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Marching for memories

September 17, 2012
by Kara Sawinska

With a trip to Ireland just around the corner, CSU's Marching Band is hosting a concert Sept. 29 at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. There will be a reception and a silent auction.

Marching for memories

(5 images)

The trombone suicide tradition was initiated by trombonists Rob Pippin and Dave Miles in fall 1995.

CSU's Marching Band has played at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for Showdown games and for Denver Broncos games.

Today, the trombone suicides are played in the stands and have also been incorporated into the pregame show during home football games.

The marching band is the first college band to play in the Denver 9News Parade of Lights and has been doing so since 2009.

The invitation to perform Ireland was given based on the marching band's collaborations with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.


After awakening from a coma, junior Devon Aimes ('14) was crushed when he heard he might never again play the tuba, something he had done since sixth grade. "The thought of not having music was just the scariest thing," he says.

Aimes was 17 when he slipped into a coma brought on by Lemierre’s Syndrome, a blood clot that forms near the tonsils and then travels through the blood stream to other organs.

The disease did not deter Aimes, however. Not only was he able to play the tuba again, he joined CSU’s marching band in fall 2010. He has been a drum major with the marching band since spring 2011. “The drum majors are mostly like the conductors,” he says. “We lead the band on the field, and we make sure that we try to keep the beat as best as we can. We also assist with running rehearsals.”

With the new school year beginning, Aimes is gearing up for another season with the marching band, directed by associate director of bands Richard Frey. “The week before school starts, we have our band camp,” Aimes says. “Those are the long days, because we’re trying to get our new students acclimated to what we do.” The trombonists particularly take advantage of this time to perfect their trademark: the trombone suicides. “We use a lot of time at band camp to shake the rust off,” says senior Ben Angwin ('13), who will be a trombone section leader for fall 2012.

Angwin, who is also in ROTC, has played the trombone since the summer after his freshman year of high school and joined the CSU marching band in fall 2009. “Part of the reason I actually started looking at CSU is I saw a clip of the ‘suicides’ on YouTube,” he says.

Trombone tradition

This tradition was initiated by trombonists Rob Pippin (B.M. ’00, M.M. ’03) and Dave Miles (B.M. ’01, M.M. ’03) in fall 1995, says Jennifer McDermid (’96), who was a trombonist from 1990 to 1995 and a trombone section leader. She says the trombone suicides emerged in order to replace the “butt dance” that the marching band did in the stands to the Number Five Cadence when the CSU football team scored. “We had to come up with other things, so that’s what we came up with,” she says.

Today, the trombone suicides are played in the stands and have also been incorporated into the pregame show during home football games. At this time and during the halftime show, the entire marching band performs on the field. "I love football games because we’re able to show what we’ve been working on," Aimes says.

Director of bands Christopher Nicholas, who has been at CSU since 2009, says the marching band’s mission includes supporting the football team and athletics, serving as a representative of the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance and the College of Liberal Arts, and acting as a musical ambassador of the entire CSU community to alumni. “When the band performs, alumni such as myself, who bleed green and gold, feel tremendous pride not only in the band but in our University and in the entire community of Rams,” says Ann Gill (M.A. ’76), dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Playing in Denver - and beyond

Pride swells especially high when CSU plays the yearly football game against University of Colorado. “I’ve always loved the Rocky Mountain Showdown,” Aimes says. “This past year after the Showdown we had what we’re now calling ‘Battle of the Bands’ where we played, then CU’s band played, then we played. It was a lot of fun.”

Not only has the marching band played at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for Showdown games but also for Denver Broncos games. The marching band made its debut in 2009 and returned in 2010. "We love that the Broncos consider us their marching band now," Nicholas says. "Each year, we speak with their marketing team to examine their home schedule and try to arrange an appearance for our group."

