In addition to classes and homework, they spend hours dedicated to learning music and choreography for pregame and halftime shows.
Purdue University sophomore Lauren Swenson continued her involvement in color guard as a way to meet people and continue what she loves. Swenson is now a member of the color for the Purdue University’s All-American Marching Band.
Swenson, a Spring Lake High School alumna, said she likes that any piece of music can be taken and work can be added to give it an added element.
“It creates a story to it,” she said.
After four years in Spring Lake High School’s marching band, Thomas Zambiasi said he appreciates his band directors who helped prepare him for the collegiate level.
Zambiasi, now a Michigan State University freshman, grew up watching the Spartan Marching Band when he went to MSU football games with his parents, who are MSU alumni. Zambiasi, who is in James Madison College, said he particularly remembers watching a show in 2014 and thinking he wanted to be part of the band.
Now, Zambiasi plays the trumpet in the Spartan Marching Band, which was founded in 1870.
“It’s really amazing being able to represent all of that history and being able to perform with the green and white on my uniform,” he said.
Since she enjoyed learning new skills and performing while a part of Grand Haven High School’s color guard, Lauren Richardson decided to continue at Purdue University.
At the collegiate level, there’s an even stronger energy and feeling from the crowd, said Madisyn Miller, a freshman at Western Michigan University and color guard member of the Bronco Marching Band.
“The crowd has so much energy it makes you want to perform better,” said Miller, a Grand Haven High School alumna.
Instead of working on one show for an entire season, collegiate marching bands and color guards learn several shows throughout the season. Miller said it’s s challenge to learn shows faster.
To be in top shape, Zambiasi said they ran 8 minutes a day during the preseason, in addition to hours of practice. Zambiasi said the music is also more of a challenge.
Although it can be stressful, Zambiasi said it’s worth it because they get to perform fun songs.
Over the years, Richardson, a junior, said she found that it gets easier learning the shows, but it’s a caliber group. She noted that f they aren’t on top of their game, they might not participate in the show that week, but they will help in other ways.
A highlight of performing at the collegiate level is getting to see college football up close and being involved in the games, said Swenson, who is studying elementary education.
With music, dances and cheers, Swenson said they’re active with nearly every play on the field.
One of Swenson’s favorite shows this season was a Latin ballroom show that involved classic Latin music and tangos.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said.
When the Spartans played the University of Michigan, the two rival school’s marching bands joined together for the half-time show.
Each band rehearsed their parts of the show separately and joined together a few hours prior to the start of the game to rehearse the show. Zambiasi said it was a fun collaboration.
With all of the hours dedicated to learning the show and developing friendships, the group becomes like a family, Swenson said.
Starting her college career getting to know people right off the bat helped Miller make the transition from moving away and not knowing anyone.
Both in high school and now in college, Miller said she most enjoys the family feeling about being involved in the color guard.
“Everyone is always there to support you and encourage you,” she said.
Once football season ends, some participants continue with winter guard and other bands.
In addition to football season, Richardson has participated in winter guard for two years through an independent group.
Zambiasi plans to play in the Spartan Brass, which plays music for basketball, hockey and volleyball games.
Throughout her first few months of balancing classes, homework and color guard, Swenson said the experience has helped her learn that she’s able to take on more than she imagined, which she attributes to time management.
Although Zambiasi’s time with the Spartan Marching Band has just started, he hopes to continue it the rest of his college career.
“I can’t imagine school now without being in the marching band,” he said. “I definitely wouldn’t give this up at all.”