Thursday, August 24, 2023

The 100th Anniversary of the Central Marching Band

by Bryan Whitledge, adapted from a 2014 post by Casey Gamble

100 years ago, in September 1923, the students of the Central Normal College were hustling around in a frenzied attempt to register for classes (Central State Life, 9/25/1923, p. 2). The only peace to be had on campus was coming from the newly formed school band. It was the band’s duty to lighten the atmosphere and remind students that their first days in Mount Pleasant were the start of an exciting chapter of their lives. A century later, the CMU Marching band is still setting the tempo of the return to the Mt. Pleasant campus. The drum line’s infectious beats pulse through the air while the Leadership Safari participants explore their new campus. The blare of the trumpets in unison is the soundscape for students moving back into residence halls. And while friends meet up after three months of summer vacation, the Marching Chips are on the practice field and the tick-tick-tick of the metronome sets not only their cadence, but the cadence of all of those in earshot.

Group photo of the 20 or so marching band members in 1923
Central Marching Band, 1923

The first mention of a “school band” goes back to January of 1922, when the idea was “referred to [Central’s] Ways and Means Committee." It seems that they hoped to organize by that fall, but their plans didn’t come to pass until the next year. In the first issue of the Central Normal Life of the 1923-24 school year, the headline, “That Umpah Band an Assured Fact” triumphantly announced that Central would have a “real Normal band, instruments, uniforms, and even a drum major.” And that week, the band, which was organized by the Department of Music and lead by Mr. Powers (the man for whom Powers Hall – the old music building – is named), was lightening the mood around the Central campus with their music.

By November of 1923, the band had new uniforms and were ready to be a formidable 12th man for the football team when Central squared off against Alma College down in Alma later that month: “The new maroon and gold uniforms … are to be donned on that occasion, and a formal army of musicians will appear upon the Presbyterian battlefield* in the colored garb of war.”

CMU MArching band at the end of the football field, circa 1980s
CMU Marching Band, circa 1980

100 years later, the Marching Chips are still the loudest supporters of Central’s football players when they take the field. And getting to gameday involves quite a bit of practice and hard work. During band week, which happens right before the start of classes, the band members are on the practice field all day, every day, whether in the blazing heat or the pouring rain. Throughout campus, the Marching Chips break into sections that work on the songs and routines that will be on display for thousands of fans throughout the fall. All of the musicians put in hours of work to learn the songs for football halftime shows in addition to the dozens of pregame tunes, stand times, and of course, the CMU Fight Song.

Marching Chips in a line with drum major running, in 2014
Marching Chips, 2014
But the work doesn’t stop after band week—members of the Marching Chips are first and foremost CMU students. Once classes start, many of the music majors will be taking 10+ classes, and they combine that with marching band practice a few hours in the afternoon, except for game days when some sections will be practicing by 7:00 am. Graduate students and senior section leaders will help the younger marchers keep each foot together and each note in sync until the formations are performed to perfection.

And what is the payoff of all this hard work? After 100 years, the Marching Chips still brings cheer to the students of CMU when they need an upbeat song to get them through their studies. They continue to uplift the football team and entertain the crowds at halftime and throughout the game. The members hand down beloved traditions across multiple generations of band members. And the Marching Chips make lifelong memories and learn some of the most important lessons of their college experience in terms of discipline and perseverance. 

*Alma College was founded as a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in 1886 and remains so to this day.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Clarke Historical Library student Andrea Howard is now a Visiting Processing Archivist

by Marian Matyn

Portrait of Andrea Howard
Andrea Howard interned for Archivist Marian Matyn in the Clarke Historical Library during Spring term 2014. During her internship, she spent most of her time on the Aladdin Housing Company collection, sorting through the personal records of Aladdin founder William Sovereign and his son, Will Sovereign, Jr. Andrea said, "I loved finding unexpected things, like photographs of pilot Jeanette Lempke, William Sovereign’s wife, and her trailblazing flights in the 1920s. I knew pretty quickly that I’d also found a new career path."

Fast forward about 9 years, Andrea has earned a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After a brief stint as a Local History Librarian in Ohio, she is currently a Visiting Processing Archivist at Grand Valley State University. Andrea stated, "Drawing directly from my processing experience at the Clarke, I am currently working to process a large collection of zoning and urban planning materials. I’m excited to contribute to the field in the next couple of years by becoming involved in professional archival organizations and giving conference presentations. "

"Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I had not been flipping through a course catalog my senior year, looking for a history course and noticing the archives internship option for the first time," Andrea reflected. "My internship at the Clarke taught me fundamental archival principles and skills and kindled my love for archives, but it did so much more than that. I developed a lasting friendship with Marian Matyn; I regularly turn to her for advice and encouragement and highly value her opinions and insights. That internship was also the only hands-on, official archival internship I had before entering the job market. I know that the experience I gained at the Clarke was instrumental to my job search success. If you are on the fence about interning in the archives, I say go for it! You never know what you might find."

We are excited to see how Andrea's career has taken shape and wish her much success in the future!