Banding together

By Marissa Novel

With 207 members, the Marching Salukis are back and bigger than ever.

George Brozak, associate director for athletic bands, said the band consisted of 62 members when he began working at the university in 2008. He said while recruiting students, he wants people to know anyone can join the band.


“Informing people that just because you don’t plan to major in music doesn’t mean you can’t join the marching band,” Brozak said. “That’s been the big task I’ve had in front of me.”

Members, some of which attend John A. Logan College, learned marching techniques and rehearsed music and drills for more than 12 hours a day the week before school began.

Brozak said new and returning members bonded during this time. He said band members link arms and hands after every practice and performance to sing the alma mater.

“That’s really a bonding process,” Brozak said. “Not only to bring ourselves together as a family but also to remind ourselves where we are and hopefully build a love for the alma mater which is SIU.”

Ivan Vargas, a senior from Brooklyn, N.Y. studying economics and international trade, said the band had about 100 members when he came to the university.

Vargas, who is one of 16 trombone players, said he was the only trombone player in his small ten-piece high school band.

“Going from the ten to a 200-piece band really excites me,” Vargas said. “I’ve grown a lot as a musician.”


Kate Grindstaff, a freshman from Columbia studying civil engineering, said she was nervous for band camp because she did not know anyone, but within the first day, she made friends with her French horn section.

“I was a little scared at nighttime because I didn’t know who I’d walk back with,” Grindstaff said. “People said ‘Oh we can all walk back as a group’ which was really nice because they really hit on the family point.”

French horn player Cassaundra Jaegers, a freshman from Ottumwa studying zoology, said she appreciates her section taking her and Grindstaff under its wing.

Jaegers said her and Grindstaff are excited to perform a variety of routines at each show. She said she appreciates college band allowing members to have fun with routines because her high school band was very strict.

Mirabella McKeown, a second year student from West Frankfurt studying general education at John A. Logan, who has been playing with her sister Sarafina for nine years, said band camp was more difficult than she expected.

“I thought I was gonna die,” she said. “I have never done anything that extensive in my life.”

Mirabella McKeown said although it was hard work, the camp was worthwhile because working with her section teaches her to read music.

She said one of the more challenging aspects of practice is learning to flip her 60-pound sousaphone, a tuba that goes around the body and sits on the shoulders of the musician.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve hit my head or hit myself with my mouth piece,” she said. “But finally I got it down.”

Sarafina McKeown, who was connected with the band through a friend and former Marching Saluki, said her favorite part about band camp was meeting new people.

“It’s really nice to be in a really welcoming community of people who love the same thing I love,” she said.

Sarafina McKeown, whose sister graduated a year before her in high school, said she is very excited to play with her sister once again.

“I’m really glad to be back with my sister because me and my sister love doing this,” Sarafina McKeown said. “She’s my biggest fan and I’m her biggest fan and we just love working together.”

The band will span a total of 90 yards during the first half time show of the season on Thursday after making its debut at the Chancellor’s New Student Convocation on Aug. 16. It also marched with President Randy Dunn at the DuQuoin State Fair parade Friday.

Brozak said pop music is the theme for Thursday’s show, and the band’s September shows will be patriotically themed for military appreciation. He said although musical themes for games past September have not been chosen, he enjoys using a variety of new music.

“We aren’t going to do one show or three songs every game. I think the crowd would not enjoy that after the first time and I want to entertain as much as possible,” Brozak said. “The name of the game for me is entertainment.”

Marissa Novel can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.