been an insurmountable task or a one-man show.

"It's really a credit to the students," he said. "It's a lot more work for them during the game, but they took it on and never complained. They're having a lot of fun because they have the right attitude about how to be involved. I really don't have to work hard to make it happen; it's the band that's doing the work."

Otto also acknowledges his fellow instructors are influential in creating a marching band culture on campus. It's a concerted effort that strives for growth and excellence.

"Mr. Boren, Dr. Estes, Avis Veikley and I were watching rehearsals just the other day and it struck all of us the huge improvements this band has made this season. It's a beautiful thing seeing students make that kind of growth. The entire band staff is really proud to work with these young people."