The marching band has also played in the Denver 9News Parade of Lights since 2009. It became the first college band in this parade, Nicholas says, after it received a sponsorship and then contacted the parade to express interest in performing. The marching band gives a parade preview in Fort Collins a few nights before the parade, and students adorn their uniforms to fit the theme. “The drummers have figured out how to put boxes around their drums so they look like presents,” Angwin says. “We have lights down our legs, and we have little fiber optics instead of our plumes.”

The March to Dublin

The marching band will have a new parade experience when it attends the St. Patrick’s Festival Parade in Dublin, Ireland, in March 2013. It will perform a second concert in Kilkenny and tour Ireland in addition to play in the parade, Nicholas says. The preliminary invitation to perform in the parade, which came in March 2011 from Music Celebrations International, was given based on the marching band’s collaborations with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in 2009 and 2010, respectively, as well as its other appearances. After receiving this preliminary invitation, the marching band was required to complete an extensive audition and application process. “To be recognized as an international leader and have a chance to perform in a different culture where there’s a great appreciation for American marching bands is really an immeasurable benefit for our students,” Nicholas says.

A big financial supporter of these students is Jackie Erickson. Erickson played the glockenspiel in her high school marching band and, at the age of 16, performed at the 1970 Expo in Osaka, Japan. “It was a real growth experience for me just to be exposed to such a different culture,” she says. Her overall love for marching band, and particularly the CSU marching band, led to her starting the Dame Jackie Marching Band Scholarship in fall 2010. “I thought we ought to try to do something to keep the upperclassmen in the band as role models for the incoming freshmen,” she says. Second-year students and beyond who are from any college and have any major are the recipients of her scholarship, which ranges from $300 to $500, if they have a minimum 2.8 GPA. Erickson’s scholarship serves as a supplement to the standard marching band scholarship that each marching band member receives, Nicholas says. Erickson is also helping the marching band fund its Ireland trip through the Dame Jackie March to Dublin Challenge that will match up to $50,000 in donations.

Another way the marching band will help fund its Ireland trip is through a concert that will be held Sept. 29, 2012, at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. The marching band, symphonic band and wind ensemble will perform, and there will be a reception and a silent auction. Angwin is particularly looking forward to this concert. “The showmanship aspect of it is just so fun,” he says. “That’s part of the reason I do it. It’s fun to share what we practice.”

Continuing the tradition

This passion for marching band continues after graduation thanks to the CSU Alumni Band, which offers members a chance to perform at Homecoming games and show their support of the current marching band by attending football games throughout the season. Although anyone who was in any CSU band for at least one year can join, McDermid, who joined in 1996, would love to see the number of trombonists increase. “I’m still waiting for the year that we have 40 trombone players back so we can have just the alumni ‘Bruces’ march in the Homecoming parade,” she says.

The “Bruces” refer to the trombonists and were started primarily by Marc Pomeroy (’92) and Kirk Pearson (’90) in fall 1990 when they drew off of the Monty Python “Bruce” sketch and introduced each of themselves as “Bruce” to the incoming section members. The name stuck and the “Bruces” continue to bond through yearly camping trips.

While joining the alumni band would create new memories for Angwin and Aimes, nothing can replace their experiences as students in the marching band. “I’ve made a lot of really good friends who I’m probably going to keep for the rest of my life,” Angwin says.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is with whatever you do, don’t think of how much work you’re putting into it,” Aimes says. “You’ve got to think of how much fun you’re having, the people you’re meeting, and the experience that you’re gaining because those are the things that you’ll always remember.”

How you can help:

Support the Marching Band on their March to Dublin
Join them, the symphonic band, and the wind ensemble for a fundraiser at the Lincoln Center from 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. Purchase tickets at

CSU Marching Band Presents: Ireland
March 14-22, 2013

Join the CSU Marching Band on their "March to Dublin" where they'll be featured in the world-famous Dublin St. Patrick's Festival Parade.

Contact: Quinha McBride
Phone: (970) 491-0227