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Take a look at the Marching Salukis
March 25, 2023
For over 60 years, the Marching Salukis have been one of the most distinct and visible groups at Southern Illinois University.
“We’re like the best PR tool SIU has,” said Casey Avise-Rouse, an RTD major and a member of the Marching Salukis.
The band boasts a size of nearly 200 members, all wearing their iconic maroon and white jackets.
Dozens of colleges have marching bands, but not many of them claim to be “the best dressed band in the land” as SIU does before every home football game.
But the band is about far more than being well-dressed. It is one of the biggest student groups on campus, which helps many members form close relationships and friendships.
Austin Browne, a former Marching Saluki and current graduate assistant with the band who is pursuing his master’s degree in percussion performance, said, “I met my best friends in college through marching band.”
These friendships often last far longer than just band season, too.
JT Iorio, a music education major who has also been in the band for four years, said, “I made that I’m, like, okay, I have to strive to hang out with them because I still want to… I’ve made a lot of friends in the [marching] Salukis that I want to carry on.”
These relationships typically lead to many students returning for multiple years of band.
“I was gonna stick it out with Luiie [Barrea, another band member] until the end,” said Avise-Rouse.
Loren Koenigstein, a master’s student in agribusiness economics and another member of the Marching Salukis and Saluki Pep Band, said, “I think the loyalty to my section was what really made me want to continue.”
There are often big recruiting pitches to bring members into the bands. Members often perform at open houses for visiting high school students, and the director, Dr. George Brozak, is present and promoting band whenever there is information being handed out to prospective students.
The Marching Salukis and Saluki Pep Band are not exclusive bands; both are open to all majors. There are nearly no auditions, which are just those for percussionists and a few instruments to receive assignments.
Koenigstein said, “I love that the Saluki band is for everyone. There’s no like playing test to exclude someone from being in the band, and that any instrument can join.”
Avise-Rouse remembers meeting Brozak for the first time. Avise-Rouse said the marching band director essentially told him, “It doesn’t matter what your major is. We’ll take anyone as long as you like playing.”
The members of the Marching Salukis also make up the Saluki Pep Band, which plays at all home men’s and women’s basketball games as well as conference tournament games.
Pep band is a big departure from marching season; Iorio says it is “so different.”
The pep band, which performs during basketball season, plays a bit of a different role than it may during football.
“I think it’s a critical part of the atmosphere,” Browne said. “…It gets you a lot more in the moment when you have a live band that’s playing on the side and for everybody, I just think it brings a different kind of energy.”
The band is a constant presence at every home game. It also makes yearly trips to the men’s and women’s conference tournament games.
“We are the loudest group cheering for SIU. Even when the Dawg Pound isn’t there, or the cheerleaders aren’t there, the band always plays,” Avise-Rouse said.
Being a consistent presence comes with its benefits; Iorio especially enjoys women’s basketball games, where the band is often the loudest group in the arena.
“You can be heard, and so the band just heckles. It’s really great when you get the opposing team’s bench to look at you angrily,” Iorio said. “…Oh my gosh, I love to heckle.”
Even if they’re not the loudest group, they still play a big role in the energy. The band and the crowd have, according to Browne, a “nice relationship.”
“We definitely feed off each other,” he said. “If the crowd gets hyped, the band gets hyped. If the band gets hyped, the crowd gets hyped.”
The good relationship with crowds extends far beyond games though.
Browne said, “I think the band is very well loved within the community.”
Iorio said a lot of people look up to the band.
“I love going down the streets and seeing kids just like, ‘wow,’ especially as we kick it [a dance move the entire band does] down the street,” Iorio said.
Dances and cheers are an essential part of the band experience and something many people automatically recognize as SIU.
“I think it’s a little more famous with the pep band because it’s easier to be heard,” Browne said. “The cheering is one of the highlights for everybody. Just being together and having a good time, and maybe causing a little bit of a ruckus in the arena.”
Band generates a lot of great memories and provides a lot of enjoyment for its members.
Koenigstein said, “I just love the excitement of the game days… even if the Dawgs win or lose, I’m always there having a good time…the band always wins.”
There are also bright days ahead and some changes possibly coming for the band; there are talks of new uniforms for the pep band, as well as possibly more support from administration.
Koenigstein said that, at a recent luncheon with Chancellor Austin A. Lane, several resolutions were talked about. These included bringing back the “old pep band fight songs” as well as getting new uniforms and “a separate uniform for pep band.”
Another big idea that was floated was that some of the student fee goes to the band. The fee, which every student at SIU pays, is divided among several organizations, including the Dawg Pound.
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