‘Keeping the tradition alive’: The Alumni Marching Band legacy

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Collegian | Garrett Mogel

Colorado State University Marching Band tuba players march toward Canvas Stadium for the Homecoming football game against the San Jose State University Spartans Oct. 9, 2021. CSU won the game 32-14.

DJ Vicente, Staff Reporter

With this year’s Homecoming & Family Weekend swiftly approaching, students, staff, family and the Fort Collins community will experience some of Colorado State University’s finest festivities and long-held traditions.

One of these beloved traditions is the CSU Alumni Marching Band.

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“History and tradition are a huge part of what makes a college marching band important and relevant,” CSU Associate Director of Bands Jayme Taylor said.

The members of the Alumni Marching Band can return after completing four or more years at CSU, and all must be former members of the school’s undergraduate marching band.

To Taylor, the return of alumni to perform at another game signifies the traditions upheld by CSU as well as ensures the undergraduate band “has a connection to its past.”

This tradition marks a number of things dear to most alumni, such as having the chance to perform another set under the lights of the stadium, interact with the current members of the band and visit CSU once again. Each alumnus has their own reason to return.

“I’d like to think that the regular band sees us as the legacy, … as the founders and the pioneers, keeping the tradition alive.” -Craig Wilkening, member of the CSU Alumni Marching Band

“You build such amazing relationships with the faculty and the students,” said Josh Garcia, CSU graduate and assistant director of diversity and inclusion recruitment at Berklee College of Music. “Getting to go back and connect with those folks again or to give your words of wisdom is just really special.”

As the former drum major of the CSU Marching Band in 2014, Garcia participated in the ensemble throughout his four years at CSU, and he recalled his time performing with and leading other students.

“I don’t think I would’ve gotten through college if it weren’t for the long-lasting relationships I made while I was in the band,” Garcia said.

Members from different eras also return to play with the current marching band during Homecoming. Craig Wilkening, a marching band member who marched for five seasons and graduated in 1982, returns to “rekindle the fun” of performing with the band in front of a crowd.

Wilkening joined the Alumni Marching Band around 2011, noting the group’s growth in size every year since. Wilkening also mentioned the importance of legacy, recognizing the history and precedent for performance established by previous generations. He said he hopes the current marching band continues to carry these values.

“I’d like to think that the regular band sees us as the legacy, … as the founders and the pioneers, keeping the tradition alive,” Wilkening said.

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Wilkening also mentioned the shared desire to perform for crowds at CSU across generations, an aspiration that he noted hasn’t changed much since his time as a college student.

“Fun and enjoyment performing for the crowd is the common denominator, whether it was the current band or the alumni,” Wilkening said.

Alumni who are recent graduates are also invited to join the band, and such is the case with Erin Lamberty, a four-year marching band member who graduated in 2022. This year’s Homecoming will be Lamberty’s first time participating with the alumni.

“I think it’s a part of me at this point,” Lamberty said. “I was in CSU band for four years. … It’s just such a major part of my life.”

Lamberty recalled previous years of alumni gatherings that provided the opportunity to interact with college best friends once again, reuniting “one big band family.” Lamberty also mentioned a desire to see friends who are current undergraduate members as well.

With multiple generations of musicians returning to relive experiences they likely only ever had while performing as a student, they are able to signify the progress and change the band has undergone from year to year.

“The band can change a lot over just four years, but hearing how it’s changed over 20 or 30 years is also important to learn about the history of it and why we were created,” Lamberty said.

Garcia spoke about the importance of the band to the broader CSU community as well, indicating a commitment to the practice of tradition held by the school for decades.

Reach DJ Vicente at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian