Wichita State University will have a marching band this fall — a fast-moving, high-energy, brightly adorned group called Shocker Sound Machine, university officials announced Thursday.
“This is not going to be your grandmother’s marching band,” said Aleks Sternfeld-Dunn, director of WSU’s School of Music.
The brass, saxophone and percussion ensemble, an offshoot of the Shocker Sound pep band, will perform during halftime at some WSU basketball games and other athletic and campus events, Sternfeld-Dunn said.
WSU shuttered its marching band program when it discontinued football in 1986.
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Officials decided to resurrect the band — without a football team — because WSU was losing students to other universities with marching band programs, Sternfeld-Dunn said.
“We have been at music conferences with booths set up and had students come up and say, ‘Tell me about your marching band,’ ” he said. “And we say, ‘We don’t have one,’ and they turn around and leave.
“This has been a need in our school for a long time.”
Launching the new ensemble will cost about $300,000, Sternfeld-Dunn said — money that will go toward new instruments, uniforms and equipment, along with salaries for an assistant band director and two graduate teaching assistants.
The one-time investment “came from some emergency contingency funds that were being held over in the president’s office,” Sternfeld-Dunn said. After this year, the program will be funded through an endowment and athletic department funds, he said.
Tim Shade, WSU’s director of bands, said he hopes to have about 100 students participate in Shocker Sound Machine this year. Like the Shocker Sound pep band, it will be an extracurricular activity.
The new group will be a “high-energy, high-octane, fast-moving, just adrenaline-filled ensemble,” Shade said. “Seven minutes of you just can’t relax. . . . Higher, faster, louder — the brass player way.”
Shocker Sound Machine won’t look or sound like the marching bands you see on football fields, with their heavy wool uniforms and feather-plumed hats, Shade said.
The new band’s uniforms — which are being produced by Wichita-based Fruhauf Uniforms — feature brightly patterned shirts, vests and golf-style pants that will allow the musicians to dance and move quickly, Shade said.
Starting with the 2019-20 school year, Shocker Sound Machine will be a one-credit course offered through the university’s music department, Sternfeld-Dunn said. He hopes it will appeal both to music majors and others.
For WSU students studying music education, the marching ensemble will offer an important notch on their resumes, particularly if they hope to direct high school marching bands, Sternfeld-Dunn said.
“When they’re applying for jobs . . . (potential employers) will see, ‘You’ve been in a group,’ ” he said. “A really exciting and different, contemporary, innovative group.”